In Homer’s Odyssey, the goddess Athena takes on the appearance of Mentor, an elderly man, in order to guide young Telemachus during his difficult journey. Homer seemed to understand that the wisdom of a goddess needed a human form to be effectively delivered and grasped by a human being.

Like Telemachus, we need mentors in order to effectively maneuver through our challenges, develop our potential, and flourish in our experiences and relationships. Our mentors provide support, encouragement, and insight that enable us to thrive in our personal and professional lives. Their gift activates in us a physical, emotional, social, or spiritual power that enables us to be who we need to be and fulfill our purpose.

I met two of my mentors at St. John’s University in Minnesota. Jim Smith was my college basketball coach. We were playing in a playoff game that, if we won, would send us to the national tournament. As a senior in college, this was a big deal. Early in the game our team was struggling. Driving towards the basket, I was hacked by an opposing player, who picked up the ball and headed towards his own basket. Running down court next to the referee, I yelled, “Aren’t you going to call any fouls?” The ref blew his whistle and said in a voice that everyone in the gym could hear, “Yes, a technical foul on you.”

Are you kidding me! The biggest game of my life and I get a technical foul. As I hung my head and walked towards our bench, Coach Smith said to me, “Don’t worry about that. If he wouldn’t have called a technical on you, he would have called it on me.” Mentor just showed up in my life. I almost chuckled as I realized that this man had my back. Jim was really telling me what it means to be a team. Team happens when people are there for you no matter what. Although he never said those words to me, he modeled it at a time when I needed it most. I’ve come to realize that my purpose is to create that sense of team in every aspect of my life…family, Top 20, and all other relationships.

Fr. Donald LeMay was my first boss. He was the Director of Admissions at St. John’s and I worked for him after college. Fr. Don taught me the importance of communicating ‘You matter’. Again, he never said those words to me. He just did that with every person he met every day. Whether it was his smile when he saw you, his calling you by name, or his asking with genuine interest how things were going, you knew you mattered to this man.

Curious about mentors my partners experienced, I checked in with Tom, Willow, and Kevin.

Wayne Haag was Tom’s high school chemistry teacher. Although he hoped that Tom would find a career in science, his enthusiasm and love of learning that he demonstrated every day in the classroom led Tom to believe that he might find a calling in education. Thanks, Mr. Haag, for inspiring Tom to be a passionate math and Top 20 teacher for 40 years.

Through Tom, Mr. Haag also had an impact on Willow, who began working with Tom when she was 24-years old. She observed Tom taking chances in presenting content in new ways. She learned from him how to use humor and be vulnerable in order to be more impactful. She soaked up all Tom’s tricks of effective story-telling in order to create a culture of real learning. This not only led to effective team teaching, but also to a life-long friendship.

Kevin’s mentor was an older colleague who simply said three words, “Lead with curiosity.”

Take a few moments to:

·      Consider who has been a mentor for you and what they shared that made a difference in your life.

·      Send them a thank you.

·      Identify who you might mentor and what you might share with them.

If you like, send us the name of your mentors and how they made a difference in your life. We’ll give a shout out to those significant guides in future Wellness Wednesdays.

Wisdom and feedback from mentors are only valuable if we take it and use it. Just do it! Pass it on!

Best wishes from our Top 20 team…Kevin Brennan, Willow Sweeney, and Tom Cody…who have also been my mentors.

Paul Bernabei, Director
Top 20 Training