When I entered my freshman year of college I had dreams of majoring in Theatre and heading to Broadway. By the end of my first semester all that had changed. I still had dreams of heading to the Big Apple, but now those dreams involved majoring in Broadcast Journalism and heading to a career in television news. This dramatic turnaround is largely credited to my Journalism 101 professor who also became a mentor to me throughout college.
The power and influence of a good mentor can’t be overstated. I haven’t had many, but the ones I have had changed the course of my life. That’s why I love this book I was recently introduced to — “FIVE YEARS IN HEAVEN: The Unlikely Friendship That Answered Life’s Greatest Questions.” The author, John Schlimm, shares his experience with an extraordinary mentor and the extraordinary things she taught him. Today I’m honored he’s agreed to share with OGT readers why he thinks the mentor relationship is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves.
Sometimes mentors come to us in the most unlikely forms, and when we most need them. And on occasion, we are called to be that one good thing in someone else’s life.
This became clear to me at age 31 when I hit rock bottom. I was stranded at a crucial crossroads amidst a whirl of questions about the direction in which I was headed and my true purpose. Enter my guiding light: 87-year-old Sister Augustine, a humble and reclusive nun who ran the ceramic shop on the grounds of a 150-year-old convent.
In my new memoir Five Years in Heaven: The Unlikely Friendship That Answered Life’s Greatest Questions, I recount how Sister Augustine became my greatest mentor. She opened my eyes to the universal answers and lessons that we all seek, no matter who we are or where we are along life’s journey.
Our hundreds of visits over five years turned into a master class about the meaning of life and living each day to the fullest. Each conversation was jumpstarted with Sister’s unique brand of wisdom, humor, and grace.
I also learned that mentorship is a two-way street. While Sister Augustine helped me to better understand myself and the world, I was able to show my friend, even into her nineties, how her life still had one very important chapter left to go.
Here are ten ways that mentorship can also change your life for the better, and help you to add a little more cheer and goodness to the world in the process:
You’ll never have to face hardships or challenges alone again.
Sometimes a crowded room can be just as lonely as sitting solo behind closed doors when you’re being consumed by your problems, fears, and worries. With a mentor on speed dial, always willing to lend an attentive ear, you can boot that helpless feeling of isolation to the curb once and for all.
An experienced tour guide is at your beck and call.
We all get lost at many crossroads throughout our lives. Some of these are momentary detours, and others are more serious and long lasting.
Like an expert travel companion, a mentor will be there to help you navigate your way in a positive direction. After all, they already have the “Been There, Done That” t-shirt, and know the pitfalls to avoid.
The keys for unlocking your natural talents are handed over.
First-off, you need to realize that you have countless gifts tucked away inside you, waiting to be discovered and shared. A mentor will help you to explore what those talents might be, and how best to use them to rock the world around you.
Sister Augustine always told me, “We all have our purposes and missions to fulfill in this life. . . . We can be whatever we want, or many things at once if we so choose.”
An answer is always waiting for you.
Rarely in this life do you get to ask someone any question you want and know that there will be an answer and it will have a transformative meaning for you. But when you have a mentor—someone whom you admire and respect—no question or problem is ever too difficult for a reply. And every answer they offer to you is a step in the right direction.
You get to be a teacher and student in ever-reversing roles.
The mentoring relationship is a two-way street lined with lampposts waiting to be illuminated. This dynamic maximizes the impact and benefits for all involved.
“We are all equal and here to help guide each other,” Sister Augustine once said. “What matters is reaching out and touching one another in some way.”
Mentorship is a reminder of how we are all each other’s responsibility in this life, helping one another to succeed and grow.
A super hero will come to your rescue.
Sometimes we need a champion—someone to stick up for us and cheer us on. Someone to nudge us forward through the darkness. And to remind us that come what may, we always have an ally and a choice.
Instead of a red cape or golden lasso, my super hero wore a traditional black habit and wielded wisdom.
During a discussion about the often dead-end walls of challenge, change, and fear we confront in life, Sister Augustine offered empowering advice: “It’s our choice to go over, around, or straight through our problems and fears, and evil itself, that builds courage and helps fortify us against the next challenge. That is what embracing change, even when it’s riddled with fear, is all about.”
You’ll be able to peel back the layers of chaos, and simplify.
Mentors help us to unpack the toxic baggage we often acquire over time because of mistakes, frenzied schedules, materialism, and confusion. With their guidance, we can peel away the superficial and suffocating layers of chaos that keep us from reaching our full potential.
Sister Augustine referred to the pursuit of this simpler path as “a grace you give to yourself.”
You can hit the PAUSE button on life, followed by RESET.
During my hundreds of visits with Sister Augustine, I was able to escape from the outside world for a few hours every week. Having a mentor means pausing to catch your breath. This special relationship provides a safe, comforting zone. The result is an infusion of new energy with which to face the world once more.
Today, when I need to pause and reset, I recall Sister Augustine’s words: “Each step, whether in happiness or in sadness, is a gift. What we do with those gifts is what makes all the difference.”
Nothing is off-limits.
Even with a Catholic nun, clad head-to-toe in a traditional habit, no topic was ever off limits during our discussions. Sister Augustine and I covered it all. Never once was I confronted with judgment or reproach for a subject I raised.
Listening to my friend share her advice and knowledge in response to my many questions, I gained a new appreciation for the infinite beauty and sacredness of an open mind.
The lessons of mentorship have no expiration date.
We don’t always have a particular mentor in our life forever, which is what makes the one-on-one relationship so precious. What is everlasting though is the treasure chest of lessons and answers revealed during the friendship.
Sister Augustine and I shared five years of our lives together. For me, she embodied the eloquent Greek proverb that tells us, A society grows great when the old plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in. This could be the mission statement for mentoring, no matter the ages of those involved.
Five Years in Heaven is Sister Augustine’s tree of friendship and wisdom under which I continue to bask and learn. Our story on those pages is also my gift, both to readers today as well as to the generations who will come long after I, too, have passed this way.
Thanks so much John! Your book has given me a new appreciation for the precious gift of mentoring….from both sides.
If you would like to win a copy of this beautiful tribute to the wisdom and comfort of friendship, just leave a comment below sharing something about a mentoring relationship in your life.
5 winners will be chosen on Tuesday, April 21, 2015.