Because You Believed In Me: The Impact of Mentors

Introduction from Alana:

Because You Believed In MeJanuary is National Mentoring Month and it has me thinking a lot about mentorship and the people who have helped to shape my life and set me on various paths to success. 

As a sort of personal celebration of mentorship, I re-read a beautiful book edited by my friend, Marcia McMullen, entitled, Because You Believed In Me:  Contemporary Mentoring Stories.  Marcia is a writer, researcher and author.  Inspired by outstanding mentors, she became fascinated by the reach of key relationships and connecting elements and their influence on the personal narrative.  The book is one I go back to frequently – sometimes I read it from cover to cover; other times, I simply turn to one story or another as a source of inspiration from people who have benefitted from their own mentor-mentee relationships.

In fact, mentorship is not a new concept – the idea of a person being open to the lessons handed down from great “teachers” is age old.  As such, not to be overlooked, is Marcia’s first book, Because You Believed in Me: Mentors and Protégés Who Shaped Our World, a collection of mentoring stories from history. Those rich stories from history were the inspiration for collecting contemporary stories.

Nobody I know has given more thought or conducted more research on the topic of mentorship than Marcia. Not only does she know a lot about it, she lives it.  Having had a number of important mentors herself, Marcia pays those lessons forward as a mentor to so many others.  I, for one, consider her one of my most important mentors and a person I turn to time and again for guidance and support.

With that, it’s my privilege to introduce today’s guest post by Marcia McMullen.  Following the post, please come back and leave a comment about mentors who have shaped your life.

Guest post from Marcia McMullen, Writer, Researcher and Author, Because You Believed In Me:  Contemporary Mentoring Stories

Finish this sentence:

“I am (blank) because you believed in me.”

Think of someone:  A neighbor, a coach, a teacher or boss who believed in you, opened a door, gave a much needed reality check or inspired a life path.

Often identified as a key factor in a person’s growth and development and yet one of the most underreported elements to personal success, mentoring is a practice we cannot afford to lose.

For all the benefits of advancing technology and communicating in real time, we sacrifice some of those well-worn, natural opportunities – specifically, the sharing of knowledge and wisdom through mentoring.

The crush of those real time expectations has a long-term impact.  We do not have the time.  We cannot see a tangible outcome or benefit.  Perhaps more accurately, we are not sure exactly what a mentor does or how to go about building a mentoring relationship.

Mentoring is an ancient practice.  Sharing our knowledge and experience is in our DNA.  We like to make connections on all different kinds of levels from personal interests to shared experiences to professional skills to content expertise.

As with most relationships, mentoring often comes down to proximity.  Familiar relationships are frequently the foundation for our early mentor relationships be they family, teacher and/or neighbor.  Then, as our world expands, mentors often appear in bosses, community friends and leaders.

Those varied roles are highlighted in my new collection, “Because You Believed in Me: Contemporary Mentoring Stories.”  In the book, you will be introduced to mentors in the lives of some familiar names across different disciplines – from business, art /music to baseball and social service.  The stories come from thought leaders we know: Warren Buffett, Maxine Clark, Ira Flatow, Joyce DiDonato, Dale Chihuly, Dave Winfield and 13 other notable individuals.   In learning their stories, I was heartened to discover that despite the notoriety that so many of these individuals enjoy, just like you and me, their success hinged on the support of their mentors.

To get started, it is often worthwhile to think about the people in your life that have already made a difference.  Who were they, where in your life did they appear?  Is there someone you would like to reconnect with and build on your earlier foundation?

If not, perhaps there is someone in your current network you admire.  Reach out for an exploratory visit.  When approaching a mentoring relationship remember that, as with all relationships, it is reciprocal.  There must be an element of give and take.  Protégés need to think about what they bring to the relationship.  How they can add value to their mentor’s life.

January is National Mentoring Month – a time to initiate and celebrate those relationships of believing.

As the season of social invitations fades let this New Year be one of reaching out and appreciation to those who have allowed you to finish that sentence, “I am (blank) because you believed in me.”

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