Monday, December 2, 2013

Why you need a mentor: Part I

A mentor is someone who walks you along a path that you are unfamiliar with but that they know well--according to - the dictionary of me.

noun: mentor; plural noun: mentors
an experienced and trusted adviser.
I'm a practical but artistic person who values a good mentor. 
"Practicality is my wheelhouse" -- says fellow blogger Ken Noguchi at Sidenote.  I like that phrase. And as students of medicine, whether we are medical students or physician assistant students, we must be practical because the facts are stacked high and time (study time) is always fleeting.

I first appreciated the value of a mentor when I went into business for myself some 20 years ago.  I was an unshepherded entrepeneur.  But I quickly learned the value of acquiring a helpful mentor to pattern from when I heard of a business owner in Houston who was doing what I aspired to do.
I cold called her and arranged a visit.
I flew out the next morning to Houston and flew back that evening a completely changed person for having met her.  The next day I changed how I did business and patterned myself after her easy, accepting style.  She was a ferociously hard worker who could easily work circles around me and is to this day one of the smartest most grounded people I know.  I am proud to call her a close friend now some twenty years later.  There is not a problem or decision in my life that has not been talked over with Sandie.

And thus I learned the value of mentoring.

Sandie was a mentor who turned into a friend.  This does not always happen.  And if doesn't happen, don't feel slighted or sad.  Friendship is not the goal of mentoring;  it is an occasional by-product, but should not be an expectation.

We can fall in love with our mentors (and I don't mean romantic love here), but mentors are rarely with us forever.  I believe we fall in love with mentors because they are like guardian angels that guide us on to the next stepping stone that we were looking for.  And when they do this well, we idolize them.  But be careful to not get swallowed into this aspect of your mentor mentee relationship.

I have had several valuable mentors over the years who somehow showed up in my life at just the right moment when I needed some guidance and then they just as mysteriously disappeared.  Though at the time I noticed their departure with some sadness, I know realize that it is part of the process.

Then there are times when I actively sought out a mentor.  And this is good too.

In Mentors: Part II I will write about how to seek out a mentor who fits with your needs.