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Monday, May 02, 2005

Mentors are Human Beings too...

In the past months the reality captured in the title of this article hit me with the magnitude of lightning in a heavy storm. The person in whose footsteps I had followed for the past seven years had been changing like a leaf on a tree: something must have happened in his life, which caused him to wander from what everybody had considered to be his purpose. His career,which he had valued and esteemed so highly in the past years, suddenly didn’t seem to matter anymore; his connections, to whom he had been true and meticulously correct for the longest time, swiftly became neglected topics in his email inbox, on his voicemail, and on his calendar; and the strictness with which he would always attend important meetings and network sessions had totally vanished.

What could have caused this perfect role model to change so radically? All I can do is guess at this point. Numerous scenario’s crossed my minds in the many hours that I evaluated his changed behavior: was it his recent exposure to new, fascinating environments that had altered his perceptions on what would really matter to him from now on? Was it something in his private life that had changed? An affair, maybe? Or was it a slowly emerged awareness that his current work environment was an ungrateful one, and that he should move on to something better and more rewarding? Was he already on to something more rewarding? Was he still looking? And if he was still looking, was it wise to neglect everything and everybody that could make or break him? There were signs and reasons for all of the above options, and yet, there was nothing substantial to prove anything.

So there they were: Questions, questions, questions. Unanswered queries that could only drive a person insane if one allowed that. I decided that I wouldn’t. After all, it was his life, this person who was once my mentor, and whom I had much to thank to with regards to my emotional and mental growth in the past years. Yet, along with the decision of not dwelling on the issue too much, I also concluded some other things. Here are the lessons that I learned from this epiphany:

· Mentors are human beings too. Like everything else, they serve a purpose in our life for a certain amount of time, after which it is crucial to move on. Nothing remains the same. Everything changes: work environments, family ties, circles of friends, knowledge, and so, too, mentors.

· Mentors come and go. Once the old mentor has moved on, it is time to find another one. And sometimes we may even reach the stage where we can be our own mentor. However, the old mentor should not be forgotten, but appropriately valued as an important contributor to our growth during a certain phase of our journey.

· The change we detect within a mentor does not mean that this person is any less than he or she was before. Just different. We forget too often that mentors, too, go through the motions, and that they too need mentors to move them from one level to another.

· Mentees can become mentors, not only to upcoming individuals, but to previous mentors as well, that is, if some of the areas in which they have developed become important to the previous mentor. The beauty of being human is that we have continuous and variable learning relationships with one another. And while the flow may have initially moved from mentor to mentee, it may very well change at a certain point, whereby the mentee takes on the mentor role.

· Having a mentor is certainly not a sign of weakness, but rather a token of awareness that we are all interdependent, and that life is a process of continuous learning. Mentors should, more than anyone else, be aware of that.

I thought it would be good to share my experiences and insights with you, the reader, as it may very well be that you will encounter this problem in your life as well someday. Seeing someone precious falling from a pedestal is a heartbreaking experience. Yet, you should be aware that no one placed this person on that pedestal but you. This person may not even have been aware of the role he or she was fulfilling in your life, and may not be aware either that he or she is going astray in your eyes. It is just your perception. And if your role model goes astray, you are the one to deal with it in the emotionally least harmful way as you can. For remember (I know I will from now on): Mentors are human beings too...

About the author: Joan Marques emigrated from Suriname, South America, to California, U.S., in1998. She holds a doctorate in Organizational Leadership, a Master's inBusiness Administration, and is currently a university instructor inBusiness and Management in Burbank, California. Look for her books "Empowerthe Leader in You" and "The Global Village" in bookstores online or on herwebsite: http://www.joanmarques.com

Dr. Joan Marques http://www.joanmarques.com "It is better to live in serene poverty than in hectic affluence. Everythinghas a price. The price for nurturing your soul is turning away fromexcessive stress, destruction of self-respect, and the constant strive inlifestyle with the Joneses. But it's worth it."

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