As I was scrolling down through TV stations during my morning attempt at exercise I stopped when I saw David Letterman being interviewed. I always enjoyed his show but rarely stayed up late enough to watch it on any kind of regular basis. The retired Letterman was told that Colbert, Kimmel and Fallen all consider him a mentor and they asked him to comment on that. While flattered he kind of admitted that he was just busy putting his show out and did not anticipate that he would one day be considered a mentor. And then he gave credit to Steve Allen for being a mentor to him. It was an entertaining segment, at least for me it was. I’m a fan.
How I drag this topic back to the fastener industry is puzzling even to me, but I have a linear connection from stuff that goes on daily back to the fastener industry. Well, maybe not directly to the fastener industry but back to work, daily life, etc.
As they talked about mentors I recalled that the NFDA launched a mentorship program a few years ago. For all I know the program might be thriving and churning out a host of well mentored fastener industry professionals. I suppose if there is one person enjoying that kind of relationship then it was a worthwhile program. But just like Letterman being a mentor, sometimes the person acting as a mentor or being a teacher, an example or whatever – sometimes they do not even know they are, in essence, being a mentor. I’m a “son of” from the industry. It is not like my dad would sit me down and say “OK, in the fastener industry you have to do this, that and the other”. I just kind of watched, repeated some of the stuff that worked (and was still comfortable for me) and through time he was, of course, a mentor. Lucky for me, I have had several other people I consider mentors and I value each of them. Lots of sons and daughters have this same experience. I’m lucky, I got along with my dad. Some people have mentorship experiences where they NEVER want to do it like their parent did it. I have a nephew who teaches who was raised by my brother, another teacher. When a cousin said to him “hey, a teacher, just like your old man” my nephew quickly and emphatically answers “NO!, nothing like him. I had him in class and I go to work every day trying to do the exact opposite of what he did”. It’s kind of hysterical because the two of them actually get along but my nephew does not budge on their approach to their line of work. So, was my brother a mentor?? I don’t know, but probably.
Mentors don’t always show up when your young or starting out in your job though that is often the case. I still am meeting people in our industry who are dealing with situations I have not yet encountered and they are, in fact, mentors. This is not my personal example but an example that apply might apply to other industry old timers. There are many owners of distributors who have run a great business for years who are now looking to sell because there is no family member there to take over the business. In that situation, a 65 year old business owner might need a mentor to help them sort out the questions of how to go about selling their business. OK, they need a mentor and accountant and a lawyer. But I’m sure it is helpful to have someone to bounce ideas off of it they’ve been through the process already.
So, I’d be curious to hear feedback from anyone in the NFDA on how the mentorship program has worked out. I hope it has and is going well. But I’m not sure you can just sign up a mentor and say “OK, you’re going to mentor this person”. Like with Letterman, sometimes people just watching you do your job is the best form of education one can offer. Maybe someone is watching you, maybe not. It would be like a “best friends” program. “Hey, sign up and Joe will be your best friend for the next year”. Best friends, or even good friends just happen. You don’t plan them, and sometimes you simply end up being best friends just because you grew up together, or experienced college together or got in trouble as little kids together. Some mentors become mentors because someone watch what they do and how they do it over a long period of time.
This blog site is not really very good at getting people to respond or engage in conversations. That being said, I would welcome people to respond with examples of people you consider mentors. Feel free to share a story. Or even just respond with the name of someone you consider a mentor. Or don’t do it. Whatever suits you on this lovely Sunday morning.