By Manny Roman, CRES
I have been referred to as a mentor an inordinate amount of times. I am not humble-bragging here, I am stating a fact that disturbs me a little. I’ll tell you why.
When you call someone your mentor, you are placing a great deal of honor, as well as pressure, on that person. Often, that person does not realize that they have had such a high degree of influence on you. You just placed them in a special place where they are now challenged to be highly aware of their interactions with you and others.
So, what is a mentor? A mentor is someone who influences others in, I suppose, a desired direction. A mentor would provide advice, guidance, serve as an example and even provide assistance to the “mentoree” as appropriate. Importantly, the mentoree must have a desire to receive these actions and even seek them. I’m not sure that someone can actually say, “I am going to mentor that individual” without the individual asking for it.
This is why I am troubled. I have never gone out of my way to “mentor” anyone. I have always tried to conduct my life and business with honor and integrity within a well-defined value system. I try to make sure any advice I give is mostly requested and I carefully evaluate it before I provide it. I have not chosen special recipients therefore I am somewhat troubled by a great show of appreciation; honored but troubled.
If I have influenced, it was, as leadership guru John Maxwell states, from a desire to serve others. OK, I also enjoy tooting my own horn a bit. I contend that we are all influenced, and thus mentored, by everyone we interact with on a daily basis. Some may have influenced us more that others, however influence is everywhere.
Think of the many times this week that you had an interaction with another person. How did they influence your emotional state or your knowledge, either in a positive or negative way? A mentor may have a large influence, however it pales compared to the sum of all those little cumulative nuggets you receive every day from everyone. If you search every minor and major communication process, you will find these golden nuggets of influence. It is your responsibility to filter and internalize those appropriate to you.
Everyone is mentoring all the time in all directions with good and bad influence. It is up to you to decide which to accept and which to reject. It is up to you how you will react and process the incoming information. All this becomes knowledge and is relatively useless unless you put this into action to continue your journey in your desired direction.
So my bottom line is that in order for someone to be your mentor, you must decide who, what, when, where, why and how. That is why it is called influence. You cannot be taken there, wherever your there is. You have to decide how to use the provided information and the people providing it to aid your travels toward your success.
Yes, tell those who have influenced you that you appreciate their assistance during the trip. However, don’t give them all the credit. The nugget providers deserve a great deal of the credit. The most accolades belong to you.
You allowed, accepted, internalized and properly implemented the sum of all the major and minor nuggets they provided. If your mentors are true friends, they do not need praise for helping a friend on their life journey. If they are more of the admired-strangers category they may feel honored and grateful for the kind words you might provide in gratitude.
I’m not proposing that you not feel and express gratitude, just that, at least in my case, too much credit in my direction makes me a little uncomfortable. If I “mentored” you in any way, please believe me when I say that no matter what I contributed, it was you who made it happen.
So, as I sit under my palm tree at the end of my journey, I thank everyone that I have interacted with in any way. Thank you for your influence on my trip, even those whose influence appeared negative at the time. I thank everyone for the nuggets provided me.
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