Mentoring has been defined so many different ways. Everyone has their own take on what mentoring is. One of the best quotes I’ve run across comes from motivational speaker and entrepreneur Jim Rohn when he said: “My mentor said, ‘Let’s go do it,’ not ‘You go do it.’ How powerful when someone says, ‘Let’s!’”
He’s right about the power of the word “Let’s “! Its one thing to be told what to do but it’s a whole other thing to have someone step into your world and do life with you. That has been the foundation of my work as a mentor over the last couple decades.
Some of the best mentors that I have had through the years have been the ones that didn’t stop at just telling me what to do, but they were willing to step into my world and do life with me. People don’t always know what they don’t know. It takes someone who’s been there and done that to help them see what they need to know. Motivational Speaker and Mentoring Guru John Maxwell says it best:
“One of the greatest values of mentors is the ability to see ahead what others cannot see and to help them navigate a course to their destination.” - John Maxwell
Mentoring is all about helping people become all they were meant to be. The best way to learn what someone is meant to be is to step into their world and find out who they are. Some people set out to create clones of themselves, but true mentors never seek to clone themselves. Rather, they seek to invest themselves into the individuals they’re mentoring and work towards helping them discover their identity and talents.
Mentors take the time to get to know the people they’re investing in. As they’re getting to know them, they begin to ask questions about who they are. As the questions are being answered , a clearer picture of who that person is beneath the surface begins to come into focus. That’s where the heart for that person begins to develop. Successful coaches/mentors have to have a heart for people before they can invest in them. Where does that heart come from, it comes from within, it comes from their own personal experience.
If you’re an effective mentor, you will see shades of yourself in the mentee. There generally is something about that person that reminds them of what they were at that age. The danger here is the expectation that they can become a carbon copy of you. That’s not the goal of mentoring.
The goal is to impart some of yourself in them to help them become the best version of themselves they csn be. As they spend more and more time with you, they begin to pick up some of your habits and actions. It can be really tempting to want to mold them into a “mini-you” but you have to keep the balance. Movie producer Steven Spielberg says this:
“The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” - Steven Speilberg
It Is maintaining that balance that keeps you from producing a “clone” of yourself. In order to properly guide thrm, there has to be a level of sacrifice that says I’m willing to take the time to step into your world and see who you really are. So how do you step into someone’s life? It starts with finding a common bond or interest.
When we see someone that we want to invest in, we often see the potential of what they could be. The issue before you is how do you get on their level. Sure you can have a feeling about a person but it’s not until you get to know them that you begin to see what that potential really is. That is where a common platform or shared interest comes in. It becomes the place where you learn about who they really are. As you share in that experience, the walls come down. The both of you develop a relationship that allows y’all the freedom to be yourself. I wish I could give you a magic formula on how this works, but there isn’t one. Every situation and relationship is different. What I can share with you, is a couple of recent experiences that I have had.
After a recent session, I shared with one of the young men I’ve been spending time with the reason why I took an interest in him. Eric walked into the business that I help run several months ago to apply for a job. As we talked I was really impressed with how he presented himself. In our talk we found a common interest in sports, specifically basketball. He shared with me about his experiences as a high school student athlete. It struck a nerve with me in a positive way. Unfortunately we weren’t able to hire him at that time but I kept his information with and decided to reach out to him. He responded and we ended up meeting together.
In that meeting we found many other common interests ranging from sports to faith. I could see that our company missed a great opportunity to add to our team, but I wasn’t about to pass up a chance to invest in someone that I saw as having a great future ahead of them. So we planned our next meeting to be centered around our shared love for the game of basketball.
That meeting didn’t disappoint as we played some 1v1. As usual, the game is played to 100 (by 2’s & 3’s) and Eric came ready to compete. After the game we sat down to a great conversation. What I learned from our game and talk is that my instincts were right, Eric is not only a young man of character with a desire to become all that he’s supposed to be, but also desires to be invested in and also seeks to invest in others. Shortly after that meeting, he headed off for his freshman year of college but we agreed to keep the relationship going and it’s been a good experience so far.
Another young man I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with is Austin. He’s a standout football player at one of our local high schools. We met through one of his teammates Garrett who I’ve had the pleasure of investing in since he was in junior high. Garrett is a year ahead of Austin and the two of them have been the perfect teammates who push each other to be their absolute best. I originally met Austin when he was hanging out with Garrett and they were playing basketball. As always when athletes get together there’s gonna be a little sizing up and some competitive chirp. This was no different as I figured that since Austin was a tall fella like me I thought i would challenge him to put down a couple dunks. He stepped up and that started some friendly back and forth that went on though the following football season.
At the end of the season I told Austin that if he really wanted a challenge then he should come with Garrett the next time he and I had a hoop session. He accepted and we got after it. Austin came to compete. Afterwards we sat down to chat and what I discovered was a focused young man with desire to play college football. Garrett’s influence on him was obvious as he showed me that he was a man of character who not only wanted to be invested in but desired to invest in others.
Both Eric and Austin are two young men who are headed in the right direction. As a mentor, I thoroughly enjoy spending time investing in guys like them. This Christmas break I got the chance to spend quite a bit of time with the both of them through my annual #holiday100challenge.
Every Christmas break, I make myself available to spend time with any of my guys who are home for the holidays and engage in some good 1v1 competition and “ironsharpening” conversation. It’s been a great opportunity for us to catch up on what’s going on in their lives and to hopefully impart some wisdom into them. That’s simply what mentoring is, spending time together with a purpose.
Proverbs 27:17 says “as iron sharpens iron, so does one man to another”. This bible verse is a solid definition of what mentoring really is. It’s a two person process that takes both individuals grinding out at whatever task they’re involved with. As they’re interacting they are learning about each other. Learning what pushes them to perform better, what causes them to either step up when the pressure is on or what causes them to slow down and fold when it’s too much.
I use competitive situations to help me learn about people. Competition forces you to live in the moment. It’s way too easy to put up a “false front” in most situations, but when they’re engaged in the throws of competition, they can’t filter their true feelings. Whatever is in you will come out. It’s been said many times that competition reveals character.
As a mentor, our job is simple...to help. I read a quote recently from Bob Proctor that sums up the definition of a mentor quite nicely
“A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.” - Bob Proctor
True mentoring is about seeing the potential in someone and being willing to step into their lives to bring it out of them. Whether you meet at a coffee shop or restaurant, play a few rounds at the local golf course or step into a gym and engage in some competitive basketball, it’s an opportunity to do life together. What may seem like just hanging out with people is really all about building a relationship that will lead to something greater, discovering who they were always meant to be!
Stay Forever Strong!