Sunday, August 16, 2015

Friends, Mentors, and Role Models

Since I began my study of the creation of wealth nearly 14 years ago, I have learned many things. Only a few of these discoveries came as much of a surprise. I found most of it was just technical detail or common sense. However, I was surprised to discover all the masters put a very high premium on the selection of the friends and associates with whom you will share your life. You can’t do anything about your family, they are part of the hand you are dealt by life. However, you are responsible for the people who you choose to make a part of your adult life. Wise selection of friends, mentors, and role models will all contribute to your success or your failure.

While it is a little off topic, let me remind you that, man or woman, who you marry will be the single most important decision you make in your life. It will certainly be the most important financial decision you will make in your life. Who you marry will significantly impact the amount of money that you (as a couple) will earn. Who you marry will determine your spending habits. Who you marry will determine how you will invest money and plan for your future together.

Stop for a moment. Visualize the kind of life you would like to lead. Visualize the kind of man or woman you want to become. Do the people in your current circle have anything in common with your dreams? Probably not. It is more likely that the people in your life are like the kind of person you are not the kind of person you want to become. When you try to move on, it is likely they will try to hold you back. Don’t worry. I have found that it won’t be necessary to cut off your current friends. As you grow, they will disappear from your life. In only two cases have old friendships proven so negative that I had to consciously cut them off. It was painful, but it had to be done.

In some environments this process will prove natural and easy. When I left the factory floor for engineering college at age thirty during the Reagan recession, I became a part of a group of extremely serious older students. We studied together. We drank beer together. Most of this group ultimately became members of Tau Beta Pi, the national engineering honor society--together.

On most days, I walk several miles along the Swamp Rabbit Trail. While all us have a variety of reasons for walking, running, or cycling we all want to become more physically fit. I have found the camaraderie shared by total strangers to be quite amazing. I have received and shared words of encouragement and helpful tips from everyone from a man in his eighties recovering from a failed hip transplant to a woman training for marathons. We are all working towards a common goal. We are sharing the dream of something better.

Role models are useful. Look around you. Who is on his way to becoming the kind of person you would like to emulate. Watch them carefully. What are they doing that you are not doing? What kind of beliefs do they have about the nature of this world and their place in this world? Are your beliefs and actions consistent with the kind of person already on his way to whatever you consider success? If not, perhaps a little self examination is in order.

Of course role models can not only be found in school or in the workplace. They also live on the shelves of your public library and out there on the Internet. Somewhere, someone is living your dream. Find them. Learn from them. Make them a part of your life and you will move closer to realizing your true nature.

Mentors are rare and exceedingly valuable. One man or woman willing to take you by the hand and show you the way may be the key to unlocking the door to your success. When you are young, it is unlikely that you will want to listen to anyone who can’t immediately give you a better job. I didn’t understand this principle until I was in my middle thirties. Pay attention to the people in your life who are older and wiser, even if they are not in a position to catapult you to fame or fortune. Hopefully, before you are old, you will come to understand the value of the life lessons they have shared with you. Don’t worry about being a bother to someone who is acting as an informal mentor in your life. Us old folks like it when bright promising young people treat us like we are wise and important.

Be a mentor. If you see an opportunity to help someone avoid a trap, don’t hesitate to share what you know. Sharing wisdom and knowledge with others is the only gift you can give that will not lessen what you possess. If you light the candle of another, you have doubled the light in the world. Don’t believe that helping a coworker will lessen your chances for success. The universe is watching; let God take care of your reward. You will not be disappointed.

Finally, remain open and sensitive to that little voice that nudges you from time to time. You might hear something from a total stranger or a person of no particular importance that might prove a key to your future success. Six degrees of separation is a silly party game based on the theory “that everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away by way of introduction, from any other person in the world, so that a chain of “a friend of a friend” statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps.” (Wikipedia)

Joel Osteen is fond of telling his audience that once while he was visiting a city, he asked a young bellman for directions to a famous church he wanted to attend. The young man told him the church was too far away. He wouldn’t get there in time for the service. Instead, he suggested that Joel attend a nearby church. Osteen followed the young man’s advice. He enjoyed the service and became friends with the minister. This man introduced him to a man who would ultimately be responsible for publishing Joel Osteen’s first book. The rest, as they say, is history. Osteen’s first book remained on the New York Times best seller list for over 200 weeks!

If you believe in a God who is there and not silent, you are only two degrees of separation away from your answer.

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