By Bernadette Johnson
There’s an ancient Chinese proverb that says,
“When embarking on a journey, never ask directions from someone who has never left home.”
That is the principle of mentoring. It’s someone who has left ‘home’ and is willing to help you on your journey while sharing the experiences of their own.
I was asked to share why I chose to be a mentor. Ironically, I found that I was unable to share my "why" without first exploring my personal mentoring experience. Being raised by a single working parent in an inner city environment created the need for mentors. This environment is fertile ground for making choices that may not serve your greatest self. My mentors, when I was growing up taught me to respect myself, be an independent thinker, a leader and instilled the thought of I could do anything if I put my mind to it.
The mentors, that I had in my life from my Mom to my bosses to my professors in college upheld the ideals I was taught. They helped me set my own path through the hills and valleys of life by sharing their journeys. They shared their triumphs as possibilities and their challenges as growth in spirit while simultaneously supporting my journey as well as the proverbial ‘heads-up’ when they saw life pot-holes. They strengthened the belief in myself, helped me find clarity while sharing honest feedback so I wouldn’t get in my own way.
As I look back at the people that took the time to be a mentor to me, I realize that some were chosen and others decided to step up to the opportunity.
In both the on purpose and intentional mentoring, these wonderful people believed and saw something in me that I may not had discovered yet…my hidden potential. To this day, as I take different paths on my journey, I still have mentors, some I have chosen, and others have chosen to mentor me. To my both the enlisted and volunteered of the past...I give my humble gratitude and continue to appreciate my current mentors.
Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to choose to be a mentor, but I recently learned that I had been a mentor to others, though I have not known about my impact on their journeys as I try to live my journey authentically. To the times when I’ve chosen this role, it offered an opportunity to make such a difference in someone’s life.
"The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves." ~Steven Spielberg
Mentoring holds a special place in my heart because I have found that sometimes when we are lost on our journey, we need someone to hold “what is possible” for us until we are able to see it for ourselves...someone to believe in our potential…such is the role of a mentor. I am truly honored to pay it forward to those I’ve consciously and humbly accepted the role of mentor, to contribute to another’s highest potential and greatest self!
If you have ‘left home’…pay it forward and share your knowledge, experience and hope…become a mentor. If you are “leaving home” for your journey, seek someone who has traveled your path…partner with a mentor!
Bernadette Johnson is a leadership consultant and collaboration strategist who guides Leadership Teams in transforming their organizations/businesses by leveraging their collective wisdom, experience and strengths while aligning their practices with their desired outcomes. Bernadette is also the founder of the LinkedIn group: LEADing from the MIDDLE and the author of Waves of Influence; a book of insights and quotes that give voice to our experiences as well as its companion guide: WOW! Insight to Your Highest Self.