One of the things that we often hear from successful business folk is the fact that he or she had a wonderful mentor to help them to navigate to the top. Lovely for them, I haven’t ever come across a single person who could play this role for me, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t had any mentoring. We think of this word in terms of someone directly influencing another, but the term has a broader meaning which pertains to anyone you see as wise or trusted who can indirectly counsel or teach.
Larry McMurtry, Ernest Hemingway, Anne Tyler, Sara Paretsky and many more have been writing mentors for me. Eleanor Roosevelt, Madeline Albright and Hillary Clinton are mentors from a strong female perspective. These are just the names that are coming to me as I sit and write, there are so very many. The part of a person’s story that resonates for me can lead to this person being an unaware mentor.
These people that I see as mentors give details of his or her story, either work or personal, that provide context which helps me to make a decision or gain some perspective within my own experience. This is very different than telling someone what to do, which is how some people see this role.
I prefer the word mentor to hero. An act can be heroic, or someone can be heroic in a series of events but a life is a long time, and a person takes many actions over it with varying motivations, for someone to be considered a hero. A hero will most likely turn out to be someone with feet of clay – with some weakness or other exposed for all.
I also think of all of the things that I learned from my parents. My mom proving to us the importance of an upbeat attitude, and my dad showing the value of a strong work ethic as highlights.
If we keep our eyes and ears open, we can find mentors almost anywhere, anyone who has had a valuable experience who is willing to share.
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