I don’t care who you are or what you do, we all need a mentor. It doesn’t have to be someone that, you perceive, is “better” than you. It does need to be someone that you can learn from and share ideas with. My dad lost his mentor, Bob Dibling, more than a year ago. That doesn’t mean that he’s too old to get a new one. I think my oldest brother Dan has filled that role. … and Dad is going to be 87 on December 4th.
My dad is my mentor. His 87th birthday is Tuesday. He got that job because he’s my dad and I love him. There was a time that I never would have said that. My kids feelings may change from day-to-day. That won’t stop me. We’ll continue to have uncomfortable conversations. Even if they don’t want to hear. A good friend of mine once told me, “no matter how distant they may seem or difficult times are, you just have to keep talking with them.” That was some of the best advice that I’ve ever gotten. It’s proved to get us to where we are today.
Although he wasn’t my mentor, when I was kid, someone that I looked up to was the gas man. That’s right, growing up on a farm required a lot of diesel and gasoline. That’s why we had large tanks to make it easier to fill up the tractors and trucks. Well, those large tanks had to be filled first. The guy that did that was Wayne Knisely with Mid-Ohio. Whenever he came, he almost always had a box of Bazooka gum. He was like Santa in the summer. It was just announced that the line of gum was being dropped. But, my childhood memories won’t be.
There are also people that serve with inspirational comments and notes. Yesterday, I received the following the following “Thought of the Day” from my good friend Reid.
A CHRISTMAS ADVENTURE WITH GRANDMA!
I remember my first Christmas adventure with Grandma. I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her on the day my big sister dropped the bomb: “There is no Santa Claus,” she jeered. “Even dummies know that!”
I fled to Grandma’s house because I knew Grandma always told the truth.
Grandma was home, and I told her everything. She was ready for me. “No Santa Claus!” she snorted. “Ridiculous! Don’t believe it. Now, put on your coat, and let’s go.”
“Go? Go where, Grandma?” I asked. “Where” turned out to be Kerby’s General Store, it had a little bit of just about everything. As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me ten dollars. That was a bundle in those days. ‘Take this money,” she said, “and buy something for someone who needs it. I’ll wait for you in the car.” Then she turned and walked out of Kerby’s.
I was only eight years old. I’d often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself. The store seemed big and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping. For a few moments I just stood there, confused, clutching that ten- dollar bill, wondering what to buy, and who to buy it for.
I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbors, the kids at school, the people who went to my church. When I suddenly thought of Bobby Decker. He was a kid with bad breath and messy hair, and he sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollock’s grade-two class. Bobby Decker didn’t have a coat. I knew that because he never went out at recess during the winter. His mother always wrote a note, telling the teacher that he had a cough, but all we kids knew that Bobby Decker didn’t have a cough, and he didn’t have a coat. I fingered the ten dollar bill with growing excitement. I would buy Bobby Decker a coat!
I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real warm, and he would like that. “Is this a Christmas present for someone?” the lady behind the counter asked kindly, as I laid my ten dollars down. “Yes,” I replied shyly. “It’s …. for Bobby.” The nice lady smiled at me. I didn’t get any change, but she put the coat in a bag and wished me a Merry Christmas.
That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat in Christmas paper and ribbons (a little tag fell out of the coat, and Grandma tucked it in her Bible). Then grandma wrote, “To Bobby, From Santa Claus” on a card — Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy. Then she drove me over to Bobby Decker’s house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever officially one of Santa’s helpers.
Grandma parked down the street from Bobby’s house, and she and I hid in the bushes by his front walk. Then Grandma gave me a nudge. “All right, Santa Claus,” she whispered, “get going.”
I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present down on his step, pounded his doorbell and flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma. Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door to open. Finally it did, and there stood Bobby.
Fifty years haven’t dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering, beside my Grandma, in Bobby Decker’s bushes.
That night, I realized that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were: ridiculous. Santa was alive and well, and we were on his team.
I still have Grandma’s Bible, with the tag tucked inside: $19.95.
(If you’re interested in being put on Reid’s list for daily emails, please let me know. I’m sure he’d be happy to add you.)
I met with another friend, Rye, on Friday for some coaching. He’s provided me with direction and ideas on how I can be a better person and employee. He has no stake in my future. There’s no contract signed. His contract is more appropriately called a covenant. He’s happy to talk and provide insight. He may have only said this word once, but it stuck with me. He said, “In anything that you do, you have to be INTENTIONAL”. Don’t send emails or have meetings just to catch up. Don’t just exist to have a cup of coffee. Keep your direction with a personal compass and follow that to the end. It sounds like I’m preaching and, if I am, I certainly need to practice what I preach. God doesn’t call on those that are prepared, he prepares those that he calls. Rye is a friend that I also call a mentor.
Yet another friend of mine, Don, loves quotes (like I do) and recently posted the following.
” Defeated is the man sitting down afraid to get up and take a step; it’s better to stay sitting down and defeated than try to get up and walk. The winner is the man jumping up to run even though he will trip and fall. He keeps getting up to run. One day he will cross that finish line and stand in victory at the end. The winner is the man not afraid to try and try and try.”
I’d ask anyone that reads this note to think about who your mentor is. No matter how you find yourself. Are you standing tall and successful or are you defeated? If you feel defeated, get up and take the first step. Ask someone for help or advice. Remember how I told you that my dad is my mentor. Well, he’s one of many. There are people that you meet in life that can help you. But, you have to let them. Think about people that seem to have something that you’d like to have. Maybe you should have an uncomfortable conversation with them. Ask them to be your mentor. Why not? I don’t care if it’s your pastor, priest, co-worker, friend or family member.
There’s another old guy with the same birthday as my dad and we wish him a happy one, as well. That’s my good fried Eric, another of my mentors. May both your birthday’s be blessed with pickles and crude oil. (I know it sounds weird, but they’ll appreciate it)