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Mentoring is one of the most powerful things you can experience. Getting beyond the clichéd “it changed my life” tag line, it is important to realize that it actually does change lives, whether subtly or drastically, but when done right, profoundly.
Take time alone to reflect
Take a moment to consider your own life. Look into your personal history and reflect on someone who influenced you to become who you are today. Look past the ‘easy’ ones – parents or school teachers, and identify that someone who choose to be in your life and help you or benefit you without any sort of moral or legal compulsion to do so.
Once you identify that person (or one of them if you are blessed to have several), clearly breakdown in your mind how they influenced you and what areas of success you’ve had in life due to their influence. There should arise in your heart a deep sense of gratitude toward that person, a sense of warmth and love, a desire to do something for them, a deep respect. I share one of mine at the end, feel free to share yours in a comment.
Money cannot buy those feelings. Kids whose parents were not ‘mentors’ but were otherwise absent, may note that their parents tried to ‘buy them off’ with expensive gifts, instead of investing time and love into them. It is what truly matters in life – an essential yearning that we all have to be seen, heard and understood by another. This is why true mentoring is powerful.
You have no idea what you might be able to help someone through.
That is why you should become a trained mentor. You probably cannot do much or anything for your mentor directly. But there are two very powerful things you can do. 1. Send them a letter (or email if you’re feeling lazy) sharing your observations about the impact they’ve had in your life and what it means to you, and 2. be a mentor yourself to have that impact in someone else’s life. Get training so you do it well, and be persistent, because it’s not always easy. You can reach out to IYDE for mentor training by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or our website, www.iyde.org
One of my mentors
I don’t remember his name, I’m ashamed to admit. I was a freshman in collage and he was a grad student a year or two away from finishing. He had asked if I wanted to do the Friday khutba (sermon) for campus and I readily, but politely, told him “no way”. I hated public speaking. Passionately. I had been pushed to the front of class on occasion as well as at a camp or two, and it was one of the worst feeling I’d ever had. I didn’t have butterflies in my stomach, I had angry wasps high on crack attacking my insides. In instances where I would have to speak, I would tell people not to let me know I had to speak until it was time for me to get on stage so I wouldn’t have time to be sick to my stomach.
I’m still not exactly sure how he managed to get me to give my first khutba on campus. I know that it took him a while. I know that he continued to speak patiently to me, encourage me, and engaged me in discussion about the importance of having people raised in the US giving the sermons in order to be relevant and clearly understood. He continued to push me to give the khutbas regularly (mostly by just scheduling me and telling me I was expected). By the time he graduated, I was no longer feeling physically ill when I knew I had a speech coming up. I still wasn’t fond of doing it, but I could.
Decades later, with hundreds of public speaking engagements under my belt, I reflect on how much of the work I’ve done has been built on my ability to speak well in public: mentor trainings, talks given in religious institutions, classes in universities, lectures and workshops at camps and conferences. Pretty much my whole life. For sure, it took me years to hone my skills, studying other great speakers, hearing myself and actively working to improve – but I don’t think I would have even ventured down that road without his initial support and belief in me, without his pushing and encouraging for something he saw, that I did not. I hope that he will happen to stumble upon this blog, but even if he doesn’t, Allah knows, and no good deed is unrewarded. I pray that he is blessed in all that he has and does, and that he is blessed with an amazing family, and that he has continued to influence and impact others in such profound ways, and that he is granted the highest level of paradise, Al-Firdous.