Friday, January 10, 2014

The Importance of Mentors and Mentoring

I got a letter from my pen pal the other day, and I’m looking forward to curling up in front of the fireplace this evening and writing her back. Handwritten notes are almost a thing of the past and it’s a shame because in my mind, the only thing better than receiving an envelope fat with secrets, ink stains and the dust of travel, is writing one.

My pen pal is 8 years old. She is one of the brightest girl’s I’ve ever met and so full of life that when you look at her, it feels as if her face is backlit by the sun. I’m not trying to be poetic, or artsy-fartsy, it’s just the truth. She shines from within. I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of her life, even if it’s just to write letters back and forth.

What Exactly Is A Mentor?

Mentors have always been a big deal in my family, and Adrian and I were encouraged while growing up to be constantly on the look out for someone to play that role in our own lives. It was a common theme and topic of discussion in our house, but I’m aware that’s not the case for everyone!

A quick search of an online dictionary provides the following definition:

1. An experienced and trusted adviser
2. To advise or train (someone, especially someone younger).

Mentors not only give you someone to emulate and look up to, but their role is to provide guidance during difficult times in your life or work, and their connections frequently open up possibilities for you that without their influence would never come about.

We All Need One

Ray Hunt had Tom Dorrance, Bob Dylan had Woody Guthrie and Luke Skywalker had Obi-Wan Kenobi. We all need a mentor in our lives and unless you actively seek out someone wiser than you with a commitment to excellence, you’ll end up being mentored by someone (even if they aren’t aware they’re mentoring) whose influence on your life will drag you down, rather than up.

More than likely you will have different mentors at different times of your life as you grow and change. There are two men in my life (besides my father), whom I count as my mentors and have since I was a young girl.

Cam Schryver is probably one of the most well rounded people I have ever met, and it is without a doubt thanks to him and his family that I was able to overcome extreme self-loathing and insecurity in my early teenage years. He and his wife taught my father to ride and when I was 14 years old, newly returned to American soil and horse crazy, my parents sent me off to stay for the summer with Cam and Lori. To this day I still think of them as Uncle Cam and Mama Lori.
They didn’t just help me with my horses and teach me how to get a soft feel; they invested in me as a person. They took the time and emotional energy to help me on my way to the woman I am today. They saw something in me and decided to encourage growth in me any way they knew how.

The other man who I will consider my mentor in all areas of my life until the day I die, is Dick Bushman. He is a businessman, a horseman and someone of great character. When I was 12 years old he took a chance on me and hired me to halter break what felt like, 1200 weanlings. He’s the only other person besides my father who has pushed me to the point where I thought I would break, and then given me the skills to not only survive, but succeed.

Frankly, Dick scares the shit out of me. I can remember him yelling at me, cussing me and in one hysterical instance, shaking me by the coat until I thought my teeth would fall out of my head. When I was younger, Dick mentored me by sending me colts to start, hiring me to help him with his cows and constantly loaning me videos and books on horsemanship. He continues to invest in me today by sending me reading material on business, personal growth and encouraging me in my pursuit of writing.

It’s Your Turn Now

None of us would be the people we are today, guaranteed, without the continued invested efforts of a mentor in our lives. Maybe you didn’t realize at the time that mentoring was what they were doing, but mentoring you they were. The beautiful part in my opinion is that mentoring is all part of a circle of giving back. You don’t actually ever reach a level where you think, “There. Now I can start mentoring someone!”

The time is now! Look for people younger and less experienced than you and actively invest yourself in their life.

You don’t have to teach them anything, just be there for them. Be a listening ear, a helping hand and a friend. Spend time with them, talk with them, and love them.

Being a Buckaroo Barbie isn’t about having your lips painted red when you cowboy or being the only girl where you work. A Buckaroo Barbie is a woman who seeks excellence in herself and actively helps others reach their full potential. Much of that is found through the mentoring process, and it’s a beautiful thing.

Find yourself a mentor and invest in someone else. You’ll be glad you did.

xo xo Elizabeth 

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