Lighting the Way by Jim Stovall

* Tips for finding, and creating a winning experience with a mentor.

We can learn concepts from reading or listening, but most of us really learn how to do things from observing others and then repeating their actions.  People whom we observe and emulate are often called mentors.

In ancient Italy, the streets were very narrow and winding.  There were many canals and unexpected waterways.  This created a beautiful cityscape during daylight but a treacherous obstacle course in the dark of night.

As there were no street lights, there were people known as codegas.  These were individuals who knew their way through the entire city and would walk in front of you carrying a lamp to light the way.

If someone is going to be a mentor in your life, first you have to make sure they have been where you want to go. Never take advice from someone who doesn’t have what you want.

Next, if you’re going to consider someone as a mentor, they’ve got to be an ongoing example of the methods necessary to succeed today.

Too often, we find individuals wanting to advise us.  These people may have accomplished something in the past, but their methods, knowledge, and expertise are no longer relevant.

While they may be well-meaning, they may be leading you to where the bridge over the canal used to be instead of where it is today.  At best, this is a serious waste of time.  At worst, it can be dangerous.

If you determine a prospective mentor has been where you want to go and is still relevant within your field of endeavor, it is imperative they be willing to be very candid with you and available as you need them.

Many times, successful people will want to show you how they live and work today instead of explaining how they got where they are.

Instead of finding out what they do now on a daily basis, you need to uncover the information that will tell you what they did when they were at the level you are today.

A lecturer may tell you a principle one time.  A teacher may help you process that information.  But a mentor will help lead you through the pitfalls of ignorance to the reality of the Promised Land.

If you sit at a desk in an office on a regular basis as I do, you will receive a myriad of solicitations and cold calls from people who want to advise, counsel, or consult with you.  Generally speaking, this is not how you find an effective mentor.

If you want to find the best mentors, look at the field you have chosen, and consider who has reached the top.  Contact them, and ask for advice and the opportunity to form an ongoing mentor relationship.

The key people in your life rarely beat down your door and present themselves.  You have to go out and find them.

As you go through your day today, find the people who have the lamp and are willing to light the way to where you want to be.

Today’s the day!
Jim Stovall is the president of Narrative Television Network, as well as a published author of many books including The Ultimate Gift. He is also a columnist and motivational speaker. He may be reached by e-mail at or by visiting

-what are your thoughts on finding a mentor? Have you ever had one, what went into making it a win, win experience for you and your mentor? Or have you been a mentor to someone else? If so, what advice could you share that would be helpful to others looking to get good results from their experience?

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