“I have no excuses for not being good. If I’m not good, it’s my own fault.”
Have you ever pondered how many people there are in your life that have had some level of influence upon you to help you become who you are today? Most mentoring relationships are informal and the mentor may hardly know the profound influence they have had.
Most of us acquired a core set of values from our parents and relatives and those friends we were with early in our life. From our work ethic to our self-image, and from our perceptions of others to whether we are optimists or pessimists, the fingerprints of countless people are all over us.
Tim Elmore is one of my mentors, though he doesn’t know it. Five times a week he sends me (and many others) tips on life and leadership in a short e-mail communiqué. I loved the one titled, “What Can a Mentor Do for You?”
Tim said, “Along the way...I have tried to isolate exactly what made these mentors so valuable. I found a pattern. Each of them did something more than just encourage me.” Here are the five ways his mentors helped him:
1. Insights I Didn’t Know. Mentors pass along information or perspectives which we need to hear. They come to us with wisdom which they have gathered over the years. When Evie and I lived in Minnesota a man who was one of our mentors was Dr. Herman Rohde. “When considering change or a new opportunity,” Dr. Rohde would say, “there is never harm in walking through a possible open door and looking around; it helps you pray more intelligently.”
2. Blind Spots I Couldn’t See. Mentors can be objective. If we allow them, they can point out attitudes or behaviors which if left uncorrected, can cause us enormous harm. Years ago I came home and just started fussing about my day to Evie. In the middle of my fuss, she simply said, “Do you hear yourself?” She loves me too much to let me get by with that which will eventually damage my life.
3. Strengths I Hadn’t Developed. When I first entered graduate school that new level of academic work intimidated me. Although it seems minor now, those positive, personal notes by my favorite professor on the research papers for his classes literally breathed life into my spirit. His words spoke to my weaknesses and empowered me to keep going.
4. Disciplines I Couldn’t Build. Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline speaks of 12 personal disciplines clustered in three areas: The Inner Disciplines; The Outer Disciplines; The Corporate Disciplines. Although I have heard him speak and I have shared a meal with him, Richard Foster does not really know me; yet I would consider him as one of my most significant mentors because of this book.
5. Potential I Never Understood. When I was 30 years old and fresh out of graduate school, Dr. Don Argue hired me to be a full-time professor. Three years later, he asked me to serve as his Academic Dean. And just more than 17 years ago, he nominated me for consideration to be President of Valley Forge Christian College. Mentors see potential that we don’t see in ourselves.
One of the most important mentors in my life was Nathan Meyer, my father’s cousin. When I wasn’t sure what I should do, I asked him, “Should I or should I not go to college?” His advice to me, “The time you take to sharpen your tools is never wasted.” I wonder where I would be today had I not gone to college just then. Not only did I get an education, but that is also where I met Evie.
This may be a good day to make a list of all the formal and informal mentors we have had. They have indeed changed us forever.
Think about it.
Dr. Don Meyer is the president of Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville.
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