A few years ago, my brother decided to get healthy. Of all the crazy things he decided to do to get healthy, he took up running. First, running is not a natural passion or skill in my family. Second, I only knew of my brother running away from someone chasing him or to beat his friends to the food line. Running was not something in his future if you were to ask me. I decided to root him on, but inside I was a bit skeptical that he would ever stick with it.
Two years later, he has run several half marathons, runs 5K’s, 10K’s, Trail runs, and continues to keep running just because. Looking back, his success came from joining a local running club that had people willing to mentor new runners.
In a series of interviews a few weeks ago, I asked a retired CEO and a young fast-tracked professional what they wish they would have known coming right out of college.
Both quickly answered I wish I would have understood the power of a mentor.
A poll from the February issue of the St. Louis Business Journal showed that 45% of the respondents neither was being mentored nor was mentoring anyone. Only 30% of the respondents had a mentor.
What is more shocking to me in these numbers is the fact that most readers of the St. Louis Business Journal are professionals seeking to improve and move up in leadership within their organizations. Of those looking to advance, only 30% had a mentor when those that have succeeded before them say that the power of a mentor is one of the most important things to learn early.
What is a mentor and what are the qualities that will make a good one?
To keep it simple, I define a mentor as someone that has gone before and can help someone better navigate the same or similar journey. You could also substitute the word mentor with guide, teacher, advisor, master, or guru.
When you think about it, every experience is life is better with a guide. It saves time, it saves energy, it saves unnecessary pain or frustration, and is typically more fun with companionship.
So why do we so often choose to go through our life adventures alone and not seek other wiser individuals to help us along the way?
- We are too embarrassed to ask for help
- We don’t like to admit that we have a limitation or lack knowledge in an area
- We don’t like feeling like a bother to people, so we don’t ask
- We are too proud, and we want to make our own way
- We only think of the experts and feel they would never have time for someone like me
Back to my brother, it’s interesting to note that the people mentoring him were not marathon champions. They were people like him 6 months, 12 months, a couple of years ago that was ahead of him on the journey, but not too far ahead to forget the challenges both mentally and physically he would face. They received joy in helping him and he enjoyed the accountability and encouragement to keep going. It was the mentorship by a person just ahead that has now put him in a place where he can mentor me should I decide to go down the running journey.
Whether it’s pursuing a new hobby, taking up a new health goal, or pursuing a new level of success in your career, mentors are the powerful key to successful completion and they are just an ask away.
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