6 Life Lessons From My Life-Long Mentor

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My definition of “mentor” is someone whose actions or words impact your decisions.

They do not have to be people you see everyday. In fact you do not need to know them personally at all. It can be someone who wrote a book you relate to or hosts a podcast that motivates you. You can learn from everyone and your mentors are all around you if you are willing to be open and seek them out.

In my case, I am very lucky. My biggest mentor is my dad. Always has been and always will be. He is the first person I think of when I have a dilemma, and the first call I make when I need advice.

My dad is not the kind of guy who will give you direct advice, many of the lessons he has taught me have taken years to figure out. Some of the biggest lessons have come by him taking a step back and giving me room to figure something out on my own, even if it meant short-term failure for long-tern growth. As a new father those are the lessons that I have really been mulling over lately, so I too can give my son the space to fail in order to eventually succeed.

Below are 6 lessons that my dad has taught me over the years that I am forever grateful for.

1. YOU ARE YOUR BEST ADVISOR:
The biggest lesson my dad has ever taught me is to have the courage to listen to myself. Often times when I asked my dad for help he would come back with: “You already know the answer. You already know what needs to be done. You do not need to hear it from me. Listen to yourself.” At times I found this frustrating, but he was right. Deep down I knew what I needed to do and over time I started to listen to myself more and less to other people.

If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else – Yogi Berra

2. FIRST IMPRESSIONS MATTER & IN A BIG WAY:
My dad was my soccer coach when I was younger and before the start of every half he would say like clockwork:“Bring it the first two minutes”. The first two minutes sets the tone. How you start plays a huge part in how you finish.

I am still not comfortable writing about this, because I have fought my whole trying to hide it, but I grew up with a severe speech impediment. Everything I said, or more importantly “did not say”, relied on my first-impression. If I started out strong I gained confidence and control. If I stuttered and fumbled in the beginning I would go to pieces.

Remember the phrase “Bring it in the first two minutes” and not just when you have to give a presentation or play a game, but the next time you step out of your car or walk into work.

3. YOU ARE NEVER TOO OLD TO LEARN NEW TRICKS:
My dad is 75 years old and sets goals much steeper than mine. More importantly, he takes the small steps in order to conquer the big ones. He puts his head down and gets better……every…….single…….day. My dad is constantly reading, going to group discussions and surrounding himself with smart people. In short, my dad is always learning so in turn he is always growing. One piece of advice I have heard over and over again is: “Just Show Up and the rest will take care of itself”.

4. THE ONLY DIRECTION IS FORWARD (EVEN IF IT MEANS TAKING A STEP BACK):
It took me a long time to figure out the type of work that got me jumping out of bed every morning. I did not grow up with a burning passion, besides kicking a soccer ball. Deep down, my dad knew that the only way for me to find what I really wanted was to try as many things as possible, and to fail as much as possible.

After complaining about my first job, my dad told me that: “I would have 7 jobs until I found what I was passionate about”. He was dead right. 7 jobs and 14 years later the dots connected and my career made sense.

Take your time. Try new things. Learn from everything. Sometimes your enemies and your biggest obstacles can teach you the most lasting lessons.

5. ALL PROBLEMS ARE COMMUNICATION PROBLEMS:
My dad does not sit on his feelings. If he has an issue with something or someone, he addresses it, immediately. He used to say quite frequently that “if you have to kiss a toad, it does not get prettier the longer you wait”. Relationships that last have their ups and downs, and more often than not how you communicate your feelings when things are down dictate the future of that relationship. This lesson has served me well in work and also with my wife.

6. CONFIDENCE IS KEY:
When I was 24 I heard a discussion through my bedroom wall that changed my life. My dad was giving a rundown of the family and when he got to, me he said: “Mike, I do not need to worry about Mike, just because of the way he interacts and treats people”. I was floored. In one sentence he gave me the confidence to not only go out into the world, but “take it on”.

Confident people give other people confidence. If there is one thing that I could remember my dad for it would be this sentence. He told me time and time again that I was good enough, but when you hear someone you respect to no end tell other people you are good enough, everything changes. At least it did for me.

Zig Ziglar famously said, “You can get everything you want in life, if you just help enough people to get what they want.” My dad was a big fan of Zig and his actions show it. My dad did the dirty work with me. I hope I do with my own son.

What lessons have you learned from your mentors that have helped to shape the person you are today?

PS: On a side note, I think it is funny that I now call him “dad” again.
When I was a child of course he was “dad” but towards my teenage years up until my late 20´s he became “father”.
I am thrilled that he is just “dad” again.

Michael Thompson 

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