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Mentors, Why you should seek to find one and be one

by Dave Martin

It is important for you to understand the power and the importance of the mentoring process. It is important for you to understand that you need to draw from others, because drawing upon the resources of others will move you along at a much faster rate. And it is important for you to understand that you need to pour into others as well, because pouring into the lives and visions of others will satisfy your God-given need to help other people and will increase your own sense of self-worth and significance. When others want something you’ve got, that says a lot about you, especially when the person asking for your help is a strong and capable individual. And when you share the most personal parts of yourself, that provides you with a sense of purpose like nothing else can.

In a survey of nearly 4,000 successful executives, approximately two-thirds said they had at least one personal “mentor” in their lives. Obviously, the word mentor means different things to different people, but the basic meaning behind the word is that two-thirds of these executives readily confessed that they regularly seek the help of somebody else in their climb up the corporate ladder. And those professionals who openly seek the counsel and direct assistance of others end up better educated, earning more at their professions and happier in life. Everybody finds fulfillment in taking another person under her wing and teaching her. Likewise, every individual finds personal worth in being helped along by somebody else who sees potential and worth in them.


John Crosby is credited with saying, “Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen and a push in the right direction.” Therefore, mentoring is born out of relationships that are forged in trust and mutual respect.

Unlike family relationships, which are based on genetics and common ancestry, unlike friendships, which are based on common interests and compatible personality traits and unlike casual relationships, which are based on necessity, the mentoring relationship is based on a sense of admiration and mutual respect. In some ways you will view your mentor as being “above” you, knowing things and having experiences and insights that you simply do not have. In other ways you will view your mentor as being “equal” with you, having similar skills and talents that have been shaped somewhat differently due to slightly different experiences and encounters.

This strange mixture of different perspectives that make the mentoring relationship unique also give the relationship its special value, because a mentor can be a sounding board or a disciplinarian. A mentor can be a teacher or a coach. But at the drop of a hat, a mentor can reverse roles and learn from you in the same way you learn from her. Such a relationship of reliance and trust cannot occur unless both parties are willing and unless they have invested the necessary time to make the relationship work.

Find those people whose brains you can pick because you admire their thinking and whose ears are available to listen because they respect you enough to care. And find those people who will tell you when you are wrong while supporting you even when you are. And then let these people fill your time and influence your life. These are the people who will bring the greatness out of you that God placed within you before you were born.


The mentoring process has been around since the dawn of human history, and it will be around as long as mankind endures, because it is the most successful method for advancing oneself and building future generations at the same time. The concept was even sanctioned by God himself as his preferred method of leadership, and we see this through the lives of both Moses and Jesus.

Moses used leadership through mentoring when he led the Israelites through the wilderness for 40 years, and Jesus employed the mentoring approach to leadership when he was preparing his disciples to lead the early church. Moses led through relationship by personally finding and preparing the next generation of leaders for Israel and by gradually handing off his authority to those who would succeed him. Jesus led through relationship by focusing the majority of his efforts on 12 men rather than the hoards of people who pursued him.

Obviously, Moses and Jesus understood what great people still understand today. They understood that there are only a finite number of hours in a day and that a man is limited in what he can do by himself during that constrained span of time. They also understood that if they would choose and train a select number of promising people, pull those people close to them, pour into those people and then utilize those people to help carry the burden and advance the vision, they could achieve far more than they could ever hope to achieve by themselves. In addition, the vision would survive them and could actually become greater in subsequent years.

People who head up organizations in the modern era realize that they have the same time restraints that Moses and Jesus had thousands of years ago, and they realize that their visions are too big to manage with their own two hands. So, these people help themselves by drawing others around them who can assist them in achieving their ambitions. In return, they help those who have helped them. They carefully select men and women with unproven, yet noticeable potential, faithfully sow into these promising protégés and then release to them the responsibility and authority for the work. And they watch them soar. In time, this pays off for the visionary. But this also pays off for the protégé if the visionary is truly vested in his wellbeing.

Andrew Carnegie, commonly regarded as the second-richest man in history, built his financial empire by following this model. Carnegie was one of the pioneers of the American steel industry and was largely responsible for propelling this country to the forefront of the industrial revolution. When Carnegie died in 1911, he was buried in North Tarrytown, New York. The epitaph on his tombstone, which he wrote himself, tells how he achieved his great success. The epitaph reads simply: “A man who knew how to enlist in his service better men than himself.”

So don’t be afraid to invest in people who will give you a good return on your investment. English novelist Charles Edward Montague said, “There is no limit to what a man can do so long as he does not care a straw who gets the credit for it.”

Begin somewhere. If you are already accustomed to drawing from others and contributing to others, increase your participation in that lost art form. If you have not yet built a network of like-minded people who can be part of your professional and personal journey, get busy. There’s no time like the present.

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