At one time or another, we have all been inspired to learn something new, or go beyond what is comfortable and add a new experience to our lives. Often this inspiration comes from others and their experiences. When that happens, having a mentor to guide you can be the difference between a positive experience that adds to your life, or a negative or indifferent experience that can lead us to a bad or frustrating experience, or even lead us to drop the idea altogether. Recently, I had a chance to see that process from the side of the mentor. It added to my own experience in a positive way.
I’m an early riser. However, I’m seldom the first to get to the office. I have a co-worker who is usually there when I arrive, and I’ve gotten into the habit of talking to him in the mornings. Ken was inspired by my stories of cycling. He had a bike of his own, but his riding was not like mine. My stories started to resonate with him. He was inspired to get a road bike and see what all those experiences I talk about felt like. When you see that inspiration, you have to support it. Fanning that spark into a flame is the start of a process that can be a positive not only for others, but yourself.
Part of mentoring includes goals. It’s one thing to talk about something, but achievement requires real goals. I knew of a ride not far from Ken’s home that would be the perfect launching pad for a road cyclist. The Covered Bridges Classic. I said if he wanted to ride it, I’d ride with him. He signed up, so I did too.
A mentor should be a fountain of information. That keeps the spark of inspiration alive, and it keeps the learner from wandering down blind alleys or focusing on the wrong things. I’ve been riding events for close to 15 years. We talked a lot about equipment – what to take with you, what you didn’t need, What to wear, training tips. All the questions have to be answered. The benefit of experience brings the goal closer.
The final part of seeing inspiration turn into something real is a willingness to be a direct example. While we were riding different distances, we rode together for the first 12 miles.
After getting a good start, Ken finished on his own. Despite difficult conditions, he finished strong. He isn’t a beginner any more, he’s a real roadie. He has a lot of cycling events in his future – maybe even a century. I felt like I was part of that – I got him started, and he finished. Now he knows what these cycling events are about. Being a mentor is really about spreading your passion and enthusiasm. It’s about sharing a little of yourself. I love the value of positivity. This was a positive experience. If you’re reading this, and you get the chance to invest in your passions and inspire others, I hope you’ll take it – you won’t be disappointed.