My father works as an automotive mechanic by trade. Growing up in my parents’ home, I’d sometimes wake up to the sounds of clinking and clattering of tools outside of my bedroom window. I’d then look outside and notice my father tinkering away on someone’s vehicle. It was all so black and white to me back then. To me, my father was a mechanic. It was his career. And it was what he was paid to do.
I must’ve been about 8 or 9 years old during the time this next event occurred: on one particular day, a friend of the family had dropped by the house to get their vehicle maintained. Once they left, I remember asking my father why they hadn’t paid him for his work. My father glared at me, and said:
“They’re a friend. When friends need help, we help them.”
Throughout the years, whenever I’ve found myself at somewhat of a moral crossroads, I often recall that short lesson from my father. It’s the type of person my father is: he sees a need for help, and acts on it. There hasn’t been much dialogue between me and my father over the years, but he knew me and my brothers were always observing. In our household, actions have always spoken much louder than words. And my father always made sure his actions were ones that yielded invaluable moral, principled, and virtuous lessons. My father was just one example of the various mentors that have had a positive impact on my life. And a very prominent example, at that.
Becoming a mentor is not akin to choosing a career, or a particular hobby. I do not believe that it is some “thing” that we just decide to pursue. Great mentorship is an amalgamation of ideals, character traits, values, and behaviours. It is the way that we carry ourselves, the way we handle difficult situations, the way we perceive our place on this earth as humans. It is the way that we instill all of the above unto those around us; either directly or indirectly.
That being said, not all mentors and role models are “good”. That’s obvious. A mentor or role model may be good for you or a particular goal, ideal, or agenda that you may be pursuing – but not good in a way that the lessons you gain from these individuals are of a virtuous nature. Competent mentors can provide guidance to improve on a particular skill set you may be struggling with, or even provide a much needed critique. Great mentors and role models not only provide that level of guidance; they also wish to inspire, and solidify what is already inherently good about us human beings. These inherently good traits allow us to create, innovate, persevere through challenges, show gratitude, and provide us with a willingness to sustain all of these positive qualities in many future generations to come.
Great mentors are selfless.
In both our professional and personal lives, we must not only look at the lessons learned, but the character of that who is teaching them. And as much as we may learn and absorb from those who may be wiser than us, there is also someone else out there who is learning from us too.