Me, a nurse? I felt as awkward as I ever had. And here laid this 70 year old man, paralyzed and feeble. I would be his newly appointed caretaker. I was 19. I was in the middle of my wildest times in college. Little did I know that this guy would be one of the biggest influences in my life and the best mentor I ever had.
John was a sage and a teacher. He came from a wealthy northeastern banking family and had a Ph.D in architecture from Yale. He knew John Kerry & George W. Bush, personally. He was a benefactor to Georgia Tech including a handful of fraternities on campus. Luckily, mine, was one of them.
I was one of the 8 or so guys who would visit regularly & spend time with John. From ’01 until he passed in ’05 I must have visited him over 350 times.
We’d talk politics, investments, business, sports and most importantly culture. We watched old film noirs, explored art, studied fine wines, liquors, cuisine, and we viewed architecture together. We read business week, great poetry and the bible.
John’s mission was to turn me into a well rounded man. John was a true mentor. I owe a lot of who I am today to him.
Through my relationship with John, I learned so many things about life. Here is what I learned about being a mentor & mentoree.
- you must have faith in the value of the other party: At first, visiting John was a job. Over time it became a joy. Because I learned who he was and his value, I was able to give & receive more. For him, he believed in my value before knowing it. That’s real faith.
- always be positive (ABP): John had been in a paralyzing car accident in the 70’s. His legs were useless and he had limited arm motion. But every time I saw him he was smiling. He didn’t complain. He just found positive things to discuss. This attitude is paramount to imparting wisdom on others. You can never lead mentees by being negative.
- affirmation not just advice: One of the greatest compliments I ever received was from John. He told me that if I was a stock, he would invest in me. More than any of the lessons he taught, this will forever be ingrained in my memory. It helped me build & maintain confidence in all that I do.
- being intentional: John studied his lessons before he taught them. And he learned by repetition. He had a goal and practiced towards it. Being a mentor for John was a job. He treated it like a god-given role. This helped him to be most effective to his pupils.
- be yourself: Putting on a facade got me nowhere with John. He could see right through it. Conversely, John lived his life how he wanted. He ate lots of red meat, smoked cigarettes, drank scotch, & had a big belly. At one point in time, John’s doctor told him he only had a few years to live. That was in the 80’s. The doctor died before he did.
I wouldn’t be where I am today without John as my mentor. Come to think of it, I’ve never met a successful person who didn’t have one. So who has been the biggest influence in your life? The best way to honor your mentor is to be that for someone else. How can you take their lessons and give back?
Are you ready to do that?
by the way- John is the one who told me about PT Barnum’s “egress”. To read the story, click here.
mentor image retrieved from Wikipedia.org