The Importance of a Mentor

January 23, 2017

by Gretchen Knuffke, Whitefish Mentor: An experienced or trusted adviser. In a couple of short months, I will turn 50 years old! Can you even believe that? Throughout this year, I have constantly held in the back of my mind that I need to come to some big revelations about my many trips around the sun and be able to share them. 50 years seems like a long time and I should have a lot of wisdom by now. Strangely though, I feel that much of the wisdom I do have, I have learned in the last 5 years. Before that it really seemed as though I was just having experiences and maybe not learning all that much, but lately I feel AWARE of my experiences as being teachers and that lessons are embedded in them and I need to decode the lesson. So, in this time around my half century birthday, I will try and articulate some of the lessons and knowledge that I have learned in my time here on Earth. I am a teacher so I am always thinking in terms of lessons and sending knowledge out to others. Lesson 1: Never underestimate the value of a mentor. Education is the key to unlocking your potential and for gaining knowledge, but a mentor is someone who knows which door the key fits into and how it opens. There are many, many opportunities that can come your way if you find a mentor who believes in you and if you are open to listening and learning from them. Relationships will open many doors that your resume will not. When I was around 30, I was invited to a book club where the average age of the women was between 50 and 60 years. It was really my first group of friends that were in a different stage of life. Their kids were grown, they had successful homes or careers, they volunteered, and once a month they shared their wisdom with me through books. It was eye opening for me. It made me see the value of older women as friends and mentors. They had knowledge that I didn't have and were willing to share it with me. If you are a young woman, get a mentor. Do not try and reinvent the wheel. There are shortcuts, connections, and easier ways to do things. Be open to another woman's advice. Doors can be opened by mentors that cannot be opened any other way. Mentors are not people who tell you that you are awesome all the time, as the saying goes, if they's time to find a new mentor! Mentors tell you the truth, they impart insight, they say things you need to hear sometimes. Hard things to help you grow. Be humble, find a mentor. And when you do, listen. It is a listening relationship for you. I think of Maya Angelou and Oprah Winfrey. Oprah would sit at Maya's feet and listen. How much wisdom was passed form one generation to the next through that kind of beautiful mentoring relationship. Lesson 2: Be a mentor I'm a teacher. I teach 5th grade and they don't usually sit at my feet and listen carefully to every word I say. I drag them kicking and screaming to the tree of knowledge much of the time. But, I love being an awakener. Awakening the thirst for knowledge in a child. You can do the same thing by being a mentor. If you have been on this planet for 50 or more years, you, too, have wisdom to share. Be willing to share what you know. I find that many times, especially in business, we are afraid of competition. What if we mentor someone and they become better than us? We have to think more abundantly than that! There are 7 million people on this planet, there is plenty of business to go around. Share your knowledge! Be the mentor that you wish you had when you were young. So many things in my life would have been easier, had I had a mentor. When I look around our community and see wonderful women sharing their gifts with younger women, and younger women being willing to be still and listen, I see the future. We can inspire another generation of women to take over where we have left off and make our community and our world better. It will be our legacy. Enrich your own life by being a mentor.