Have you ever been asked the question, “Who’s your mentor?” This question has followed me like a kid tugging the edge of their parent’s shirt all year. In small group studies, conversations with friends and meetings at work it seems like this question just keeps popping up.
But I think we’re asking the wrong question first.
Before we can ever be mentored, we need to know who we are and who we want to become. We need to know what we admire, what we strive for and what we want to achieve. Without this knowledge—this knowing of who you want to be—identifying a mentor would be futile.
What’s the point of a mentor? To provide insight, direction, wisdom, encouragement and guidance. To be that person who’s just a few steps ahead of you, that individual who has been where you are and can help you journey to where you want to be. A mentor is a guide on the journey of becoming who God made us to be, a fellow companion and a warrior who has a few more skills under their belt.
In order for a mentor to journey with us, we need to know where we’re going. If we don’t, we’ll end up having numerous coffee meetings with someone we respect, yet constantly leave feeling like we’re missing something entirely.
So, how does one find a mentor?
- Decide who you want to be. Before seeking the help of others, define who you want to be yourself. This will give clarity and insight into who to invite on the journey with you.
- Observe those you respect. Who do you admire? What character traits do you see exemplified around you that you want to embody? The people we spend time with, we ultimately become.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The best way to meet and discover those who could provide fresh wisdom is simply by asking questions. Don’t be afraid to reach out and just ask—the worst someone can say is “no.” This past summer, I emailed an author who has mentored me over the years through her writing. I was visiting the area she lives in and asked if I could treat her to coffee and ask some questions about her experiences in leadership. She accepted, we ended up having dinner, and she answered my questions for the next three hours!
- Don’t box yourself in. A mentor isn’t defined by a single individual, job description, or length of time. Being mentored comes in countless forms. Authors have mentored me through their writing, pastors through their teaching, friends in their advice, and musicians through their lyrics. I’ve had one person walk with me for several chapters on the journey and others simply in seasons. Mentors don’t come in one shape and size. They look different for each of us.
- Remember mentors are people too. We can box ourselves in by adopting the “best friend” myth with mentorship, assuming to be successfully mentored we must find that one, perfect mentor for our entire journey. And that just messes us up. Mentors are people just like you and me. They mess up, they’re human. You’re going to call and need advice and they won’t be available that day. They might give advice that doesn’t fit your story best. And that’s ok. Strip off the expectations and simply invite someone to join you as fresh eyes on the journey of becoming who God made you to be.
Mentorship is about a whole lot more than simply defining, “Who’s your mentor?” It’s about discovering who we want to be and inviting others to journey with us.
So, the question stands: who do you want to be and who will you invite to join you?