Mentors: Need one, Want one, How to become one.
“Got a minute?” The cro-magnon looking plumbing contractor hollered from the front walk.
I dropped the two, 55-gallon trash bags I was carrying and raised my eyes to see the hulky man trotting up the front walk. “What’s up?” I asked, bending my neck to make eye contact.
“We’re wrapping up today and I wanted to say thank you.”
“Thank you?” I glanced over a shoulder, certain I was about to get punked.
“You’ve been great to work with. For, rather. What I’m trying to say is you’ve set a great example.”
I ducked around the corner. No one about to douse me with a cooler filled with ice. My brain stalled. What’s going on here? Something on my face must have shown I needed clarification.
“Yeah sure,” he chuckles. “When I first showed up on site, I thought to myself, what’s up with the bimbo in spandex? And how can I get her husband’s cell number right quick?”
“They’re micro fiber,” I pinched my tights. “Anyway, this is suppose to be a compliment, right?”
“Oh yeah,” he continued. “I’m sure you know, it’s not really a secret. The guys on the job nicknamed you the Death Star.” He slugged my arm. “You know as in here comes the death star. Steer clear of the death star.” He cracked up.“We tried every trick in the tool box to trip you up,” he sighed. “But like the death star, you’re unshakeable.”
“I’m pretty sure this is the worst compliment I’ve ever heard.”
“Alright, alright,” he unfolded his arms and flashed his palms defensively. “Fact is you’re incredibly organized, highly effective, do exactly what you say and treat everyone with the upmost respect. In a way, you’re sort of a mentor.” He offered a sturdy hand.
Me? A mentor? I matched his solid grip.
“It’s been a pleasure.”
As he strode away, I squatted against a pile of brick and considered what I’ve learned, if anything, from mentors. For starters, have I ever had a mentor? Any times I’ve had more than one? Did I seek them out or did we meet by chance?
After a little thought, I came up with two people who met mentor status. Each one entered my life at different stages. Both, without me noticing. In my experience, mentors seem to appear at the exact moment you need them in order to move forward.
Looking back now, I wonder why them? With all the people I’ve met, what made these two individuals stand out? It was their integrity. The way their actions always matched their words. The fact they never spewed off a standard and then jumped in a plane and did the exact opposite. I learned that for any productive exchange to occur in relationships, there must be a fundamental foundation of trust.
How long did these advisors remain guides? More specifically, when do mentor/mentee relationships out live their usefulness? During my journey, teachers typically stayed around until I learned the spirit of their lessons.
Are mentors worthwhile connections? Definately. Without a doubt. They’ve been down the path your on. What have you done in your life that hasn’t turned out better on the second attempt? Think of it as having the answers to one of life’s many tests.
Then a mentor’s advice is gospel? Maybe. Remember, mentors are also human beings. They aren’t perfect by any stretch. They experience anxiety, jealousy, triumphs and crashes. They have valuable information to share. But be cautious. Everyone’s path is slightly different. They can only share what has worked for them.
What, if anything, happens if you surpass a mentor in any way? What then? Let go. Move on. Be gracious and thankful for all the gifts of knowledge your mentor has given.
Do you have to take their advice? No. Of course not. As always, you get to pick. The only requirement on mentees is to observe, be respectful and listen. In my time, though, I reaped great benefits by following their actions and recommendations. Advice that led to becoming a mentor without even knowing it.
E.L. Chappel author of Spirit Dance/Storm Chasers/Risk
To my first ever instructor at Flight Safety Wichita–You were unrelenting, scared me to death, made me more nervous in a simulator then I’d ever been in an airplane. Although I don’t recall you’re name, only your generous military service, you set the bar higher than I could have ever imagined. At that moment I knew what kind of pilot I wanted to be. You were the standard. For your efforts, I’m forever grateful.
To the chief pilot who had the courage to step out of the restricted airspace (the aviation box if you will) and took a chance and hired someone like me, a first in his department: I’m sure in 1998, this came at a great price. In you, I found a mentor. One who taught, by example, what it was to be a professional pilot and solely judge on skill, not gender or fashion. Thank you.
aka The Glamorous Wife