True Mentors

By Tony Price, BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: April 19, 2010

BOSTON (BASN) — Last week, I served as a moderator for a panel on how to use the athletic skills you’ve obtained as a college athlete to land a job in the real world.

The panel was made up of three former college athletes who were more than willing to share their experiences and success strategies with the current student-athletes in the room who were hanging on their every word.

I asked them a series of questions and as I listened intently to their answers a few common themes emerged on the benefits of athletics and how they transfer:

1. Healthy Lifestyle 2. Leadership 3. Discipline 4. Teamwork 5. Networking I thought these were all great qualities and traits along with the importance of finding mentors. It was on the subject of mentoring that I really pressed the panel, as this is an area that people often mention as a key to success.

But I wondered how many of us really know how to choose a mentor?

What makes a good mentor?

I asked for specific strategies to identify mentors or approach them especially if your personality is one of quietness and shyness? The panel had some great suggestions from developing relationships with professors, utilizing the career center on campus, getting involved on campus beyond sports, exchange business cards, having the courage to step out of your comfort zone to send a massive e-blast asking for Help!

Etc.

These were great strategies for contacting and networking with possible mentors, but the question still remained; what makes a good mentor? Is it someone who is older, wealthy, better educated, similar career paths, shared ethnicity and demographics?

If mentoring is a key to success, why then are so few people willing to become one?

In my book “An Unsung Coach” I advise that a mentor should be someone you respect as a person, their morals, ethics and values should all line up, a mentor doesn’t have to be someone who has a lot of wealth, college education, or hold a powerful position.

A mentor should be someone you admire respect and trust, they should posses qualities that you can emulate, but not to the point where you morph into a carbon copy.

One of the most influential mentors in my life was a man named Hollywood (not his real name), he never attended college, though it was an aspiration; fact is he never got past middle school, before dropping out.

But even in his forties he was working and studying for his GED; he believed in education and often encouraged the young people he came in contact with to finish school, Hollywood received his education from the school of hard knocks, he obtained a Masters Degree in street hustling.

Although Hollywood didn’t have a lot of book knowledge he knew the art of survival. He often read materials on finance and real estate and learned the game well enough to purchase a condo, nice ride and put food on his table before he lost his battle with the Demons and relapsed.

Unfortunately he lost everything and eventually passed away.

Hollywood and I would spend hours engaged in long conversations on creating wealth and laughing at the so called playas. He explained to me that real “Playas and hustlers” were gifted in holding their own in the corporate boardroom and on the street corner.

They knew how to straddle the line, without losing credibility on either side.

Hollywood didn’t realize it at the time, but the impact of his wisdom left an everlasting impression on me that resonates to this day and I miss him.

It’s funny as much as he thought he was getting out of our conversations he had no idea that he gave me so much.

Hollywood was very instrumental in pushing me to purchase my first home.

He stressed the importance of establishing a foundation for wealth through owning not renting; imagine that a former street hustler schooled me on the value of building wealth.

As you can see identifying a mentor is tougher than it appears the traits and background of potential candidates vary, be careful not to have a prototype in mind as some of the best mentors may not come in the ideal package.