To Mentor or Not to Mentor, That is the Question


Albert Einstein once said, “Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means.” If one agrees with Einstein, then there is no question IF mentoring is important, it’s only IF YOU should be a mentor. 

So if you want to be a  mentor, here is how you do it…

What is a Mentor?

The definition of a mentor is “a wise and trusted counselor or teacher.”

The word mentor actually originates as a character in the Greek classic The Odyssey. Mentor was a close companion of the king and was entrusted to keep the king’s son safe until he returned.

Since we now use the name Mentor to describe “a wise and trusted counselor or teacher” you might assume that Mentor did a tremendous job in protecting and guiding the young son.  However, in the classic we find that Mentor’s efforts on his own were of no use in protecting or counseling or teaching the son.

It was not until Mentor obtained wisdom from the gods that he was able to give sage advice and encouragement to the son.

A mentor is simply one who passes on the wisdom they have obtained during their life.

Why Should You Mentor?

The universe is built on self-sustaining cycles. Each cycle must give to the next to receive back in return.

There is a cycle to energy. It can’t be created or destroyed; it simply changes forms. Potential energy can be converted to kinetic energy, which can be converted to thermal energy, and then return to potential energy. The original energy remains.

There is a cycle to water. The limited amount of water that exists, continuously cycles through its various forms: evaporation from the earth, condensation in the clouds, and precipitation back to the earth. Water is never created or destroyed.

There is also a cycle to wisdom. In the book of Ecclesiastes we read, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Like energy and water, wisdom is not created nor is it destroyed, it is simply cycled.

You must give that which you have received to open the pathway to receive even more.

Who Can Be a Mentor?

This story helps answer that question:

“Once, a man was so busy building his house that he didn’t have any time to plant trees. When he finished the house, he became occupied with his job and couldn’t take time away to plant trees. He met a woman at work; they married and had a daughter. His life became so busy with his family that he didn’t have time to plant any trees.

One summer day he was outside playing in his backyard with his daughter; the bright sun was making them both very hot.

Daddy,’ she said, looking up with her hand on her forehead to shade her eyes. ‘Why don’t we have any trees in our yard?

He thought about what his daughter asked and replied, ‘I guess I was always too busy to plant any trees. I’m sorry I didn’t plant any when I built the house. It’s too late now. Even the fastest-growing trees would take at least five years to reach a height that would give us shade.’

To which his daughter replied, ‘Daddy, in five years I will only be eleven years old. I’ll still want to play in the backyard with you then, and I’ll still want shade from the trees then. So you’re right, the best time to plant trees would have been when you built the house; but the second best time to plant those trees is right now.’”

In this story, the mentor is the five-year old daughter who teaches her father that it’s never too late to make the right choice.

Anyone can be a mentor if they are willing to pass on what they have learned.

When Should You Mentor?

I once had the opportunity to take batting practice in Boston’s Fenway Park and to talk with Hall of Fame Red Sox great Jim Rice.

Jim talked about how he was mentored as a ball player throughout his life.

  • He honed his athletic ability in his neighborhood growing up with older kids where he learned how to work hard to be better every day.
  • Rice learned the art of catching a fly ball off the Green Monster from Carl Yastrzemski when he was just a rookie.
  • Ted Williams showed him how to hit out of a slump before he was ever in a slump.

Rice then demonstrated how to swing the bat to get a hit every time. Wow, batting lessons from a hall-of-famer – it doesn’t get better than that. Well, they only way it could have been better is if I had those batting lessons before I got up to take batting practice.

Teaching others what you know is best done before they need to use your knowledge.

Back to the original question: “To mentor or not to mentor?” The answer is “YES you should!”


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Denis McLaughlin
Denis McLaughlin is President of Leadership GPS, Inc.
He is a Leadership Development Expert, Coach, Teacher, Speaker and Writer
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L2L Contributing Author


  1. Sandy Cooper on May 28, 2013 at 8:10 pm

    Great article. “The universe is built on self-sustaining cycles. Each cycle must give to the next to receive back in return.” When this quote is applied to leadership development, business is better able to ensure continued success.

    • Denis G. McLaughlin on May 30, 2013 at 11:36 am

      That you for your comment Sandy. You are right that continued success is the key.

  2. kwalitisme on May 31, 2013 at 6:01 am

    Reblogged this on kwalitisme.