Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Mentoring, who benefits?

Spending over 20 years in a mentoring program was quite a learning experience for me. Although the program was supposed to benefit the at risk young men involved, ultimately the learning encompassed everyone, the mentored and the mentor. Being young and in my prime when I first accepted the invitation, my expectations of success were based more on the "good always wins out over evil" movie theory than reality. It didn't take long for me to wise up. The very first guy took only 3 days to go back to jail. We had a chat about his lack of skills and how we were going to work on improving them, he got all upset, saying I insulted him. He went out the door and within the next 24 hours managed to steal money from his roommate, get drunk, steal a car, smash it up while being chased by the police and finally arrested for assaulting a police officer among other things. I felt terrible! I also felt at least partly responsible for his behavior. At that point I needed some mentoring myself to remember that, when all is said and done we are all responsible for our own choices. That guy chose to do what he did, I didn't cause it, I couldn't cure it.

At the end of the day, when a person goes to another, older, wiser, more experienced person for help, that person has to follow the advice they have been given. There were over 200 guys that were involved in the program in a little over 20 years. I watched as some listened intently, applied themselves, developed a strong work ethic, pulled themselves up and went on to succeed in life. While others spent their time giving me lip service just to return to their old habits and get into trouble again. You can't win them all. Just as I can't claim responsibility for their failures, I also cannot claim any responsibility for their success. The decision is theirs! Mentoring is a great opportunity for people to improve themselves. The people on both sides of the fence.

In my life, I can't count the number of times when, if I'd listened to someone else and done what they suggested, I'd saved myself a lot of grief.

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