Why I Am No Longer Desperate For A Mentor

Our society no longer actively uses apprenticeship as the main means of learning one’s trade or skill. It is not often that we have someone come directly alongside us and commit to teaching us everything they know about a specific area of expertise. For the longest time I had a deep discouragement about this. I desperately longed for a Christian businesswoman who would spend time pouring into me from the depths of her wisdom about what it means to be a Christian woman in the business world, and the ABCs of business.

My frustration at not being able to find a woman like this began to dampen when I started to discover the power of observation. About 15 years ago I started making mental notes of what I observed as examples of good leadership and of bad leadership. Then, while working on my MBA, I started recording specific decisions and actions that I witnessed, from various leaders and managers around me, specifically those I observed from women in leadership positions. My arsenal was being constructed of good tools and ineffective tools, of positive methods and negative methods.

While reading the book of Matthew, as part of the #LentChallenge, I was reminded that Jesus used modeling and demonstration as a means of teaching the disciples. He didn’t hold their hands and “apprentice” them, but He invited them to observe His actions and choose for themselves if they wanted to follow His way of doing things. He also invited the disciples to observe and witness the examples being shown by the Pharisees, and again evaluate for themselves what the better way was.

As I read through these scriptures it reminded me of how wonderful a gift observation is to us, and how much we can learn from it. It also reminded me of the constructs of self-directed learning and autonomous learning that I studied throughout my PhD program. Essentially, both constructs indicate that we are capable of learning more when we purposefully and intentionally show desire, initiative, resourcefulness, and persistence in engaging in a learning activity.

This led me to think about other learning activities that have helped me to be a better businesswoman, a better Christian businesswoman.

For me, the main method outside of observation that I have learned from is reading. I love to read, primarily articles, books, and blogs. I’ve discovered that there is great content out there, and some not so great content, but I can learn something from both kinds. I also learn a lot from podcasts and sermons, which I often consume while on the treadmill. Social media expert, Claire Diaz Ortiz, recently posted this article on ways that she learns. I love her plan for getting the most out of a conference. A couple of years ago, author and speaker, Michael Hyatt wrote this blog about how you can go further, faster. In it he said that the secret to doing so is to “Enlist the help of the best coaches and instructors you can afford.” He gives a really helpful list of the people he’s hired over the years to help him with everything from his golf game to his business and life planning.

The point is, I’ve learned that there are so many more wonderful ways to learn than through direct instruction from someone. I no longer feel the need to have one woman teach me everything she knows because I know I can learn more through these many other sources and methods.

In what areas of your life do you want to learn and grow? What method might best help you?

How I Let Ugliness Into My Life

In December 2012, the owners of the company I was working for chose to replace the Chairman of the Board, the CEO, and the CFO. At the time I worked directly for the CEO as his Chief of Staff and right-hand woman. Because of that, when the CEO was let go, my position was eliminated. I was given the option of remaining with the company, but in a different role and capacity. Ultimately, I chose to leave. I felt it was a divinely orchestrated event and that it was time for me to move on.

I left the company with some resentment, particularly because of how I was treated by the owners. Truthfully, my feelings were hurt. I had devoted significant time, energy, and effort to help their company succeed and their response to my blood, sweat, and tears was nothing more than what they owed me; no handshake or pat on the back, not even a thank you.

The experience was a difficult one, but what was even more difficult was dealing with my own response to the situation and the ugliness that crept into my life.

As the days and months moved forward I found myself being in a place where I was wishing for their failure, not so much the failure of the people in the company, but the company as a whole. I wanted their failure because to me that would signify that they weren’t able to make it without me, that my contribution to the company was literally what made it successful. Now, I know that’s pretty grandiose thinking, especially considering that I was just one of 3,500 employees. But, I wanted to believe that my significance to the company was that great; that I was needed that much.

As I started to recognize and process this ugliness, I realized that it stemmed from my sense of belonging being founded on shaky ground, and it was creating insecurity in me. It donned on me that I had been looking to this company and its owners to meet my need for belonging; that a part of my identity had become rooted in who I was as a result of who I worked for and how much I was relied upon to keep the ship afloat.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that receiving satisfaction from a job well done is wrong, I’m simply saying that we shouldn’t place an expectation on other people to meet our basic needs, like belonging. John Maxwell says that it is God’s responsibility to provide for those needs, not another person’s responsibility.

In my reading today for the #LentChallenge, I saw what insecurity looks like when it’s out of control. Herod, King of Judea, was so threatened by the birth of Christ, the King of the Jews, that he had every male child under the age of two, in Bethlehem and its surrounding areas, put to death. Herod’s insecurity caused him to use his power to serve himself and to only be concerned with his image and his livelihood.

Though I’m sure I’ll continue to battle with insecurity from time to time, my experience taught me that true peace is found in relying on God and finding my worth through who I am, not what I do.

When have you faced insecurity?

The True Meaning Of Lent

The majority of my formative years were spent in a charismatic conservative Christian church. Palm Sunday and Good Friday were pretty big deals and definitely had attention given to them, but the majority of the attention was given to Easter. Overall it made sense, given that in evangelical circles the emphasis is on the celebration and the rejoicing, and the triumph of Christ rising from the dead, and the beautiful symbolism of His followers not having to face eternal death but being able to have eternal life. I am truly grateful for the truths laid in my heart because of my upbringing, but it was not until I was 34 years old that I actually encountered Lent and its true meaning.

I had heard of Lent and knew that it had some connection with Mardi Gras, and some connection to why people didn’t eat meat or gave up smoking, but there really wasn’t much that I knew beyond that. I know, call me sheltered and unaware, but I just didn’t know anyone for whom it was a part of his or her life.

Then, while I was in Oxford, England attending and speaking at a conference I had the opportunity to attend the Ash Wednesday service at Exeter College in their breathtaking Victorian Gothic chapel. As I sat in that room filled with its magnificent carved woodwork and stained glass, I listened to a message that brought me to an understanding of Lent beyond, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”

I came face to face with a season intended for preparation.

The traditional focus of Lent, the forty days from Ash Wednesday to Maundy Thursday, is as a commemoration of the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting in the desert. And though that focus, of doing what Jesus did, is admirable, it seems as though why He did what He did has been lost in the tradition and ritual of it all.

As I sat listening to the readings from the books of Isaiah and Matthew, I was reminded that the purpose of Christ’s 40 days of prayer and fasting in the desert was to prepare Him for the days that were ahead of Him as He entered His time of ministry. John Maxwell refers to Jesus’ time in the desert as a “screening process,” a time to see if He had what it was going to take.

Since that awakening on Ash Wednesday four years ago, I have purposefully chosen to participate in the Lent season, but with a different focus than that of the traditional focus. For me it start on Ash Wednesday with a time of prayer and confession and posturing myself in a way that acknowledges my humanity and my need for forgiveness, and then moves into 40 days of specific focus on preparation, preparation for the next season that God is moving me into. John Maxwell says that it is during this season that “our motives get purified, our backbone solidifies, and our calling gets clarified.” Each year I have found myself truly prepared by God for what was around the next bend.

This Lent I have joined in with a group of people who are all seeking to be prepared by God through the 40-day season in a special way. Led by author, teacher, and speaker, Margaret Feinberg, we will be reading through the New Testament of the Bible, from Matthew through Revelation, as our #LentChallenge. I am ready and expectant for God to use this season to prepare me for whatever lies ahead, and am truly grateful that God showed me the true meaning of Lent.

Would you like to join us?