Mentor or Mentor Not. There Is No Try

“Always pass on what you have learned” – Yoda

I went to a panel discussion the other day about mentorship and discovered that many people had a hard time figuring out who they could define as mentors in their life. Some mentioned coaches, supervisors, co-workers, but others were stumped and asked the question, “How do I find mentors?”


My answer is threefold: who do you look up to, who do you grow and learn with, and who do you inspire? Mentorship is 360°. There are always mentors in your life, you just have to figure out who they are. There will always be people that see you as a mentor, especially if you’re in a leadership role. For those individuals looking up to you, what are you showing them? My athletes always ask me, “Who would be looking up to me? I’m not a role model, am I?” I always answer by saying there’s always someone watching. If you have siblings, younger cousins or family members, or even pass strangers at the grocery store, someone is always looking to see how you are acting and reacting. Are you showing them you care?

They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Example: during my field hockey days on one particular team, we were required to run a timed mile. Our coach said if we didn’t run our mile in under 7min 30seconds, then we were required to attend extra conditioning sessions. As we began around the track, it was clear who was part of the faster group, the mid group, and the slower group. I saw one of our goalies struggling as we were a couple laps in, and while going past her, I slowed down to ask if she was alright because I knew she had asthma. I saw the look on her face and I saw the contemplation of giving up. I told her we were running together and I was going to finish this with her. As we ran, I constantly encouraged her and tried to push her as much as I could. We ran side by side for the rest of the mile. After we finished, my coach came up to me and scolded me for slowing down to run with our goalie. I politely explained that I couldn’t leave her behind and watch her struggle as I thought she might have given up. My coach didn’t care and said this was an individual timed mile run and I just earned my spot in extra conditioning. I happily obliged and had absolutely no objection. I felt that I had done the right thing, and if my coach wanted me to attend mandatory extra conditioning, it would only make me a better athlete.

Moral of the story? Don’t leave people behind. My coaches and teammates were watching me the whole time, and no one else slowed down to help our teammate. Some of my other teammates asked me why; they knew I could have finished the mile under the time limit. They didn’t understand that extra conditioning wasn’t the point, but rather it was about stepping up as a leader and showing my teammate that she had a friend, a mentor right beside her the whole time.

Your mentors don’t always have to be someone you know. Your mentor can be Emma Watson, Serena Williams, Bill Gates, or even the CEO of a company. The key to mentorship is to surround yourself with people that will help you. If you can’t grow in your current environment, then change your atmosphere. If there are negative people spreading more negativity in your life than positivity, then I encourage you to ask yourself, is it worth it?

Who is your mirror? A mirror shows you what you really are. The same concept can be attributed to people around you. Others can help you be who you are, authentically. Todd Henry describes this well and his article can be found here.


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