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Mentors Promote Success
By John Elliott

Success can be as close as someone helping you through an obstacle... and your helping someone else through his or her obstacle.

hrough the crisp blue sky the morning sun radiates its mellow warmth onto the forest canopy below us. Mel is our pilot as we soar 4,500 feet above the meandering Ohio River valley. The experience is familiar to me, having piloted aircraft for 21 years.

But there is something unique about this particular flight.

It is Mel's first flight as a licensed pilot, and I am his first passenger. As we share the multitude of cockpit tasks on this cross-country flight, we also reminisce about the myriad events we've had during his pilot training.

Mel had first flown with me two years ago as a passenger. That day we flew over the urban spectacle of Cincinnati, Ohio, then over woodlands and farm fields that stretch forever in all directions. Subsequent flights would take us cross country over lakes, forests, rivers and mountains. Often I let Mel take the controls as I concentrated on pilotage, navigation or just staring out the window. Through sharing the experience of flight with him, his desire to become a pilot intensified.

One day he said, "I'd sure like to fly! I've wanted to get a pilot's license since I was 15 years old. But I'm sure I could never get one now after being disabled in that railroad accident." Worse, he has been plagued with severe dyslexia for over 50 years. "But boy do I wish I could be a pilot!" he exclaimed in frustration.

Besides learning to fly an airplane, a student pilot must also learn aspects of mechanics, structural engineering, physics and meteorology. All these elements are in constant play during every flight. And any unusual circumstances require that they each be used in an appropriate manner. With Mel's limitations he considered becoming a pilot an impossibility.

But with my encouragement he decided to go for it. When he ran into snags in his pilot training, I tried to help him. Mel hit some serious obstacles as he neared his written and practical flight tests. Having already experienced various flight tests, I was able to act as a mentor to him--to share information and a perspective that helped him maneuver through the process without a hitch. It made me reflect back to earlier days in Canada when another pilot mentored me through my flight training. It feels good to have the privilege to pass along the favor.

Have you ever shied away from doing something that really intrigued you? Sure you have, and so have I. Typically we lacked the confidence needed to propel ourselves into the unfamiliar circumstances involved. Unsure of how or where to begin, or after hitting a snag along the way, we abandon the process and retreat to our comfort zone. That's why everybody needs a mentor. And mentoring is highly rewarding and very fulfilling!

Who are mentors?

Mentors are people just like you who have already "been there and done that." Whether skilled professionals or hobbyists with a special knack, people form a vast resource for mentoring others through the "rookie" stage of any new endeavor. Whether it's achieving a university degree or mastering the art of fly tying, having a mentor to lean on along the way makes your success a probability.

One very common kind of mentor is a parent. Parents mentor their children as they rear them and later become mentors of their children as they experience having children of their own.

Mentoring can also take the form of associations, clubs, advisory boards, newsletters and trade magazines. Government programs attempt to mentor small business owners who seek out one another's advice. And sport and recreation enthusiasts eagerly share tips with others of similar interest. Nearly every endeavor today has enthusiasts, clubs or magazines that mentor newcomers to the field.

Use a mentor

While being a mentor is a rewarding and fulfilling experience, sometimes we all need a mentor ourselves. If you want to be successful in any endeavor, spend time with those who are already successful in it. Nearly everybody loves to share advice, especially in a field they are accomplished in.

When my wife Merrie and I were expecting our first child, we stopped at the home of the late Walter Dickinson in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Our mission was to glean the keys of rearing responsible, balanced and self-assured children, like he and his wife had raised. Without his mentoring, we would have never stumbled upon the keys they had used so successfully in their family.

Our youngest daughter, Michelle, once encountered a roadblock in learning algebra. Some concept didn't click and for weeks she could advance no further. What a blessing to find Mr. Rudd, a retired math teacher whose garage is a classroom devoted to helping students with math problems! In just a couple of hours Michelle was back up to speed!

The Supreme Mentor

Physical people aren't the only ones we can lean upon. While we all begin life with expectations of sheer happiness, trials become an integral part of the human experience. In the Bible, Job reeled in confusion as his well-manicured life crumbled around him. He could have used some mentoring by someone with wisdom and experience. Instead, devoid of a suitable mentor, he stumbled somewhat in his time of trial. Though Job didn't specifically ask for it, God began to mentor Job, and that cleared up his confusion and brought about his spiritual growth. Oftentimes, our needs require leaning on God and His Word for advice.

Sometimes we have personal trials we can't readily share with others. Some of the most intense aspects of life require more than what humans can help with. For the most important things in life we have a Supreme Mentor, Jesus Christ, who fully understands our situation. The apostle Paul said, "For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:15-16). Prayer is direct contact with the One who knows our dilemmas best.

What a blessing to have the concern of the God Family focused upon us. The Father even knows the number of hairs on your head right now! (Matthew 10:30) How comforting to know that God is involved in our lives, and that He has given us His Word, the Bible, to mentor us through any circumstance we will encounter. Those God is calling and working with now have an intense focus on them by God. God is there for us every step along the way, and He is totally dependable. "For He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.' So we may boldly say: 'The LORD is my helper; I will not fear'" (Hebrews 13:5-6).

Be a mentor!

Just as God is there for us, we as God's children should be mentoring others as they rise to their potential as people and children of God. Whether assisting in health matters, like the physician, Luke, or helping someone cope with the intense experience of mental or physical abuse, as the apostle Paul wrote of, we all can mentor others through those experiences in which we have expertise.

What do you do that others wish they could master? Do your talents in the workplace excel? Do you have a gift at decorating, cooking or crocheting? Perhaps a skill you've developed in a favorite sport or hobby has others wishing they could copy you. Or you've learned the solid principles of success and challenges in your field. Typically we each have several areas in which we are accomplished that others are struggling to master. So when the opportunity arises, be a mentor!

Copyright 2002 by United Church of God, an International Association All rights reserved.

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Keywords: mentors talents, sharing success 


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