One of the things I find myself constantly preaching is the value of a good mentor in your life. I have been uniquely blessed to have had some amazing men and women pour into my life to help make me the man I am today. There is no question that one of the keys to life is having good people show you the way.
“Show me a successful individual and I’ll show you someone who had real positive influences in his or her life. I don’t care what you do for a living—if you do it well I’m sure there was someone cheering you on or showing the way. A mentor.”
– Denzel Washington
5 Keys to Finding a Good Mentor.
1. Realize that at least in some small way, everyone is a mentor.
I learned a long time ago that everyone has a lesson to teach, so I try to learn from everyone; old and young, rich and poor, highly educated and self educated, those who are experienced and those who have a fresh set of eyes. Everyone has something to teach and if you are humble enough to let them, and if you pay close attention, you will learn the most valuable lessons in life. You may learn the path to unbelievable success or the tale of talent squandered, either way there is tremendous value in everyone’s experience. Our task is to honor each person enough to learn from their lives without passing judgement on them. Never forget your failure may be someone else’s greatest lesson one day too.
2. Realize that since everyone can be a mentor, you have to be selective with those you walk closely with.
I have made a lot of visits to the jail and have talked with all kinds of people who are trying to overcome criminal pasts and one thing I hear over and over is, “I just got caught up with the wrong people.” What they are saying is “I chose to follow people who taught, led, and encouraged me to live a pailful life.” The reality is that we do have a choice in who we are going to follow, and that choice makes all the difference.
“Show me your friends and I will show you your future.”
That is true even more so when you talk about your mentors. Take a good long look at the people in your life, where are they going? Are they living a good life? How are their relationships? Are their spouses and kids happy? Look past the obvious externals like a nice house or a nice car to see what matters, do they laugh and cry together? Do their children respect them? Do they have a solid reputation in the community? Are they connected to God?
If the answer to those questions are the answers you would like for your own life then you have found a good mentor, if not, you need to look elsewhere.
3. Realize that you need to ask.
It’s weird to ask someone to be your mentor. It would be so much easier to scribble “Would you be my mentor? Circle yes or no” on a piece of paper and pass it across the isle, but we aren’t in second grade anymore. (unless you actually are, and if so, bravo on your blog reading selection!) You need to have the conversation that tells them, “I admire you and really feel like I could learn a lot from you. Would you consider being a mentor to me?” Here’s why it matters:
-It establishes the nature of the relationship. This is a friendship, but it is more. It isn’t one person fixing someone else’s problems. It isn’t being a counselor. Mentorship is about helping someone grow and giving that person permission to speak into our lives.
-It places you an the position of humility. This says to them, “I want to learn from you, so I am going to listen and not waste your time.”
-It honors them. Almost everyone wants to make a positive impact in someone else’s life, this gives them the opportunity to do so and recognizes the fact that they are doing things well in their lives.
4. Realize that some of the best mentors in the history of the world are available to you anytime you need them.
They write books, preach sermons, produce podcasts, and have been the topic of discussion and study for years. I never got to meet CS Lewis, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, or John Wesley, but because I have read their works, they have impacted me deeply. Leaders are learners and listeners, so if you want to grow as a leader is it crucial that you spend time reading and listening to the best mentors that are available out there today.
If you are busy and have a hard time finding time to read, I can’t recommend audiobooks enough. I have been listening to them for years and have found them to be indispensable for my personal growth. Here’s a link to something I use every single day to grow as a leader. Years ago I purchased an Audible membership and can’t recommend it enough, so I encourage you to try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks in the deal. Don’t like it? No problems, cancel anytime.
Here is another link to some of the books I have read and recommend as well.
5. Realize that the best mentors are gifts from God.
I have had many mentors in my life, some of them just showed up, but it wasn’t by accident. I prayed for God to send quality people that I could learn from, serve, and be a blessing to, and He provided them. Yes, like everyone else, I have had plenty of other opportunities to learn from people who would have taken me down very different paths. I did learn a lot from them too, but at a distance. I recommend for people to pray that God would open doors of opportunity relationally with twice as much fervor as they pray for financial blessing, because good relationships are worth so much more than money.
There is certainly more to finding a good mentor, and being a good mentee, than I have written thus far and I plan to write extensively about it. Who has been a great mentor in your life? What lessons have they taught you? What are some of the traits you are looking for in a mentor?