Mentors And Mentoring Part 1
This one time, in school, the Chancellor made one of his very motivational speeches, and at the end, volunteered to mentor anyone who was interested in having him as mentor.
“Come to the Secretariat”, he told us. “Just tell the receptionist you want to see me in respect of the mentoring programme, and they’ll let you in to my office.” Most people thought this was highly unlikely, given the heavy security that surrounded the Chancellor, but a friend of mine decided to brave it and I remember we were all in awe of him for a while. I’ll never know what came of it though, because he left to study abroad the next semester. This would be my first encounter with the whole mentor-mentee concept.
Years later, I attended a church whose pastor worked in HR, so he sort of coached us as well. In one of those coaching sessions, he mentioned the importance of having a mentor and went on to teach us how to manage the mentor-mentee relationship, i.e. how to be a good mentee. I remember thinking it was all rather very unnecessary, a classic case of a lot of ado about precious little (maybe not nothing).
Again, recently, I attended a business development training, where the need for a mentor in your chosen business field was heavily stressed, and I wondered why there was all this fuss about the whole mentor concept. Each participant was given a mentor, but I never reached out to mine. I felt, if one read books and embraced a relationship with Google, all would be well in the world. But I was envious when I heard one of the ladies with whom I attended that training tell us much later how some of the advice from her mentor saved her from making a very costly mistake. Just how costly, you ask? How does four million naira sound to you? How? Her mentor had amassed milestones in the same business where she was a beginner, so when it came time to take a particular step, her mentor advised her against it, and showed her a better way to do it. What’s interesting is, the mentor had made that mistake in his own time, and had lost four million naira. But he saved her from toeing the same path. I’ve just given you one reason why having a mentor is important, without meaning to just yet. Oh well!
So I found that one of the earliest records of a mentor was in Homer’s “The Odyssey”. A wise man named Mentor is given the task of educating Odysseus’ son. When Odysseus went to fight in the Trojan War, Mentor was custodian of his kingdom and his son. Maybe because of this, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines mentor as a trusted counselor or guide. Let’s leave the dictionary alone. A mentor is someone, usually older and always more experienced, who helps guide a person’s development. They’re in your life to support, guide and advise you so that you can be better than you once were. Apart from family and friends, they’re a huge part of one’s support system. So maybe there are people in your life that fit this description, but you don’t call them mentor. Maybe you should start now. I think it will help see the relationship for what it is, and accord it the importance it deserves.
Why does one need this relationship? You could say that it’s better to be like Thomas Edison and make your mistakes a thousand times, if that’s what it takes to find the way. And I could go biblical and tell you (or remind you) to “follow those who, through faith and patience, obtained the promise.” Or I could just calmly ask you (like the Nigerian that I am, because we answer questions with questions) if you can afford the luxury of time and resources that it will take you to make your own mistakes and learn your own lessons. Can you? Yes? I beg to differ. Even if I had a monopoly on time and every other resource, I’d like “expo” every now and then.
Maybe some great people became great without external help or influence, but a great many had help from their mentors. Like who? Dr. martin Luther King, whose mentor was Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, a black American pastor, educator, and social activist as you might have guessed. There’s Henry David Thoreau the famous poet and author of Walden. He was mentored by Ralph Waldo Emersen, also a famous poet and author. Even our Chimamanda was mentored by Chinua Achebe. I cannot but end with Oprah, who was mentored by her Grade 4 teacher, Mrs. Duncan. No wait, let me quickly visit the bible and give you Elijah and Elisha. Truth be told, if it takes the starting of a car for said car to move, the achievements of some individuals, or their support and advice is also pivotal to the greatness of some others. That road you’re walking, someone walked there before you. Find them. Connect with them. Maybe not physically, sometimes that can be difficult. But locate them, and learn from them. I’m not sure this can be proven, but I think that sometimes, the mentee even becomes greater than the mentor ever was.
This post is long enough as it is. I was going to drop some tips about maximizing your mentor-mentee relationship, because sometimes they go sour, e.g. the baba from Iwo and the gentleman from Otuoke. I guess we’ll have to copy Nollywood and do Part Two. Before then, what’s your mentor story? Do you have a mentor? I’d like to hear from you. Please be kind and leave me a comment. It would totally totally make my day.
In other unrelated news, the blog will be 1 year old in a few days. I’m going to order a cake and stuff my face with it until I cannot see my legs. There will also be a few changes, so please watch this space, and find a mentor today! Lol.
Love, love and more love!