Friday, March 13, 2009

Food for Thought #8: Mentoring

Stephen King is another of my long-distance mentors. Reading his book On Writing is like having a long, personal conversation with a master and being able to revisit parts of the conversation as you choose.

Photo source: Twilight Blog

Everyone is a mentor, and everyone has at least one mentor who has helped defined the guiding principles of their lives. (Ignore the numeric disagreement between noun and pronoun. It’s a symptom of my current contract where that disagreement has been institutionalized in the style guide.) Mentoring can be anything from helping a friend with homework to providing life-changing guidance.

Appetizer: Do you view yourself as a mentor? Why or why not?
Yes. It’s in my job description. Part of my job is to develop young trainers and instructional designers without being directly responsible for them. It’s like having the fun parts of a management job without the icky parts.
Soup: Other than your parents, who was most influential in shaping the choices you made in your life?
I guess there were really so many people, really. Here are two:
First was Louis Taylor, the stepfather of two of my best friends in high school. Louis was stable, impossible to rile, and funny with a very dry humor. I never realized how much he influenced me until his funeral. Then it was too late to say thanks to him, but his wife appreciated it when I told her.
Second, there is Robert Heinlein. Now I never met the man, and I doubt he would have given me the time of day. I was anti-war and against the military/industrial complex—you might say the anti-Heinlein. So, how could he be my mentor? I read all of his books, many of them more than once. His values regarding service, self-reliance, and intelligence permeate his writing. Some of my earliest concepts of spirituality, self-worth, and discipline could be described as “Heinlein quotes.” To this day, I find he influences me, and I know he influenced Trackgrease. Anyone who know the word grok knows what I mean.
Salad: Other than your children or siblings, whose life have you influenced most?
I really don’t know. I’ve tried to lead by example and to be open to question. I’m sure I have, but I don’t want to grab the credit for anyone else’s achievement (or the blame if they followed my lead and it didn’t work out for them).
Entré: What is your favorite experience as a mentor or mentee?
I love “watching the lights come on.” I get a real thrill watching someone wrestle with a concept or problem and find their own solution.
Dessert: Do you have to know someone personally for that person to be your mentor? Please explain your position.
Since I claimed Robert Heinlein as a mentor, no, I don’t. I think all writers are mentors of people they don’t know, especially if they take the time to answer their fan mail. Teachers are also mentors. And although they usually know their mentees at least causally, they may not. Trainers in industry don’t always have the luxury of knowing the people they train, sometime hundreds at a time. Neither to university professors. But in the end, mentoring is a relationship. It works best when you can have a cup of coffee—or an occassional beer—together.

6 comments:

Lee said...

Here’s the code to paste in your own blog. Please leave a link to your answers.

<dl><dt><strong>Appetizer: </strong>Do you view yourself as a mentor? Why or why not? </dt>
<dd>X</dd>
<dt><strong>Soup: </strong> Other than your parents, who was most influential in shaping the choices you made in your life? </dt>
<dd>X</dd>
<dt><strong>Salad: </strong> Other than your children or siblings, whose life have you influenced most? </dt>
<dd>X</dd>
<dt><strong>Entré: </strong> What is your favorite experience as a mentor or mentee? </dt>
<dd>X</dd>
<dt><strong>Dessert: </strong> Do you have to know someone personally for that person to be your mentor? Please explain your position. </dt>
<dd>X</dd></dl>

Suna said...

Here is my answer http://sunaknit.blogspot.com/2009/03/food-for-thought-9-mentoring.html

Natasha Friis said...

You can have formal and informal mentorship relations. The informal is when the mentor is not aware of their position. I really agree in the point of view, that we all have had them, maybe unconsciously.

As the founder of Mentory (http://mentory.com) a free global mentorship community. My goal is making it possible for everyone to experience the gift of giving as a mentor and learning and achieving as a protégé.

We also use mentors for different subjects. Some may inspire us at work, others in our dreams and finally strength us as individuals.

Dragonfly said...

I finally posted! http://dragonflysoars.blogspot.com/2009/03/food-for-thought-8-mentoring.html

Lee said...

I’ve noticed this before, but the picture I used for this post really shows it off. Look how much bigger Steven King’s head is than his body! Is his brain really that big?

Dragonfly said...

he has a bit of a Frankenstein thing going in this photo

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