by Carjamin Scott on March 9, 2019, at 4:05 a.m. CST
Many authors are credited for the old proverb, “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.” This simple phrase describes the importance of an experienced fisherman sharing his wisdom with a man who wants to catch a fish.
If the experienced fisherman simply gives his fish to the man who is fishing, he is not serving his neighbor at the fishing dock. The neighbor may be grateful for the fish given to him; however, every time he takes the fish from the fisherman he becomes more dependent on the fisherman and less likely to learn to fish on his own.
Great mentors do not ‘give fish,’ they create relationships. I had a conversation with Dr. Rosevelt Noble, a married father with many hats and a mentor to a number of students.
When asked to describe mentorship, he said, “Mentorship is providing advice, guidance, counsel, and support to help people through the development process. The development process can include becoming a man, becoming a CEO, or parenting a son.”
He believes that mentors can serve in different purposes. “They can be cheerleaders, fact checkers, or critics. What limits people is their narrow perception of what mentorship looks like.”
I asked Dr. Noble to share who his mentor is. “My closest mentor is a 70-year-old white female, I have been in contact with her for over 20 years. She was one of my favorite professors in college. We talk weekly about pressing issues.” Dr. Noble, a black man from a neighborhood outside of Chicago, and his mentor grew up in extreme poverty.
He said, “Although you may not be able to tell from appearances, our backgrounds lined up and she was just a good person.” I asked Dr. Noble, “How would you suggest that students find good mentors?” He responded, “You have to put yourself in places and in positions to be developed.” He continued. “You have to develop a relationship with the person and often times you have to ask them to be your mentor.”
I said to Dr. Noble, “What about the students who do not put themselves in a position to be developed?” I continued. “There are many students who need mentorship but are not aware of how to ask for it.” He replied, “There was a time when I made myself someone’s mentor.”
He shared the story of a male student who was basically written off by a ton of people. Dr. Noble was able to build a rapport with the student. He quickly learned that the student was dealing with depression. His mom had even lost contact with her son.
While cultivating a relationship with the student Dr. Noble was able to build a relationship with his mom. In conversations, they both began calling him, “Dr. Rosie.” Soon, he had influence over the student and was able to become a mentor to him. The student was able to overcome his situation and get back on the right track.
From my conversation with Dr. Noble, I learned a number of lessons.
- Dig deep, below the surface, when choosing a mentor.
- If someone chooses you to be their mentor, be prepared to develop others instead of just giving to others.
- Mentors have mentors too. In fact, you should have multiple mentors and each should serve a different purpose.
- If you have found a potential mentor, don’t be afraid to ask the person to be your mentor.
- If you want to be someone’s mentor that hasn’t asked for your help, that’s okay. When you have something to offer, you can and should make a difference in a person’s life.
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Carjamin Scott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow her on twitter @scottcarjie.