Mentors are teachers and guides whose relationships become personal, paternal and span a lifetime. Because they teach outside the classroom, they are willing to engage at more emotional levels than teachers. Often a difference in age contributes to the attraction. Young Quincy Jones always looked up to Ray Charles. When the two met, Jones was 14 years old. But Charles took him seriously, and a beautiful lifelong mentorship began.
Like Obi-Wan Kenobi for Luke Skywalker, and Merlin for the Young King Arthur, Mentors take up the cause of assisting a hero on a treacherous journey to power. They mentor wherever and whenever they are needed. Annie Sullivan, for instance, moved Helen Keller into her home and later accompanied her to boarding school, where she guided every facet of her protégé’s life. Ralph Waldo Emerson took his acolyte, Henry David Thoreau, into his home to work as a handyman, published his early poems and gave him land for a house on Walden Pond.
These days, business leaders of note, such as Sheryl Sandberg with her new book Lean In, are working to mentor women by teaching them how to achieve both professional success and personal fulfillment. In their own way, reality TV shows like Project Runway, Hell’s Kitchen, The Voice, and The Apprentice, mentor acolytes with good advice, savage criticism, and very tough love.
Whether in art or life, the urge to mentor is organic in caregiving souls. And, as was the case with Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller, it is what ignites the spark that brings about a miracle.
Warren Buffet, Morrie Schwartz, Sidney Poitier, Obi-Wan Ben Kenobi
Unselfishly open to those hungry to learn, great mentors give confidence to those who need it.
Because of their charismatic pull on those they mentor, they can become too influential and if they disappear the effect can be devastating.
Open conversation, reading and expanding knowledge, listening and sharing enthusiasms
- The Person Who Changed My Life: Prominent People Recall Their Mentors by Matilda Cuomo
- Soul Survivor: How Thirteen Unlikely Mentors Helped My Faith Survive the Church by Philip Yancey
- The Longest Journey by E.M. Forster
- Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” -Benjamin Franklin