Bienvenue a le weekend! September has been a whirlwind of a month and has left me with a lot to process. It’s always a struggle to balance the many mixed messages we receive for how to shape our lives. We must work hard to build and leave a legacy because our time is now and the world is waiting for us! We must make time to smell the roses, enjoy life, because tomorrow is not promised. We must take care of our bodies and our homes as a sign of good stewardship. We must generate income to manage our responsibilities. And let’s not even talk about chasing our dreams! But let’s be realistic! There are only 24 hours in a day! So, how do we wade through the endless sea of stuff to do in order to make a meaningful life?
“Plans are established by seeking advice.” Prov 20:18, NIV
One of the most helpful and effective resources I’ve found for accomplishing goals and making sense of my “one wild and precious life” is mentoring.
A mentor is a wise guide or an advisor. This person has more experience than you and can offer insight into your field of interest from farther down the road. They have encountered similar challenges that you will face and have either navigated them successfully or tripped over them and lived to tell about it. Mentors help make sense of what is in front of you. I like to say they help me to understand and organize my puzzle pieces as God and I assemble them to make my life the picture that God envisioned. But finding a mentor is not an easy task!
I have encountered women who were too busy, too snobbish, too shallow, too phony, too…you name it! After many years of trial and error, I can’t say that I’ve mastered the world of mentoring, but I will share the wisdom that I’ve gained thus far.
- We have to be open to mentoring relationships that develop organically. I met one of my mentors when she convened a missions trip to South Africa. I participated in the mission because of my love for Africa, my calling to the mission field, and
my prior experience in South Africa…not because I was looking for a mentor. I served as a team leader on the trip and as a result, had to work closely with the convener. She became a mentor that has expanded my thinking and encouraged me to embrace my gifts. That’s what a good mentor does.
- Mentoring sometimes comes from unexpected places. Your biggest supporters may not look like you or share your background or context. Despite attending an HBCU for graduate school, one of my greatest mentors who saw my potential, substantiates my gifts, and continues to open doors of opportunity for me is an older, established, Caucasian woman. Fourteen years after graduation, she still makes time for me and recently invited me to contribute to her current writing project.
- There will be some mentors that you will never personally meet. You can glean from their books, blogs, videos, CDs, periscopes, and DVDs. They deposit their messages into the world to reach a broader market. Collect these resources, absorb them, and share them with others.
- Don’t discount the benefit of peer mentoring. A well constructed circle of accountability or kitchen cabinet can sometimes be more valuable than 10 mentors. Your peers know you, the real you, strengths and weaknesses, propensities and flaws. They know your stuff, and because they have a vested interest in your success, they can pull your coat-tail at the first signs of slipping. I remember one day about two weeks ago that I had a particularly long to-do list, I sent my accountability partner a text detailing everything I intended to accomplish that day. She sent me a text later that evening to ask the status of those items. In another instance, I had a large project looming
over my head. My accountability partner commented that based on my facebook posts, I was spending time on many other things and neglecting the needful thing. THOSE are some of the benefits (and blessings) of having peer mentors.
- Finally, seek out organizations and events that offer group mentoring through networking, seminars, and conferences.
When Natalie Madeira Cofield embarked on her first
entrepreneurial endeavor and found herself in need of mentors,
she founded Walker’s Legacy, “a professional collective that works to promote the career advancement, skill sets and networks of women in business and women entrepreneurs.” Natalie created a space that would not only provide mentors for her but would also expose other professional women to role models in business and entrepreneurship.
At the end of the day, the one thing we must remember about mentoring is that as Luke 12:48 says, “To whom much is given, much will be required.” So as I postured myself to scurry out of church after service ended a few Sundays ago, a woman stopped me and said, “When are we getting together? How can you be my mentor when you never have time?” What an awesome opportunity for self-correction! I immediately stopped in my tracks, opened my planner, and made an appointment. I’m learning.