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.