Mentor: Get one. Be one.

I just finished a mentoring session tonight and as always, I feel as if I learned more than I advised. The old adage holds true, “To teach is to learn twice.”  Mentoring is an ancient practice, and one I hope to encourage.

Some businesses and schools offer mentoring programs that pair newcomers or those who are struggling, with a more experienced individual. The programs certainly have their success, but there is something less than inspiring when the relationship is compulsory, or highly recommended. An ideal mentoring relationship occurs when one who truly aspires for advancement is matched with one who is willing and able to provide instruction and direction.

You may think you don’t need a mentor, after all, you made it this far through hard work and discipline. Look how far you’ve come on your own! Who needs a mentor?

In this age of easy access to information, I fear we devalue experience, style, hindsight, and ‘exceptions to the rule’ that only a mentor can provide. A good mentor can provide you with feedback, instruction, and secrets, if you will, that would normally take you years to learn on your own, and forfeit your suffering through quite a few failures too. (Don’t worry. You’ll still have your share of both, but the mentor will allow you to take the art to a new level.) Sure, I can purchase books and DVDs on Wing Chun and learn a few moves that seemingly mirror those of Robert Downey Jr.’s fight scenes, but the real art of this ancient martial art cannot be summoned from independent learning. The same is true of all arts. Enter the mentor.

Mentoring in this age of social networking may occur to a degree through blog posts, articles, wikis, tweets, status updates, Skype video calls, websites, online videos, and emails, and that is a great start, but I am encouraging something more; a common time where a master unveils his secrets to a student privately. Two people agreeing to set aside an hour each week or so, to the advancement of the craft and the individual.

There is an unspoken covenant between the mentor and the student. I am going to share with you all that I know. You will apply it, add to it, and pass it on to someone else. The mentor doesn’t hold back.  The student doesn’t shirk.

Two common problems occur today with mentoring.  The first is that the student is embarrassed to admit what he does not know, and the second is that the mentor is embarrassed to admit what he does not know. (It seems everyone knows everything these days.)  This must be overcome.  Again: An ideal mentoring relationship occurs when one who truly aspires for advancement is matched with one who is willing and able to provide instruction and direction.

I am where I am today due to many mentors in my life.  As a teacher, a coach, a father, a friend, an artist, a speaker, and a businessman, I now have opportunities to mentor others. I do not take them lightly. I do not think of myself a master of anything, and quite frankly the term mentor makes me feel old, but there is so much to be gained through mentoring. For me, I still have my mentors that I consult with, and I have my students that I meet with too.  Successful mentoring is to not only be one, but to have one as well.

• How do you get a mentor?  You find someone’s work you admire, and you ask.  Sound easy? Well, most people never ask.

• How do you become a mentor? Do great work. Wait for someone to ask. When they do… say, “yes.”

Kelly Croy is an inspirational speaker, author, and artist. Please visit his website to book Kelly for your next event. or call  1-800-831-4825  or email at Kelly’s  presentations have entertained and amazed audiences across the nation including corporations, schools, churches, conferences, and numerous other venues where people come together to be entertained and improve their lives. Please consider booking Kelly for your next event.

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