Overcoming the Barriers to Mentorship: The Retribing Giveaway

by Brett & Kate McKay on August 24, 2009 · 65 comments

in Friendship, Relationships & Family


Source: Life

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by A.J Rippo. Mr. Rippo is the author of Retribing. For a chance to win his book, see the details below.

Accomplished men are often heard attributing their success in part to the impact of mentors on their lives, and much has been written about the many benefits this special class of teacher can bestow. But the quest to find good mentors can be daunting, disheartening, and even dangerous. Here are four commonly encountered barriers to finding good mentors and suggestions for avoiding or overcoming them.

Lack of Motivation

No one finishes a marathon without a great deal of motivation, and unless you’re very lucky, the same holds true for finding mentors. Would you like to achieve success in your career faster? A professional mentor will help you. Are you interested in exploring the great mysteries of the universe and your purpose within it? A spiritual mentor will assist you. Do you want to sharpen and expand your mind beyond your academic education? An intellectual mentor will challenge you. Could you use some guidance in making big life decisions? An older mentor will offer valuable insight and help you to avoid costly and embarrassing mistakes. In order to squeeze the most out of your life, you will need to have mentors; to find them, you will need to stay motivated.

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

Perhaps we are most vulnerable when we seek to fulfill a need, and the younger we are, the easier prey we make for predators. There are three rules that everyone, especially children, should follow when recruiting mentors:

Before you seriously consider someone as a potential mentor, get the opinion of someone you trust. If you are a teenager or pre-teen, get permission from your parents, grandparents, aunts, or uncles. Although they are in the minority, some predators hold jobs as teachers, police officers, clergymen, and coaches. Do not seek out strangers in person or on the Internet.

Do not trust a mentor who asks you to keep secrets. Anyone who encourages you to keep secrets, especially regarding their mentorship, should not be trusted. Run away as fast as you can. (This does not apply to a mentor’s request that you respect his privacy if he shares personal stories to make a point, etc.)

Avoid gangs. Not having a mentor at all is better than having a bad one. While gang affiliation may seem to provide some of the many benefits of mentorship, it is ultimately a dead end at best.

The Horse That Doesn’t Drink

Listening is a skill, and its practice will improve all of your relationships. The more skilled you are at listening, the more you will hear. The more you hear, the more of your mentors’ wisdom you will have available to apply to your life. But, what if you don’t like what you hear?

To reap the benefits of being mentored, you must be ready to handle criticism and disapproval. A mentor’s job is not merely to offer praise for worthy efforts and achievements, but also to point out weaknesses and failures, and to offer insight on how to surmount them. If you have recruited good mentors, pay special attention to their criticisms and disapprovals as these often offer the best opportunities for personal growth. Good mentors challenge you to stretch from and leave your comfort zone. Remember the old saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” Don’t be the horse that doesn’t drink!


Dealing gracefully with rejection is a skill that every man needs to develop as it’s a natural part of a full, healthy life. We face rejection when we apply for jobs, when we ask women for dates, and also when we seek mentorship. Learning from these experiences helps us refine how we present ourselves during future opportunities and increases our chances for eventual success.

Like potential employers and dates, mentors differ greatly from one to another. Volunteers of organizations such as Big Brothers usually welcome direct requests for mentorship while busy professionals often run the other way. Tailor your approach for each prospective mentor. When seeking a businessman who keeps a busy schedule, consider whether you share any common interests such as a sport or charity organization; building a friendship in this context may lead to a better result. When you’re turned down, get over your reasonable disappointment and treat rejection as an opportunity for improvement.

The Retribing Giveaway


Want to learn more about overcoming these and other barriers to mentorship? Read RETRIBING: The Unpaved Road to Manhood, by A. J. Rippo, an inspiring tale of an ordinary boy stranded on the path to becoming a man.

Retribing is a story about a boy who wants to be a man but has no male role-models at home. In the hills near his school, he encounters a mysterious warrior chief (real or imagined) who shows him the way. The warrior chief’s feathers represent the fundamental building-block virtues of manhood (perseverance, responsibility, boldness, physical prowess, perspective, independence, etc.). The book is perfect for males of any age, and for the mothers, fathers, and mentors who raise them to be men.

To enter to win a copy of Retribing by A.J Rippo leave a comment about:

  • A barrier you’ve encountered in finding a mentor, or
  • A barrier you’ve encountered in learning from a mentor, or
  • What has worked for you in successfully finding and learning from a mentor

Contest ends Sunday, August 30, 2009 at 11PM CST.

As usual, I’ll randomly pick two people from the entries.

{ 62 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Trey August 24, 2009 at 10:20 pm

Being in the military, the training always requires a mentor. Someone to learn from. The mentor should be someone who is a subject matter expert. More often than not, I have found myself trying to learn from someone who just finished learning the material themselves.

I’m striving to be that subject matter expert, so that I can be a good mentor when the time comes.

2 Paul Barger August 24, 2009 at 10:31 pm

One of my best mentors was someone who would tell me, what I often didn’t want to hear. We would always meet up in a pub and talk over a beer. Just about every time we left, I was pissed at him because I thought he didn’t know jack about me. Oddly enough, after a day or two of reflection & recovering from my injured ego – I would end up agreeing with him. I think the best mentors are the ones that will tell you what you don’t want to hear, even if it pisses you off for a couple of days. Don’t sign up for a mentor if you just want someone to blow wind up your skirt…

3 Eric Sizemore August 24, 2009 at 10:49 pm

Having mentorship foisted upon one, or receiving it when it was least expected while unprepared and without seeking. Prepare yourself constantly, and be open to learning from *anyone* at anytime. Moreover, forget everything you know, question everything, remain as neutral in judgement and optimistic in practice as possible, and teach yourself. Call me if you have any problems or need advice. ;)

4 Ryan Glander August 24, 2009 at 11:12 pm

I have a few mentors for various areas of my life. The hardest part about getting a mentor wasn’t finding them, but instead approaching them asking for their wisdom and help. Once I asked, most of them agreed to help.

The hardest part for me was asking for their wisdom.

5 J G August 24, 2009 at 11:38 pm

I am in my late twenties and have been wanting a mentor for a while, though it seems hard to find one. I want a mentor in a few areas, rather than different mentors for different areas. One of the challenges I face in finding one is the fact that I moved to a new city a little over a year ago and am not sure how long I will be around. On one hand, it is hard to find someone since I don’t know that many people yet, and on the other, even if I found one I don’t want it to be short term. Somehow I don’t think that getting mentored over the internet has the same value as sitting down for a cup of coffee…

6 Adam Dickison August 24, 2009 at 11:58 pm

I’ve had a spiritual/life mentor for about 2 years and one things I’ve noticed, is his willingness to pursue our relationship even when I try to avoid it. There have been times when I’ve tried to hide/ignore my mentor and he’s been diligent to call me out and hold me accountable when I’m shying away from our relationship. He’s encouraged me to mentor others, and this is one area I’ve failed miserably at (being diligent and persistent). As I’ve failed at being a mentor to others I’ve really come to realize how important it is for a mentor to be totally committed to their role in another person’s life. It’s not just a casual thing. It takes purpose, diligence, and perseverance to be an effective mentor. It also takes patience to stick with a “mentee” even when they are frustrating and sometimes non-cooperative. I’m thankful for my mentor. He’s been helpful in times of serious doubt and strife. He chose to help me at a time when I would have chosen to flounder, and I don’t think I would be on the path I am on today without his commitment to seeing me through.

7 Josh August 25, 2009 at 12:05 am

Growing up I never really had a mentor. I could usually work through things myself. Well I’ve just entered college and have come to rethink some things. I have found myself with a few mentors who i trust whole heartily. Including my dad, my coaches during high school, my pastor, youth leader, and friends. Some fall into more than one category. All of these men live lives that are manly. They are real men not a boy acting like a man but a guy who knows what it means to be a man. They have helped me decide to stay at my current institution and their advice has left me with a different but better perspective on things.

8 Octavio Saenz August 25, 2009 at 12:52 am

The earliest daydream I can recollect is one in which my father would be knocking at the door and as soon as I opened it he would pick me up, hug me and say that he loved me and never leave. But it was a childish fantasy that choked amid a world of complex adult relationships. Needless to say, in the hope for meeting my father I found a mentor in my maternal grandfather. He was a man of small stature that commanded great respect. Always the bohemian poet, I learned to love the smell of the moist earth after an autumn shower and to listen to the music of rustling leaves and the symphony that only a flock of birds that provide. But in the middle of his teachings, the man would leave for months at a time. And again I was deprived of a paternal figure. I learned to accept that no man is perfect. But there was nothing to stop me from learning from the aspects I admired from certain men, characters in both the pages of history and in the story that unveiled as the days of my life unfolded.

9 Dan August 25, 2009 at 1:29 am

I’ve been a mentor for a while now in the Navy, both to Christian sailors and non-Christian sailors. I have found many of the things in this post to be true. I’ve seen it not only in my proteges, but also in my own mentors.

One thing to add is that if you find yourself being selected, as I was, by the mentor, run with it! They must see something in you that they want to grow, so enjoy the ride! I have!

10 Stepa August 25, 2009 at 4:12 am

Having mentorship foisted upon one, or receiving it when it was least expected while unprepared and without seeking. Prepare yourself constantly, and be open to learning from *anyone* at anytime. Moreover, forget everything you know, question everything, remain as neutral in judgement and optimistic in practice as possible, and teach yourself. Call me if you have any problems or need advice.

11 Bob August 25, 2009 at 7:22 am

The biggest difficulty in finding a mentor is opening myself up and trusting another person. The time it takes to find someone and build the trust relationship takes a tremendous amount of time and I have found very few people that fall into that category.

12 Chris August 25, 2009 at 7:33 am

If you are in school, initially asking a teacher for extra help on a paper or other assignment, i.e. a short term mentorship, can open the gate to a larger relationship. With one of my college professors it turned into a full-fledged mentorship, with help getting published, going to academic conferences, and applying for graduate school.

13 Dawson August 25, 2009 at 7:35 am

One of the funny things about finding a mentor in my experience is that those who perhaps need them the most (i.e. folks traveling the path less taken) tend to have the hardest time finding them. I have, anyway. Through poor choices in my youth and difficult sacrifices I ended up leaving school very young, getting my GED and entering the workforce. Since then, I have been able to get my feet again and have returned to college part time. It’s a funny thing that growing up in that way, working and struggling, I found myself missing out on a lot of the things that kids my age usually receive during high school and college, including finding mentors to help guide you.

It is a point of some sadness to me that those people who take what might be considered a more difficult, non-direct path…people who by the nature of their experiences probably are more in need of mentors than others (not necessarily…but how many people do you know who took the path less travelled that aren’t at least a little maladjusted from it) have such a difficult time finding them. It’s something I plan to take into consideration as I get older. I’ve always said that if you don’t like something, quit you’re complaining and step up and do something about. As I get older and more established it is my intention to seek out those on the path less traveled and offer what mentorship I can.

14 Micaiah August 25, 2009 at 8:06 am

I have not always tried to be a mentor, but since I have started following AoM I have tried to help as many people I run into in my life. I have really tired to mentor those that I work with. I have also been gifted with the ability to catch on to stuff really quick and have also always felt the need to know as much about things as possible. However, I never wanted to share that information with others becauseI felt it would make me stand out if I know how to do things that other did not, but now I realize that mentoring those who don’t understand and those who have problems catching on is a far more outstanding trait. It has shown in the office, and now I am the go-to-guy as opposed to the guy who knows everything but will not help anyone.

15 Jon August 25, 2009 at 8:37 am

I am a pastor and am 8 months in to my first “lead/senior pastor” position. As such, I am in a position to act as a mentor to several men. I struggle with this, however, because of the 9 other pastors I have worked under in past roles only a couple seem to have been serious about wanting to mentor me in any way. The mentoring that I appreciated the most was from the president of our denomination, my direct boss for two years. His mentoring involved hearing me, advising me, encouraging me, allowing me to make mistakes (even though it would reflect on his office) and bringing me with him into contexts where I could really learn. Ironically, he did more to mentor me as a pastor even though at the time I wasn’t working as a pastor. I was his executive assistant.

This post is a great reminder to me that I can’t just wait and assume that a person in a specific role will automatically become a mentor to me, but that I need to put myself in situations with the right people. I need to seek them out and be bold enough and humble enough to ask them to help shape me.

16 Matt McCraw August 25, 2009 at 9:17 am

Usually, mentors have found me. That brings up a good point. When we’re at the age where we can be mentors, we should seek out young men that we can invest in.

17 Phil Breedlove August 25, 2009 at 9:27 am

It’s been my experience as a 40-something man that there are a few barriers to overcome in either seeking or being a mentor:
1. Asking – As men, the fear of rejection is the shadow that follows all our contact with potential mentors. “What if I ask and he says ‘no.’ How stupid will I feel then?”
2. Persevering through the silence – Men today seem to have a fear of silence, and often want to fill any voids in a conversation with something, ANYTHING that might prevent more than 10 silence-filled seconds from passing. Quite often, the best advice comes to those patient enough to let the other man formulate his thoughts before being forced into sharing them.
3. Time – In my life, things that don’t have a regular locked-in place on my calendar don’t happen. Too many other things have a way of crowding into free time and take away the chance to sit down and talk one-on-one with another man. If you want to be or have a mentor, block out a regular meeting time on your calendar and stick with it. It doesn’t have to be forever, just for this particular stretch of the road you’re on right now.

Thanks for this topic, It’s an incredibly important but all-too-often overlooked aspect of manhood in our culture.

18 Aaron Schnabel August 25, 2009 at 9:42 am

I am actually getting ready to look for a mentor. While I understand that one mentor cannot be everything or mentor my in every area, I am looking for someone who can give me a lot of support and advice in several areas of life… hopefully I will pick a good one :)

19 John August 25, 2009 at 9:47 am

As a young and brash professional, I entered the workforce ready to take on the world. Unfortunately, what I recieved was not glory or recognition, but instead responsibility and longer hours. After a few years of 18 hour days, the pride I took in my work diminished and so did my productivity. It was not until I welcomed an oppurtunity of criticism that I realized I needed guidance. One of my superiors suiggested that I locate a mentor (with their approval) who had been in my shoes and allow them to assist me for a year. I was reluctant, but with my job on the line, I knew I should consider the option.

Initially hesitant, I was fortunate enough to get the best mentor possible. I figured if I was to learn from someone, I should learn from the best, so I went for a natioanlly recognized professional. This man was one with whom I had seen at conferences and met on a couple of occasions. I knew of his record and was impressed with him from the beginning. His straight forward guidance has been amazing. The insight he provides is non-judgemental, but reflective. He has not provided with me some great insight that I was not aware of, instead he has given me the ability to acknowledge what I already see instead of trying to cover it up. The best thing I can compare it to is looking into a mirror to see yourself and have your reflection talk back to you, but instead telling you the truth versus what you want to hear. I am truly blessed to have this experience, and I nknow that I am not only better in my business, but as a father, husband, and man.

Truly, we should all be so blessed to have a great mentor!

20 Adam August 25, 2009 at 10:35 am

Never had one, never wanted one. I’ve always found that the lessons I figure out on my own are the ones that stick the best.

21 Cliff Plymesser August 25, 2009 at 10:41 am

FAT – I won’t seriously mentor anyone who isn’t FAT (Faithful, available, teachable), with teachable being the most important. It has saved me a lot of frustration and wasted time. Although it took me awhile to learn this…

If you yourself have asked for a mentor and been turned down, you may ask yourself are you FAT? I have to constantly remind myself to be teachable with my mentors.

I’ve had an older guy (about 30 years older) spiritually mentor me for the last 9 years and the value added has been absolutely priceless. I’ve also viewed my dad as my mentor. Both being successful business men has really helped my professional career.

22 Steven August 25, 2009 at 10:44 am

The problem I have had with finding mentors is the time factor. The mentors I have been associated with in the past always get seem to busy to really be effective. The relationship starts off on the right foot, but wanes over time.

23 Logan August 25, 2009 at 10:51 am

It was 6 years ago now. I was living in a sharehouse with people who were on different paths to mine. I decided, after reading One Minute Millionaire, that I needed a mentor.

After hoping, wishing and searching for weeks, I stumbled on a site of an Entrepreneur who lived in my city, and decided to give him a call. the nerves were almost too much for me at the time, but I was glasd I did. He turned out to be an author and a 3-time milionaire. He had apparently earned his million several times and each time given it away and started again. The game was where the fun was for him.

When we met, something changed in me for the worse and I am ashamed to admit, I turned into victim mode, telling him my sob story and expressing a real loser mentality. He called me a few days later and offered me a role in a new start-up he was doing, but I turned it down, not believing it would work.

Now I’ll never know.

I guess what I took away from it all was that I can and should learn to make do on my own and, as the old saying goes: ‘When the student is ready, the teacher will appear’

In the meantime I have started my own business and raised funds on my own, I’m getting into action and doing all those things I had been dreaming of for years.

Maybe it’s time for a mentor.

24 Sang Ahn August 25, 2009 at 12:04 pm

I’ve played competitive volleyball for 8 years or so and I have a few mentors that I’ve grown up playing with. First as their student and now as their teammate.

It’s funny how much my perceptions of them changed as I grew up and matured. I used to resent their advice, taking their well-intentioned comments as uncalled for criticisms of my abilities and letting their comments bruise my ego. But there is no better teacher than experience and I started to realize the truth to the advice and help they’d been providing me with all these years.

Even though today we play on the same team and on a level playing field, I soak up their critiques of my technique, skills and mentalities because I know now that their criticism is pure gold.

25 Daniel Fryar August 25, 2009 at 12:07 pm

My problem with finding a mentor(s) has always been ego-based. I really have trouble looking up to or even respecting people. It’s not like I’m a hermit who hates everybody, but if a person is not exactly who I would like to be, then it is difficult for me to accept their wisdom and guidance. In seeking a somewhat formal mentor relationship with men, this has crippled my ability to find suitable candidates. When I got over myself enough to just ask a “pretty good guy”, it has gone pretty well, but I have never gotten comfortable with having a mentor. I am always eager to make progress in this area and try again, but never urgent about it.

26 antiSWer August 25, 2009 at 12:49 pm

I think the biggest problem I’ve had with mentors in the past is not really knowing what they were supposed to entail. In some experiences, I’ve had mentors pushed on me and named as such for me. In others, they’ve been too directive. I’m in search of a mentor, as I’m entering a professional field, but it seems the difficulty for me is in the definition. I need to do a thorough analysis of it, in order to get a better grasp.

27 Chris August 25, 2009 at 1:06 pm

The best advice I ever got from a mentor was when I asked him structured questions for an class assignment. It opened up some topics we had not discussed but we ended up having several very worthwhile discussions about these topics. Both of us learning more about ourselves than we had known before.

28 Kirk August 25, 2009 at 1:18 pm

My father passed when I was 15 and left a huge hole in my world. My mother devoted her time to my younger sister and helped mentor her. I was left to find my own way. I vividly recall a series of men approaching me at my fathers memorial service and offering or insisting to be a father figure, a man to carry the torch my father could no longer carry. Of those 15 or so men who made that charitable pledge only 2 ever followed up to check on me or extend themselves. The remainder of my teens and 20′s were a time of anger, and frustrated searching for that mentor. I kept a diary through those years, and realized after a look back in that story that I’d pieced together my mentor from what I perceived to be the most admirable parts of many men, Searching for Superman, seems to be a fitting title for that search.
A couple years ago I encountered one of the 2 men that had followed through on their pledge so many years ago. After a brief talk I realized that both of those men shared the brotherhood of Freemasons, of which I am now proud to include myself.

29 Terri August 25, 2009 at 2:03 pm

“Retribing is a story about a boy who wants to be a man but has no male role-models at home.”

The USA has one of the highest divorce rates in the world of about 190 countries. You do not need to read a report to know why American boys are falling behind – lack of leadership (read: role model) at home.

Divorce is unilateral (one decides), no-fault (no reason needed), so it is more important that this book ought to be required reading for every male.

30 Jared August 25, 2009 at 2:04 pm

I can’t tell you how much my mentor meant to me.

In my book, “The Poet and the Billionaire,” I found that mentors can sometimes be of more assistance to you than even your own family. To have someone on your side, when no one appears to be… it’s life changing.

31 Andrew Yuen August 25, 2009 at 2:22 pm

Finding a mentor was pretty much pot luck and limited to my 1st boss when looking for my mentor. So I think the main barrier is an awareness of what’s/Who is available to mentor…and not just work but other areas of life. Some mentors good for business, others good for relationships, hard to find one person to be good in all aspects of life ?

One of the main barriers I experienced with learning from a mentor was that he was grooming me to be just like him (instead helping me become my best self). We had a falling out after that.

What worked for me is following my gut feel and seeing examples of people whose values I believe it in and who has been there done that I wanted to do. Then ask if they have time for a coffee and see if the chemistry works. Shut up and listen is most important.


32 Kevin August 25, 2009 at 2:53 pm

Several years ago, I desired to have a mentor. I was dealing with depression, and not very well. I hungered to have another male come alongside and listen, care and provide feedback, when needed. It was difficult to find someone to mentor me. It seemed I was surrounded by other ‘lost souls’ and other men too focused on their own egos to care. However, after several years I was fortunate enough to find a mentor. It took me stepping way outside my comfort zone and asking this gentleman if he would take some time and meet with me. What a blessing he has been on my life and the lives of several other men. He was willing to listen and be there for us.

33 Gregor Curry August 25, 2009 at 2:55 pm

I have a fantastic mentor. I lived next door to him for 10 years before I was ready to learn from him. In fact, I had to move away to truly appreciate him. It was the old adage, “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

34 Trent Maness August 25, 2009 at 4:39 pm

Finding a mentor is always a difficult task. No one is perfect and it is always hard to find someone that can meet every expectation. I have always searched out as many mentors as i can to cover all aspects of my life. If i have a mentor for the religious part of my life, he does not have to also be my professional mentor. This way you can learn from peoples best traits instead of both their good traits and their bad ones.

35 robert August 25, 2009 at 5:14 pm

I have had several mentors both male and female depending on the need of the mentoring issue. A mentor with a high level of ethical fortitude is a quality I would recomend due to todays social and personal problems facing men of all ages.

36 David Jones August 25, 2009 at 5:23 pm

I am a young man of 26 and I have had a mentor since I was 18. Actually I have had a few. I find that common interests are not necessary when finding a mentor. Often someone with different interests can bring the perspective I need because they come at life in a different way. It can be a barrier because mentors often come from organizations or groups that are common or familiar to you. Seek out a mentor that you know will have a different view of life. They may see things you don’t.

37 Anthony S. August 25, 2009 at 6:17 pm

Iv’e never even thought to personally ask someone for mentorship. I have had many although they might not know it. This will be a test in humility and my ability to be objective in evaluating myself. Thank you.

38 Jeff August 25, 2009 at 8:45 pm

My mentor is my old Army sergeant from years ago. Even though we live 4 states and a time zone away, we talk fairly regularly and whenever I have a big life decision or need advice, he’s my go to guy.

It is just like in the Army, no BS, he gives it to me straight even if I don’t want to hear it. Sometimes, I don’t take his advice and more often than not I regret it. He’s not too shy and yelling at me if I screw up, too (Just like the Army days).

39 Jacob M. August 25, 2009 at 11:04 pm

A major obstacle I have encountered in my search for mentors in various aspects of my life is the tendency for older men to dismiss my requests based on their concept of my generation. It seems that many men have given up on passing along their knowledge to the youth of this nation, thinking that we were all born with deaf ears. I, of course, can hardly blame them given the actions and attitude of my peers.

40 Ryan G August 26, 2009 at 12:59 am

Hey everyone:

A barrier I have encountered in finding a mentor is finding someone willing to take the time to teach another. I am someone who wishes to have strong character and the men I meet with strong character, always have an unusual amount of other obligations, too many to meet with a college student consistently. I am working at meeting others and I do hope for the best, but the time being, I suppose principle and fictional characters serve as my mentor. I think they do alright.

41 Chad August 26, 2009 at 7:44 am

My problem is that I feel like I am in a niche industry. I don’t know of a lot of people that have a detailed understanding of what we do. Not everyone who has the detailed understanding is also a good mentor.

My challenge has always been to find someone that is both a “subject matter expert” and a “mentor.”

42 Will August 26, 2009 at 8:28 am

My best mentor these days is someone I meet very irregularly. He often knows the right questions, and he sees things from *my* point of view for the duration — that is, I’m an orthodox Christian, and he’s a New Ager, and he doesn’t try to frame it all in New Age terms — he frames it in Christian terms, or whatever is relevant to *my* POV, not his — so I can solve things relative to my views, not someone else’s. This doesn’t mean he gives up his own POV; it just means he can help me make things work in mine. I consider that a rare gift.

43 Kenny S August 26, 2009 at 8:38 am

As long as I can remember I have sought mentorship in ever major venture of my life. Whether it was academic, personal, or professional. It has been integral into my success and overcoming challenges. My downfall was learning how to filter mentorship, when their mentoring starts to conflict. This was most difficult when the mentoring that seems to need filtering is from a direct supervisor.

44 Zachariah August 26, 2009 at 9:12 am

I’m looking for one now, but am a little gun shy after an experience I just had with a more senior person in my unit. I thought I could trust this person, but she turned out to be a different person once I got to know her.

I think you have to look for the skills you want to develop and not necessarily focus on someone who is “successful.” In my case, the culture of our org. is such that I may not want to be like the other senior managers, but would rather develop those skills that will help me succeed in a different unit/org. You can find mentors in odd places!

45 Yazeed August 26, 2009 at 9:56 am

A barrier that i have encountered in finding a mentor is finding people who are genuinely interested in mentoring people. They are either busy or not willing to share their knowledge and wisdom with people whom they don’t personally know.

46 Mark August 26, 2009 at 12:53 pm

My learning from a Mentor experience has been both positive and probably neutral. I wouldn’t say it was “bad”, just neutral. In most cases, my mentor never really showed up. Sure, we talked about a mentorship program, but it ended up just saying “hello” in the hallway as we moved from one meeting to another. To put my experience in context, my mentorship was within the confines of the military. Now, to the positive, I had a Master Chief and a Senior Chief that each took me on as a “mentee” on two different occasions. They both were fantastic, and the best part was not sitting down with some curriculum, it was spending time with them and watching them deal with people. Recalling one memory in particular, my Command Master Chief would interview all new enlisted Sailors and in the process he would be asking questions about where the young man/woman was from, etc… Then the good part. After talking for 45 minutes, he would make a call on speakerphone. As the party would answer, the Master Chief would introduce himself to the parents of the young man he had in front of him, talk for a few minutes about what they and he could expect while the young Sailor was assigned, and then thank them for the quality young man they raised. Talk about powerful. Not only was the young Sailor thankful about the call, but the parents now had a contact point for questions they had about the service. Additionally, I personally saw a few occasions when a Sailor went UA (unauthorized absence) and returned home. The parents actually called this man, telling him about the Sailor’s return home, and worked out a way to get him back to the command. They had enough confidence in the man, that they didn’t allow their disinfranchised son/daughter to stay, making a bad decision worse. Those were the kind of things I experienced, and they made all the difference to me. I am proud to be a Sailor.
U.S. Navy Chief, (ret.)

47 Shawn August 26, 2009 at 1:52 pm

I’m currently in my mid-twenties, and on some level, I’ve always felt like I needed a mentor of some sort.

I never knew my real father and there were never any positive male role models in my life. Perhaps at some points there were but, in hurt, I pushed them all away. My mother was my father, but there’s only so much a loving mother can teach a male child — and only so much damage I could stand from her overbearing nature.

I moved out when I was eighteen and have been drifting from meaningless job, to meaningless job… one empty experience after the other, trying to find some semblance of purpose and meaning with my life. There was a point where I thought I knew what I wanted to do… but now I’m not so sure. It could be worse, of course. I was part of a gang for most of my teens and it wasn’t until I saw a good friend gunned down in front of me that I realized that I had to break away from that world.

I’ve always been a late bloomer though… so perhaps it’s not my time yet. Maybe I need to deal with some personal issues first before I’m ready to learn from another person, as I’d need to be completely open and receptive to their insight. Anyways, this has been long enough. Thanks for the contest and good luck to everyone!

48 MIKEY August 26, 2009 at 3:34 pm

coming from the swinging sixties, i guess you might say the young men of my generation rejected most male role-models… nevertheless i guess i found one by accident… one of the Italian brothers i worked for who taught me how to: gamble, play the horses, pick up women, drink scotch straight from the bottle, play bocce ball, work hard, live hard but have a hell of a good time along the way…

49 Larry August 26, 2009 at 3:41 pm

I have had great difficulty in finding a mentor. At both of my last positions, my bosses would have made mentors, but neither wanted anything to do with mentoring me because they were all about self preservation, and saw me as a threat to them rather as an asset. To this day, I still want the same thing. I need a good mentor.

50 Jon August 26, 2009 at 5:15 pm

It seems very difficult to vie for a mentor’s time respectfully. Everyone is so busy, it makes actual face to face conversation near impossible. It seems to me that this kind of relationship should be expressed in this personal manner and not with a bunch of acronyms on the computer screen.

51 Kyle Wiley August 26, 2009 at 8:27 pm

There are always barriers to finding a quality mentor… from time restrictions to really finding the guy who can put up with you and your junk and still love you enough to push you along the course of life. My main barrier to finding the right mentor was finding an older man who was truly committed and knew how to mentor. Two of the men who “wanted to mentor” me didn’t really realize that they would have to commit time to meeting and “doing life together.” In that, though, it has taught me how to mentor other men and teenagers better, in my role within the Church.

52 kyle August 26, 2009 at 9:54 pm

3 things I have found helpful in finding a mentor:

1) be vulnerable – it takes humility and vulnerability to admit that we don’t have it together and actually need advice. Simply put… mentorship doesn’t work without vulnerability.

2) bring something to the table – every mentor wants to find somebody “good” and help them acheive “greatness”, so show him that you have the potential of greatness by bringing something of substance to the relationship.

3) be bold enough to ask – when you see somebody you fully respect and want to be your mentor, be bold enough to ask (in a classy way)… tell him exactly what you see in him and why you think he’d be a great person to learn from.

53 Don August 27, 2009 at 12:34 pm

The person I would like to have as a mentor is a great distance away, and is also a busy man. I don’t know how to ask him, and what value I could get out of phone conversations.

54 Stridar August 27, 2009 at 12:40 pm

Finding out who your mentor or role model is a big step, as it requires a great deal of humility. Once you have decided who your mentor will be, get out a pen and list the qualities you admire most about them

55 Scott Erwin August 27, 2009 at 3:21 pm

Barrier: Making the time amid both our busy lives to meet and really talk.

56 Robert Nakayama August 27, 2009 at 3:42 pm

Where do you find a worthy mentor?

57 chris August 27, 2009 at 7:12 pm

The problem that many may have with finding a mentor is commonality. I have found many men through out my life that I respected their opinion, but after I got to know them it was not what I would consider a mentor. Most were good men but due to contrasts in our personality or core beliefs it is not what I imagine a mentor to be. Unfortunately I have not found that great sage or shaman to help guide me through this difficult world in which we live. So I have tried to take bits and pieces of admirable qualities that I have found in men past and present. Though this doesn’t help in the day to day situations I hold out hope that it will help in being a mentor for my son as he grows in to a man. So if you are discouraged in your quest to find a mentor, don’t worry the goal is what is worth your effort not the trials you face in getting there.

58 Beau August 28, 2009 at 11:13 am

I’d like to share something that I routinely use in being a mentor to struggling boys. I’ve had wonderful results; and the boys (even their mothers and sisters) are interested immediately and want one of their own. If brief description, here is what I have done:

1.) I have read and put to use the book, “Raising a Modern Day Knight” by Robert Lewis. In it he points out these essential points to being a man.
A.) Reject passivity
B.) Accept respsonsibilities and duties
C.) Lead with courage
D.) Anticipate joy or expect the greater reward
2.) I had these principles stamped on official military dogtags; completed with a chain.

3.) I hand these out to the boys (and family members) that I work with as an ever present reminder of a code of conduct to follow when difficult decisions arise or old habits sneak back in. One only needs to pull the dogtag out from their collar and ask themselves these questions: Am I rejecting passivity, am I accepting my duties, am I leading with courage or giving in to peer pressure, am I anticipating joy and will things get better if I can just hold on?

A dogtag can be a manly object to possess. I often will display and share with those I mentor my own Army issued tags from 20 years ago while relaying lessons of diligence, determination, and discipline.

Among the hundreds of boys that I have worked with over the years, not even one has had a “strong” male figure consistently present in his life. Where have all the “MEN” gone? Chances are if you are reading this, you might BE an authentic man; or would LIKE to be one. In that case; please find just one struggling boy to mentor. Your efforts will not go unnoticed.

59 AGT August 28, 2009 at 11:01 pm

The best mentor I ever had was purely accidental. I found myself working for a person from whom I learned a great deal. Sometimes, the key is to be observant, and accept unscheduled, un-arranged, natural mentoring when it presents itself.

60 Jay August 31, 2009 at 7:16 pm

Interesting post – I understand the desire/need from people, but in a way I admire the guys that want to find it out by themselves – maybe tougher and slower route, but then, learning the hard way is usually the best way…

Are you going to publish the winners? Personally I like Beau’s post best – thanks for sharing!

61 Carl Muthman September 1, 2009 at 2:20 am

At my last job I had a mentor when I started my apprenticeship and he was sort of an ornery fellow. He had a wealth of knowledge and was real good. He was accused of being slow but when the job was finished it was done right and completel. He didn’t tolerate bad work habits and he wasn’t politcally correct about informing others if they did. I took it upon myself to learn beyond my course of study and there were several times I saved his rear. After that he took me under his wing and passed on alot of info and treated me very well. I guess I just had to prove I was worthy.
It kind of came full circle years later when I worked an apprentice and he was struggling. He was on loan to our area from another part of the state. I had to sit down with him and simply explain what was expected of him and why he was given certain duties. Along with his work ethics, knowledge and skills his attitude was being formed and tested at the same time. He made it through his apprenticeship when he got home. Knowing the expectations of everyone involved makes the mentorship so much better.

62 A. J. Rippo September 16, 2009 at 4:54 pm

A comment on Jay’s post:
“I understand the desire/need from people, but in a way I admire the guys that want to find it out by themselves – maybe tougher and slower route, but then, learning the hard way is usually the best way…”

Becoming and being a man is very much an individual journey that we undertake on our own. In this regard, I agree with Jay. However, being mentored does not mean that we don’t “find it out by [our]selves.” Mentors are like tools that help each of us individually build ourselves into men (or to improve the men we are).

If a man desires to build himself a house, I recommend he use a hammer, saw, drill, and wide variety of other tools. Such use does not diminish the value of the lessons learned, nor his contribution to the finished product. A man could certainly build himself a house without using any tools, but as Jay points out the process will be “tougher and slower.” Life is short – there is so much to enjoy, experience, accomplish, share, etc… I believe a man should use tools. A mentor is a tool that helps an individual build upon himself.

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