Rethinking The Concept of Mentoring

Concept of MentoringIf you have read any number of books on success, excelling in career or life then you have probably read about the concept of mentoring.  Since I was in college I have listened to others advocate for the need of mentoring relationships as a means of personal growth and development.  Personally, I have had quite a few mentoring relationships that have been very helpful, that I still call on today, and others…not so much.  In the past year my views on mentoring have changed in ways, and I thought I would share with you what I see could be a different trend and different model.

What I’ve seen change in my life over the past year are my previous mentor relationships and my new unconventional relationships.  I believe I’ve grown more professionally, personally, and in my marriage and family as a result of the more unconventional mentor relationships that I describe below, rather than a traditional mentor relationship.

I do believe the concept and goals of mentoring are the same, but the process could be different.  A mentoring relationship should be a relationship where the mentor shares their area of expertise for the growth of the mentee. Not a relationship where the mentor gets to stroke his ego, and possess a weird psychological hold on the mentee.

Below I list some of the ways I have been specifically mentored over the past year.  Honestly, I’ve never really asked any of the below relationships to mentor me (kind of awkward).  I simply asked for a little help.

New Methods of Mentoring:

  • Books – I read a lot.  In some cases, I’ve learned just as much from being mentored by an author that doesn’t know me as I have in a one on one relationship.
  • Email/Online – This year I read a business book that really had an impact on me.  Thankfully, the author put his email address in the book.  I had some more questions, so I emailed him.  Within 45 minutes he wrote me back. You may think he has nothing to do, but he is New York Times best selling author and writes for a major business magazine.  The knowledge from that email was life-changing, and therefore mentoring.
  • Unlikely People – I used to look for a mentor to fit a certain profile.  Well, this year I’ve been counseled and mentored by a family friend over FaceTime.  I never thought something like this would happen. Maybe there are people around you that you are overlooking?
  • Unstructured Relationships - We often think of mentoring as a long commitment where you meet with someone on a weekly basis.  I’m not sure this is the best model.  In fact there is one person in my life that I consider a mentor that lives in a different state, but flies to NYC a few times a year, and when he does we spend an hour together.  The best part about it…he doesn’t even know I consider him a mentor.  I have other relationships like this where I can call and get advice when I need it.

I still believe in mentoring, but think the models can be tweaked.  Bottom line is what works for your growth should be the model you pursue.  It just so happens that I am a weirdo and learn in a variety of different ways!

Getting Rid of Muda

Getting Rid of MudaI’ve been reading a really good book called How Toyota Became #1  by David Magee.  Obviously, the writer of the book documents what has made Toyota a success and how it has separated itself from other car companies.  There are a lot of high level ideas and production philosophies that permeate the book that have really caused me to think.  The one concept that I have really been thinking on is how to get rid of Muda.

To begin, it seems kind of strange to gather life lessons from a book about the mass production of cars, but you can learn from anywhere!  Muda, can be simply defined as waste.  Muda is basically stuff in your life that has no use and is taking up viable space.  The writer of the book makes note that Toyota tries to eliminate all the Muda in their facilities to maximize space and cut down on distractions.

Another reason why Toyota attempts to rid their facilities of Muda because if something doesn’t add value to their processes then it has to go.  Everything must be working towards the goal, and if it is not then it has to be eliminated.

After thinking about this over the last week, I realized that Muda is definitely a distraction.  For example:  I have quite a number of dress shirts in my closet.  If the 80/20 rule is right, then 20% of the shirts that are in my closet get worn 80% of the time.  So, what am I doing with the other shirts…not wearing them! Saturday I took a look through my closet and started gathering the Muda.  You would be surprised at some of the shirts that I have not worn in over a year, and when I was honest with myself, I realized I’m probably not going to wear them.

Here is the great thing about getting rid of Muda: after throwing the shirts out, I now have more space in the closet and less distraction.  I can now go in my closet and see the 20% more clearly and spend less time wondering what I’m going to wear today.

Chances are there is a lot more Muda in my apartment than I am aware of, so here are three simple questions I am asking myself:

How To Get Rid of Muda:

1.  What is distracting me?

2.  Where is the waste?

3.  Can I get rid of it now?

How do you hit a curveball?

Life has a real funny way of throwing you pitches that you don’t expect.  One minute you think the ball is coming straight at you and then in an instant it dives at the last second.  If you have ever watched baseball and seen a good pitcher throw a nasty curve at a batter…well it can make the batter look kind of silly.  It’s kind of comical to watch a batter take a swing at a curve only to hit nothing, unless of course you are the batter!  So, how do you hit a curveball when life is the pitcher?

How do you hit a curveballAbout two years ago life threw a curveball at me that I was not expecting.  I will save you the personal details of what happened to me, but I literally woke up one morning and was different.  The day before I was normal…the next day I was different.  The day before I could do things with ease, and the next day I was thrown a curve ball, and life was hard.  If it were a card game, I was dealt a bad hand.

In Baseball I have seen curveballs make a pitcher look foolish.  I have also seen curveballs thrown and it hits the batter.  Thats pretty much how I felt.

One of the things that I have learned about life and hitting curveballs is found in a Bible verse that says God, “he makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”  This is kind of a fancy way of saying that bad things are going to happen to good people.  Things happen in this world that we don’t understand and we will not expect….curveballs.

Another thing I have learned about life is that hope and faith are some of the most powerful forces on earth. Faith and hope only work in times of adversity. Hope that is seen isn’t hope. If what you believe for is in the present, then there is no need for faith. Faith can only be used and exercised in times of lack and adversity.  

I have been walking through a rain storm for the past two years, but I can still have faith that sun will rise again.

One more thing about curveballs.  I’m not exactly sure how to hit one, but I have seen great batters knock a curveball out of the park!  My faith tells me that I can.

 

What I’ve been up to

IMG_3495Hey! It is is been about a month since I’ve sat down and wrote something.  I wanted to check in with you so you didn’t forget about me :).  I hope you are having a great summer full of activity and rest.  So far my summer has been pretty great, and I wanted to give you an update on what I’ve been up to.

1.  Work - Even though I have taken a break from writing on my blog, I have not taken a break from my work.  I’ve used the time that I would normally be writing to focus on other things.  Also, my real day to day job is at its busiest during the fall, so I have been actively preparing and strategizing on how to have a successful fall.

2.  Family - My wife and kids took a two week trip to North Carolina to visit family, and I joined them for the tail end of the trip.  I played golf with my dad, ate some country cooking, laid on my parents couch and watched TV with my mom.  It was great to be back in my parents home.  While in NYC…I’ve played more golf :), took our kids to the beach for the day, hunted lightning bugs, and the list goes on.  This has been a great summer mainly because of the great family time.

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3.  Rest -  In the midst of my work I have taking some time to rest.  I’ve been accustomed to getting up at 4:30am, but have gotten out of the routine.  I’ve also tried to take time out to clear my head, pray, read, meditate, etc.  I feel ready to plunge back into my routines so I can be more productive.

4.  Projects –  In my last email I mentioned that I would be working on some personal projects.  Well, I am excited to say that those are moving forward.  One silly project I wanted to tackle was writing a draft children’s book.  I’ve had an idea mulling around, and I finally put the idea to paper.  What I do with the idea now…I don’t know.

5.  Struggle - I would be lying to you if I told you that there aren’t areas of my life that have been a struggle in the last month.  Through it all I have had to lean harder on my faith, other people, and to fight.IMG_3622

So, what’s next?  Not all that sure, but I’m excited to say that I will be getting back in the habit of writing more.  I believe I’m learning a lot, and there is a lot I hope to continue to share with you.

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” TS Eliot

 

An Ingredient for a Great Marriage!

ingredient for a great marriageI am by no means a marriage expert, but as we approach our 8th year of marriage I have learned a few things.  One thing I am constantly aware of is marriage is two imperfect people coming together in love.  I’m obviously conscious of this because I am severely flawed, and my wife is close to perfect :).  In all seriousness, guess what happens when you put two people together for any length of time that are imperfect? A lot can happen…positive and negative.  Things are not always easy in marriage, and in the past few weeks one thing has become very apparent to us, an ingredient for a great marriage is having positive outside relationships.

As my wife and I have had several discussion over the last few weeks about different and differing expectations we decided we were getting no where fast and we needed help.  We both agreed that we needed an impartial 3rd party to talk to and we knew just who to call.  The funny thing was is this person lived far away from us, so we used technology!

During the FaceTime call it became very apparent that a key to a healthy marriage is having someone to go to.  Someone to air out your frustrations to.  Do you have someone like that in your life?  If not then you need to find one.  I can’t begin to tell you what it did for us to hear someone with more marriage experience than us give us guidance.  One of the first things she told us was is that no one married for any length of time hasn’t gone through difficulty.  That statement alone was worth the entire conversation.

Have you ever met those married couples that say they never fight, argue, or have disagreements?  They drive me nuts, and in fact when we first got married I thought I was weird because we did have disagreements.  I realize now that we are normal, but imperfect.  I make mistakes, and will continue to do so, and we need someone that we can talk to to help us work through our imperfections.  When imperfect people collide help is needed.

That hour long conversation was what we needed to get our focus back on track.  At the end of the conversation Jessica and I were encouraged and felt confident in where we were going as a couple.  There are many ingredients to having a great marriage, but one of them is having someone in your life you and your spouse can talk to.

You Say You Want a Revolution

you say you want a revolutionJuly 4th has become one of my favorite days of the year.  I have been reading and studying the lives of the founding fathers for the past few years, and I’m awe struck at the men that graced that era.  Yesterday I went to to the New York Public Library where The Declaration of Independence was on display.  This isn’t the final copy, but one of two draft copies that Thomas Jefferson wrote. As I stood there I felt as if I was in the presence of something holy.  I was humbled and thankful at the same time.  Here are some of my thoughts on July 4th and the Revolution.

What does July 4th mean?  What is its signficance for this country and for us?  Volumes have been written about those subjects, but I fear we have lost its grandeur.

July 4th isn’t about sports, food, family gatherings, or fireworks. Nothing wrong with those things, and nothing wrong with enjoying those things on July 4th.  I plan to partake in some of those activities myself!

July 4th is about a document, The Declaration of Independence.  It is about treason.  It is about rebellion and a revolution.  The men that put their signatures on the delaration were signing their death sentence should they have been caught.  Which brings me to another point. The men of that day were special.  They were real leaders.  John Hancock, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and the list goes on. Think about our political leadership in the last 15 years in light of the men of that day.

July 4th is about freedom, and equality for all, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Those words are some of the most inspiring to be put to paper, unfortunately we don’t talk like that anymore.  

The revolution and the declaration is about us.  It’s not just about the forefathers.  When Jefferson wrote “that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do”, I believe he was not only writing for his day, but also with us in mind. He wanted those after him to enjoy freedom. True freedom. 

Lastly it is about celebration.  John Adams prophetically writing to his wife Abigail about July 4th said it:

“will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.”

You Say You Want a Revolution?  I pray the Spirit of 1776 be alive in you.

 

How Deep Are Your Roots?

how deep are your rootsIf you ever want to find me on the weekends, you will most likely find me and my family at Central Park.  There are playgrounds, places to fish, rocks to climb, and nature to explore.  Its sort of man-made nature, but its still nonetheless real.  As my son and I were exploring on Saturday we began to take closer looks at the different kinds of trees there were in the park.  I was struck by the roots of the trees we were looking at.  It hit me as I was looking at them…the strength of the tree is in its roots. How deep are your roots?

If you are in NYC and walk along 5th Avenue or Central Park West you can’t help but notice the trees that line the park.  The roots of these trees are monstrous and are pushing up the sidewalk.  In order for the tree to continue to grow and be strong the roots continue to grow and no amount of concrete can stop it from expanding.

The roots are underground and for the most part remain unseen.  Sure we are able to see them push up through the ground and push up the concrete along the sidewalks, but they continue to push through soil and earth.  The tree’s roots have been growing for years and their growth remains unseen.  Before the tree ever began to push itself up through the ground the roots were growing.

Before you and I are visible to the world, before our gifts and talents ever reach the height of a massive tree, our roots have to begin to fight to grow.  Just like the roots of a tree, our roots are underground and remain unseen.  When no one is looking, behind closed doors we have to begin to let our roots grow deep. Our roots are formed alone.  No one can make them grow but ourselves.

How are our roots formed?  Roots form and begin to grow by planting a seed.  Investing in yourself is like planting a seed.  Until you make an investment in yourself there is no chance for a root to form because their is no seed.

Seeds grow by watering.  Feeding yourself by learning, reading, preparation, failing and studying is like watering the investment/seed that is inside you.  A seed has to fall on good ground and then be nurtured. Then roots begin to grow deep and a sapling begins to arise.

Trees can’t provide shade, oxygen, and whatever else they provide until their roots have grown deep.  Until my roots are deep and your roots are deep our visible and external growth will be limited and stunted.

How deep are your roots? 

The Closer You Get…

The Closer You GetI believe the closer you get to a goal or dream the harder it gets.  Throughout this past winter I have been faithfully going to the driving range and working on my golf game.  Primarily, I have been working on my drive and my irons.  Yesterday, I went to play golf with a friend of mine, and I realized that the closer I get to the hole, the harder the game gets.

At the beginning of the winter my shot was ugly, but as I progressed to the spring it began to look better.  Not great, but better.  I documented here how I made a few adjustments that made a big difference in my game.  Well, yesterday was my first time on the course since last fall, and I was excited to be able to put to use what I had been working on.  To be honest with you, I had improved, but it wasn’t drastic.  I was pleased with my overall performance, but I still noticed holes in my game.

I had some good shots off the tee and with my irons, but then I hit a shot that came about 30 yards short of the putting green.  You would think that the closer I got to the pin the easier it would be.  Not so with me.  I am more comfortable with my driver and long distance irons than I am with my short game.

The closer I get to the green I choke.  I don’t know how to play those shots.  In golf there is no easy shot, but the closer shots can be just as hard or in my case harder and more intimidating than the longer shots.

When I hit a shot that will travel a longer distance I have more playing field to work with.  I have more margin for error, and the ability to recover and adjust to get closer to the green.  When I get closer to the pin I have a small putting green to get on and a small cup to get the ball in.

The same with running.  The first 10 miles of a marathon are pretty easy and basic.  When you get to mile 20 it all changes.  Mile 20 is when you want to quit.  30 yards shy of the green is when I start to get scared.

The same with life. Starting is hard, but you can make more mistakes when you start.  As you get closer to the goal it is exponentially more difficult.  As you get closer to the goal you require more refinement in your game.  As you get closer to the goal the risk is greater.

What do you do the closer you get?  I don’t really know.  Work harder, practice harder, go to the driving range, have faith, grit your teeth, hit the ball, keep running, cuss, and most importantly don’t quit.

Hope = Comeback Power!

hopeWorking the with the homeless and poor has changed my life in exponential ways.  Behind every person on the streets, alleyways, and shelters there is a unique story.  The people that most of us walk by (including myself) are precious and loved by their creator.  Hearing their stories can be hard because they are foreign, but they are inspiring.  Yesterday I had lunch with two ladies that nearly brought me to tears, and the underlying theme of their life, and what kept them going was hope.

Both of the ladies have entered a recovery program with the mission that I work with.  They are there seeking healing and wanting their life to get on the right track.  As one of the ladies began to share all the places she had lived, I couldn’t help but comment, “boy you sure have lived a lot of places”, and she replied, “I have been running.”

She then began to get into the details of her past. Heroin.  The other lady began to share her past with me too.  Heroin. Both ladies have been on drugs most of their life. One had left home at 14.  They had both been in and out of shelters, suicidal, and depressed.  One even mentioned how she wanted to walk in front of a bus and end it all.  As they were sharing they both began to cry about what they have been through.

Thankfully their story doesn’t end there.  They were both beyond excited to be at a place where people love and care for them no matter what they had done in their past.

I asked them each one question…”what was it that kept you alive in the midst of the drugs and suicidal thoughts.”  Both replied, “Hope.”

Hope is an interesting word. It is hard for me to define, but it is so real.  Hope can often be the differnce maker between failure and success in a persons life. Hope is what gives these ladies comeback power.  In truth, we can all have hope.  We can all comeback from impossible odds.  We can comeback from depression, drugs, and just about anything.

Whatever it is your going through…keep going, and keep hope alive.  This too shall pass…

I leave you with words from J.R.R Tolkien from The Two Towers, “The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”

Man Overboard!

man overboardI have a friend that loves to sail and invited me out yesterday to go sailing off the coast of Manhattan with him. I’ve never been sailing, and had no expectations. I had a blast, met some new people, some incredible views of NYC, and hope to do it again. One of the first things my friend taught me was about man overboard.

He shared with our team if someone falls overboard you immediately yell man overboard, and you never take your eye off them. I couldn’t help but wonder why you can’t take your eye off of them and he explained to me because you would potentially lose sight of them.

Who has fallen overboard in your life?
Who have you taken your eye off of?

As a person of faith I’ve seen people come and go, and I’ve also seen people lose sight of those who have fallen overboard. Many of us have been so busy taking our eyes off our fellow brother that we lose site.

We have been busy doing the things of faith that we lose the people of faith.

 

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There is a story in the Bible about a man who had been beaten and left for dead on the road…man overboard! The sad thing about the story is people walked by him and didn’t so anything to help!  Also, the people walked by him…were going to church.

They took their eye off of him. They were too busy to help him. They had important religious things to do.

What if we were a culture of people that didn’t get so caught up in our lives that we stopped and helped those overboard?

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