Have you heard this saying; 25 years to learn, 25 years to live and 25 years to leave a legacy?
I think it’s a Stephen Covey line and I first hear it in the mid 90’s way back when I was in that second period, 25 years to live. At that time I never gave this saying (or what it meant) much thought or consideration, I was too caught up in the moment to worry about the future, self-actualization or even consider what my legacy might or would be.
How times have changed. The closer I got to 50 the more I realized that “I do not know, what I do not know”, and that while I may not be stupid, I sure was ignorant. I realized that to just keep going, let alone get ahead I needed a lot more EQ (Emotional Quotient) and not more IQ (Intellectual Quotient). In the most straight forward of descriptions I needed to learn and understand a lot more about the “WHY” people do things (or not) and stop worrying about the “HOW” things should, could or would work.
As a person not yet ready to rest on past accomplishments I refocused myself on further education, and while helpful it did not really fill the EQ need, in fact, if anything it reinforced how much I did in fact need to get on with developing a much stronger EQ.
Out of that educational process one piece of truly missing personal development became clear, I had no mentor, no confidant, no voice of sober second thought, no wise man/woman who would tell me what they really thought without anything to gain, fear of reprisal, or politics. Someone who would deliver the straight goods, and tell it like it is.
I took up the challenge of finding a well suited mentor, which as it turns out is a lot harder to do than one might think. Like all good things hard work and relentless effort is required to truly arrive at a meaningful accomplishment. However no matter how hard I worked at this, my mentor remained hidden from me, desired, but not found.
Then one day I was in a coffee shop having a detailed, and passionate discussion with a colleague regarding the merits of several different business books, and as we were leaving a gentleman, well my senior but who I had met once a few years ago stopped me and said quite directly “I would like to talk with you about those same books”. The rest as they say is history, I found my mentor, not just in business but in life.
I am now 53 and he is 68, he is semi-retired, and the past president of a local college and I am getting ready to put in the best 10 years of my working life. We talk about everything and from all possible angles, we talk mostly business but not so much the numbers and more about the important stuff (the “WHY”) leadership, role modeling, decision-making, decision impact, helping people grow, and unlocking opportunities for others, we examine life in terms of our shared Christian faith and from time to time about health (both), motorcycles (him), gardening (me), and the very essence of the mentor/mentored relationship itself. We ensure that we meet with a purpose and that out actions going forward are both purposeful and accountable.
I have gained immense value from this relationship, and I am in great debt to my mentor for all the grace, insight and advice he has given me. I do however have one major regret in all this and that is simply that I should have started this 25 years sooner.
Today, looking back at my career if I had a mentor of similar quality back then, today I know I would have worked less, accomplished more and would have done it leaving a better legacy in place.
So what does today look like, well I get together with my mentor for a breakfast every two weeks (when he is town) but I have also taken up the challenge of being a mentor, in fact there are three and sometimes four people I am mentoring in one way or another at any given time. Some once a month others every two weeks.
We are building truly great relationships, based on trust, confidentiality and full on, anything goes dialog and debate. The rewards of doing this are huge, for me not just for them. I come alive preparing for and being in these meetings, I take the role seriously and in turn I am taken seriously. I am almost four years into my 25 years of “leaving a legacy” but enjoying every moment of it.
So now the big question…
Do you have a mentor, if yes, excellent. If no then get one, you will not regret it.
Are you a mentor, if yes, excellent. If no then you should consider, seriously consider becoming one.
Pull up beside that young crew and the plant, in the office or on the job site, share a coffee and just start a relationship. Talk about things that matter universally, talk about life, listen and consider thoughtfully and come back a few days later and say “I was thinking about what you said, have you ever considered…” guess what, you just started down the mentoring path.
It can be that informal or very formal with action plans, check boxes and strategic thinking, anyway it works, it’s a good thing. Bottom line is that IQ will only get you halfway.
EQ will get the other half and the school of EQ, it is best found at the feet of a mentor.