The impact another person can have on your life is incredible, and it’s important that we realize how much of our success is often built on the shoulders of others. January is National Mentoring Month, and I wanted to take this opportunity to share my mentor story.
A good mentor is someone who will challenge you, who will ask the hard questions, even when you don’t have the answers. They aren’t there to tell you what to do, but to share their experiences in a way that guides your ambitions toward something meaningful.
For me, that person was Michael Trufant.
We met at a mutual friend’s wedding. He came up in the news industry and had a background in business operations.
So, we started talking, and he pitched me an idea for a video production company called GreenScreenTV. He had the whole business plan laid out, and he was just looking for someone with the drive to run operations.
In hindsight, I think a big part of why he approached me had to do with the fact that I made myself available.
I was really involved in Forum 35 and other nonprofits, so I had done a lot for the community. I was on several boards by this time, so I think he saw my energy through my philanthropic work and knew that I had a background in video production.
So, he knew that I was very driven. But, he also knew that I was hitting a lot of roadblocks and struggling with my own company at the time.
And, it really all fell into place from there.
At the beginning of our relationship, his value as a mentor came in obvious ways, like start-up capital and a client network.
But, I quickly realized that the more valuable assets he offered were his years of experience and community engagement. He gave me a conduit to Baton Rouge to meet more people and grow my network.
Throughout our company transition from Green ScreenTV to Launch Media, he was always available for me to come to him with a problem. But, he wasn’t there to fix my problems or tell me what to do. He was there to ask hard questions and make me think.
But, he was an excellent prompter. He was really good at pulling out the “Why is this important?” to help me find real solutions to problems.
Because at the end of the day, your mentors aren’t there to make decisions for you. Only you can do that. But, they can share their experiences and equip you with the information you need to be better informed.
Like any relationship, ours began naturally and evolved through the years. I still call him for advice, but it happens less now.
There’s a point when you realize that so much time has passed, and you’re now the same age as they were when they began mentoring you.
And while that’s somewhat frightening, it’s also a good thing. Because you realize you’ve gained enough experience to begin mentoring someone yourself.
With so many industries, mentorships are built-in. Doctors have residencies. Lawyers have proteges. Craft professionals have apprenticeships.
But, it’s not built-in in business, so we have to be more intentional about seeking out those relationships.
For some reason, we all think it’s an awkward question, but I really think there’s a lot of people out there willing to mentor others if someone just asked.
I do believe that there are many successful people out there in business who want to be mentors and want to share. They want to see people succeed. It’s a way for their legacy to live on.
Look at the people who you aspire to be, not only professionally, but also personally. It’s as much about who that person is and what they stand for as it is about what they do professionally.
So, take them out for coffee, be open and available, and then go from there.
If you’re a young professional, I hope that it inspires you to seek out a mentor in your life. And, if you’ve already enjoyed years of success, business trials, and experience, then I hope my story encourages you to reach out to the next generation with an offer of guidance and support.