I have had amazing mentors in my life. Early on, my Nana, my mom, and my dad. My Nana taught me that I could, my mom showed me what love was, and my dad modeled persistence. More specifically my Nana taught me about the power of our mind. My mom showed me what unconditional love was and my dad modeled a level of persistence that made a lasting impression on me. After that I had multiple mentors in the music world, then the educational world and then in business. For a long time I would have defined mentorship as someone being mentored by someone else. Someone wiser than the other guiding the less experienced person. Certainly, that is a form of mentorship.
As I started working with young learners, I realized I was learning a lot from them. They were also learning a lot from me, but I noticed it wasn’t a one-way street.
Today I have come to the realization that the highest form of mentorship is a two-way street.
When he was a young 60 years of age, I knew Dr. Carroll Rinehart. Not well, but I knew of him and his reputation as an esteemed educator. Little did I know he would later become one of my most important mentors. When Carroll was 77 years old, I started to meet with him as described in my article 6 Ways to Re-inspire Yourself (the section on “Reimagine How you Think” and “Reimagine Mentorship”). For about half that time I still defined mentorship as a one-way street. Carroll passed away at the age of 92. Somewhere during his late 80’s our relationship began to transform. Our conversations were more like two friends visiting and catching up. I continued to learn a lot and yet I noticed Carroll looking at me differently… and then I realized what was so familiar about the way he was looking at me. It was the look my Nana had when I started to achieve some benchmarks, like being the first person in my family to attend a University. As Carroll entered the twilight of his life, he would ask me questions such as, “I wonder if I made a difference?” I would remind him of his many achievements and how alive his work was throughout the country. Was this a different form of mentorship from me to him? I believe it was and so did he.
During Carroll’s last 5 or 6 years, I met a young 5 year old (described in my article Living Like a Child). Over time I realized this little boy was intentionally choosing happy. At first I thought he was just being silly. Once I realized his story, it was obvious that happiness was a choice he was making. Was this a formal mentorship? Of course not, and it didn’t have to be. I was just open enough to consider the possibility that I could be learning from this child. And I did. Over the course of my life, I think of this little boy often. He reminds me still that I can choose Happy, no matter the circumstance.
Which mentorship was more profound? That of Dr. Rinehart or that of the 5 year old?
Perhaps a much better question would be, “Were both those mentorship relationships two-ways streets?”
Seek to be mentored by first seeking to mentor someone else.
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