I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. (First Corinthians 1:4)
Pastor Joel Osteen once said, “If you’re the smartest one in your circle, it’s time to enlarge your circle.” I am blessed to have a very large circle of very smart colleagues–people I can turn to for advice, prayer or an understanding ear.
From Steve Laube, who probably knows more about the ins and outs of publishing than any other person in the industry, to John Riddle, a master of marketing and the business of writing, to Denny Boultinghouse, who always has the answer I need before I even know I need it.
I am thankful for the brilliant people God has placed in my life to help me get to that next level–professionally and spiritually–and I think it’s important to honor those individuals. Too many people today are so concerned with “making it” that they’ll use you as a rung as they climb the ladder of success. But then there are those who will assist you in every way possible, hoping you’ll go past them on that ladder of success, giving you a boost when you get stuck on a rung. Those people are the treasures in our lives, the teachers, the mentors.
I’ve had different mentors in my life, but there are two who really stand out, people who invested in me and made a difference.
During my stint as a sportswriter at a daily newspaper in Indiana, I had my first mentor, Bob Bridge. Bob was (and still is) the hardest-working newspaperman in the business. Getting the story wasn’t enough for Bob; he always dug deeper, asked the right questions and crafted copy that placed the reader at the scene. He gave every story the same attention, whether it was about an 8-year-old local boy who caught the biggest fish in a father-son tournament or a story featuring quotes from “sports royalty.” He taught me that every story is important.
Though he’d never discuss it because he’s too modest, Bob has won just about every journalistic award you can win. I always say, “I earned my journalism degree from Indiana University, but I learned the craft of writing from Bob.” He worked with me. He coached me. And, yes, at times, he was hard on me. But, he made me a better writer, and in the end, a better person. Even now, when I teach at writers’ conferences and universities around the country, I often share wisdom that I learned from Bob. He is still the best writer I’ve ever encountered, and I continue to study his leads, descriptive language and voice.
When I took the job as a magazine writer for a Christian publication in Fort Worth, Texas, I met my second mentor, Ron Jordan. He had been a newspaper writer and editor for a large paper in North Carolina before taking the position as managing editor for a worldwide Christian magazine, so we spoke that same “newspaper language” and had an immediate connection. As my boss, he was kind but stern. He guided me as I learned to ghostwrite, which was a completely new concept for me. In journalism school, all of my professors told me to “find my voice,” and now I was being asked to lose my voice and find somebody else’s. It was a foreign concept, and I fought it every step of the way. But Ron was patient, and he and my immediate supervisor, Don, believed in me and my abilities to be more than a features writer.
They believed in me so much that I started believing in myself and eventually discovered that I could write in the voice of another person and communicate that person’s message with clarity and conviction. That skill opened up a whole new career path that has brought great joy, lifelong friendships and wonderful compensation into my life. But of all the things I learned from Ron, one stands out: He was a living demonstration of “leading by serving.” He served others on staff without any expectation of recognition, and so we all followed him willingly. I’ve never forgotten that life lesson, and I try daily to follow his example.
Who are your mentors? Who has invested in you so that you might be successful? I challenge you to take a moment today and drop that person a note of gratitude. Give honor where honor is due. I also challenge you to be that person in somebody else’s life. Take time to encourage others and offer advice and instruction when called upon. Investing in others may not be common in this dog-eat-dog world, but we are called to be uncommon. We are called to love others as we love ourselves. We are called to serve.
Father, thank you for the mentors you have placed in my life. I pray that you bless them today. And, Lord, help me to invest in others and be that mentor in someone else’s life. In Jesus’ Mighty Name. Amen.