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Why You Need A Mentor, Part Three

A few more things that I learned from a mentor, and what a mentor may do for you:

Don’t assume that relevant experience equals competence.  Many of us have experience that is relevant and skills that are transferrable to our work that we acquired from other occupations or pursuits.  However, the assumption that some tend to make is that there is a one-to-one correspondence with skills and experiences from the past into the present.  Generally, this is not so.  Some amount of adaptation is usually needed for a new situation.

Mental and physical energy is gained by knowing why you are getting up in the morning.  At a time when many people want to slow down and coast, I was privileged to have a mentor who was fully invested in his craft and who rose early and stayed up late, not taking competence and success for granted.  What I remember the most was that he was excited and enthused enough about what he was doing that this added the physical, mental, and emotional energy needed for such an investment.  I remember thinking, “how could someone in their fifties have this much energy?  He’s running circles around me!”  Now I realize that it’s a spiral of passion and deliberateness.  Energy comes from doing what we are excited and passionate about.  This passion inspires us to work harder and excel still more.  Yet, we must be deliberate to weed out all of the things in our lives that conspire to keep us from investing in meaningful things.  This takes being intentional, being deliberate, being selective.

Remember that your best work will be done after you are fifty.  I’ve read more than one article lately along the lines of “fifty is the new thirty.”  I believe it!  It’s hard to believe this when we’re young.  But if you keep growing and learning, there is no reason for this not to be true.  While I’m learning alot from many people who are younger than I am, it’s going to be amazing to see what these people are doing in twenty years!  So keep at it!


Why You Need A Mentor, Part One

This past weekend, I ran into a man who had mentored me in my first ministry position twenty years ago. He’s about twenty-five years older than I am. We have never been close. Since we have parted ways, we have mostly traveled separate paths.  When our paths have converged, we have often disagreed.     At the time, I thought I needed a friend, a sympathetic ear, an encourager.  He provided encouragement, but in a different way than I thought I needed.  He was a taskmaster.  He challenged me, and I hate to say it, but I wilted under the challenge.

My first ministry position was something called a “church plant.”  There was a small group of people in Palm Coast, Florida, who were part of a church in our denomination about thirty minutes away.  They wanted to start a church in their community, and they hired me to help them.  We started with ten people, six of whom were over 65, not very much money, and a pastor who was extremely inexperienced, both in life and ministry.  For me, it was pretty much a disaster.  As far as the church goes, they survived me.  Although they had me as their pastor, they persevered and there is now an established church in that community.

After running into my previous mentor, I began to think about the time I spent with him.  As I’ve indicated, this was not an ideal relationship, mostly due to my recalcitrance to be challenged.  Yet, I began to think of all the things that I learned from him and carried into future endeavors that have helped me, and realized that without the influence of this man, my life would be extremely impoverished.  Here are some of the lessons learned:

1.  The value of hard work.   Most of my life up to that point had been spent in school.  I thought going to class, studying, and having a part time job was “stressful.”  I was quickly challenged about the the appropriateness about this idea by the example and encouragement of my mentor, who was putting in 60-70 hour weeks to accomplish his dream.  While I have read The Four Hour Work Week twice since then, I still maintain that hard, productive, focused work is the main element in developing competence and accomplishing your dream.

2.  Building relationships with people who are different than you.  We are naturally inclined to seek out and spend time with people who are like us — same interests, stage in life, socioeconomic status, values . . .  While this man was a former corporate executive who was most like other business types, he pushed me to seek out people who were of different backgrounds, ages, interests, stages in life, seek to understand them, and build relationships with them.  In the beginning, this is difficult to initiate, but it is a habit that will richly reward you.  These days, most of my time is spent with people who are different than I am — middle school and high school students.  Little did I know that far from being an intimidating experience, this would become a labor of love.

3.  Become competent in every area of your craft.  While I generally agree with the idea that the greatest gains may come with we build in areas of strength, it can be greatly limiting not to become competent in every area of our craft.  My mentor could have been extremely successful by coasting on his administrative and people skills.  Yet, he worked hard to become a competent teacher.  It took me another fifteen years to learn this lesson and become competent as an administrator and manager.  While the bulk of my work continues to be with ideas and people, becoming a competent administrator has been the skill that has enabled me to pursue other interests.

What have you learned from your mentors?  If you could use the help and encouragement of someone who is ahead of you on your journey, what steps could you take to initiate that relationship and secure that help?

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