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The importance of a mentor.

Christopher Harris

It’s often been said, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”. Well, I have been blessed to have a few Mentors in my life. My parents gave me a phenomenally solid foundation, and for that, I am eternally grateful. But in my adult life, I have to say that it has been the Mentors God placed in my path who have helped to sculpt me into the man that I am today.

Because of the exposure from my Mentors, I started reading magazines like FORBES a long time, and now of course, I regularly check out their website. My whole view on “success”, and especially my view on finances is totally different today, than it was when I was 23, because of the Mentors I have had over the years. I found a great article in FORBES online from contributor, Erika Anderson, where she talked about “5 Qualities To Look For In A Mentor”. It really resonated with me. She listed those five qualities as:

1) Self-reflection:
2) Discretion:
3) Honesty:
4) Curiosity:
5) Generosity of Spirit:

I have personally learned that the difference between a “Friend” and a “Mentor”, is that a “Friend”, loves you just as you are…while a “Mentor” loves you too much, to let you remain as you are.

Check out a little bit more from the article in FORBES by Ms. Anderson.

Over the past decade or two, the idea of mentoring has become increasingly popular.  Lots of companies now offer mentoring programs, where executive-level professionals support their younger colleagues’ success. Mentoring programs have been created specifically for women, people of color, the disabled, and other groups for whom having a supportive and knowledgeable advisor might be especially helpful. Youth mentoring has evolved as a means to help young people understand how to operate in the grown-up world.

However, the tradition of having someone to support you with his or her wisdom and experience is probably as old as the human race. In any tribal society, younger members depended upon the older members to pass on their hard-won knowledge and insight about how to stay safe, find food and shelter, understand the world around them.

The word “mentor” as applied to such a person has its roots in Greek mythology. In the Odyssey, Mentor was a character who advised and protected Odysseus’ son Telemachus.  Then, in 1699, a novel called Les Aventures de Télémaque, (“The Adventures of Telemachus”), included the character of Mentor as Telemachus’ tutor. He was the hero of the story, and the modern usage of the term “mentor” seems to have arisen from that book.

As I reflect back upon my Mentors, they all have had those 5 qualities. The only thing those Mentors ever asked of me, was to never forget or take for granted the time, energy, and money that was sown into me…and to devote myself to seeking out those with whom I can “pay it forward”.

Recently, my wife and I have each taken on a more formal Mentor role with two young people. I have begun to tell them both all of the things that my Mentors told me. Hopefully they will see further, and go further than we have (or will)…because we are willing to let them stand on our shoulders.

A hero of mine, is Booker T. Washington, and I will leave you with a statement of his that I wholeheartedly believe in. He said,
“The older I grow, the more I am convinced that there is no education which one can get from books and costly apparatus that is equal to that which can be gotten from contact with great men and women.”


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