I’m pretty sure my Daddy was the first person to articulate the importance of surrounding myself with people who know things I don’t. As I’ve grown in age, responsibility, and leadership, this habit feels more like an absolute necessity rather than just good advice.
When I received my very own pair of inline skates in 3rd grade, two emotions hit almost simultaneously: 1) Complete elation because I’d been dying to have my own pair ever since my very best friend got hers the Christmas before; and 2) Genuine concern as I looked from the box to my parents and quietly asked, “Who is going to teach me to skate?” My mother immediately volunteered my father, to which I laughed out loud. Well, come to find out, my 6’6” bear-sized father was quite the roller skater in his day. After a few hours of driveway instruction, I got the hang of moving without falling and even learned to use the brakes. Without his help, time, and experience, things likely would have gone very wrong very quickly.
If we are breathing, we should be learning.
It’s easy to slip into “just-getting-by-mode” as we jump from one project to the next. None of us have completely maxed out our potential, but what if we tried? What if learning really became a priority so we could lead better, serve more, and make a greater impact? One of the best ways to do this is by connecting with people who know more than we do, who have been-there-and-done-that.
I’m often asked, “Meredith, how in the world do I find a mentor?” Which is usually followed by, “All the good mentors are taken!”
Take heart. It’s much more simple than you think.
3 ways to find a mentor:
- Don’t use the word “mentor.” 99% of the population doesn’t feel qualified to be a mentor, so unless you are signing up for a formal mentoring program, don’t ask someone to be your mentor. Being asked to mentor someone also sounds like a serious time commitment, requiring lots of forethought and preparation. Most of the people who make great mentors are busy, and therefore may be turned off by adding one more thing to their plate. Instead, trick them. (Relax - I'm kidding. Kind of.) Ask if you can pick their brains about _________ (whatever topic they are an authority in) over coffee or lunch.
- Build a village. One mentor cannot provide all the insight, all the knowledge, and all the wisdom we need on every topic. Find multiple people who have attributes you admire in leadership, marriage, faith, parenting, and anything else that’s important to you.
- Show up prepared. Remember, these are busy people. When you go to coffee or lunch (see #1), show up with a handful of meaningful questions to ask. This simple act lets them know you value their experience on the topic and positions you as a learner. If they feel their time is well spent in your first connection, you’re more likely to land a second.
The folks you are looking for are in your church, your office, and your neighborhood. They may be on a Board of Directors you serve on, or maybe someone you volunteer alongside. Cultivating these “mentor” relationships requires some intention on your part.
If you can’t point to your village of (perhaps unsuspecting) mentors, or if you can’t recall the last time you showed up to a lunch planning to learn something, you may have some work to do. But it’s some of the very best work you could do.
Join the conversation by commenting below: What area could you benefit from someone who knows more than you do? What’s your next step to connect with someone further along in their journey?
Are you looking to BE a mentor?
Check this out for some ideas on how to leverage your life for those coming along behind! (with our without the title of "mentor")