Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Case of the Mysterious Mentor

Have you ever thought about your impact on other people? How you influence their lives and their success? How you may not even be aware of doing something very simple that will help another person set their goals? How you may be a mentor and not even know it? Perhaps you'll better understand if I tell you a story that I call 'The Case of the Mysterious Mentor.'

In the year 1996 our son, Vince, was studying finance at Michigan State University. He would often bring friends home for a weekend in Charlevoix ... invariably they were named Mike or Tim. One weekend his guest was Mike Wardian, a tall, lanky, polite young man from Virginia who played Lacrosse for MSU.

Vince and Mike were having breakfast on Saturday morning as I was getting ready to go out for a training run with my friends. Mike remarked that “That looks like fun. Can you give me some information?” Even though he played Lacrosse, he had never done any serious running.

Did my doubt show? Did I roll my eyes? Did Mike know that deep inside I was thinking, “What a waste of time...this kid will never run!” Hopefully not! Despite my doubts, I made copies of training schedules and articles about running for Mike and answered all of his questions.

Off I went to Boston and what would be the last marathon of my running career. Off Mike went to begin his running career...he laced up his shoes and never looked back.

Mike was determined. He spent countless hours training and he never said ‘I can’t.’ He ran faster and faster and further and further. Before I knew it, he was running across the Sahara Desert! He qualified for his own Boston Marathon experience and started running ultra marathons. Then, bursting with pride, I found myself in Birmingham AL in 2004 (just eight years after I made those copies!) to cheer for Mike as he participated in the Men’s Olympic Trials.

You may have heard about Mike. In November 2007 he led the Men’s Olympic Trials in New York City for an incredible six miles! He pushed his son, Pierce, in a stroller for the entire Frederick (Maryland) Marathon, finishing in 2 hours 42 minutes and earning a place in the Guinness World Book of Records. More recently he’s won the 2008 50k and 100 K (roughly 32 and 62 miles!) National Championships and he’s now sponsored by PowerBar, and others. Mike is, quite literally, a running machine.

Would Mike have done all that if he had not been in Charlevoix that fateful day in 1996? Who knows? Perhaps...but perhaps not. Fate may have taken him in some other direction. You just have to believe, though, that everything happens for a reason.

Now, please remember that I’m the first to admit Mike’s success is all his own doing. He’s put in the hours on the road and made the sacrifices athletes make to be successful. He’s earned every medal and trophy he’s received. Even in his glory, though, he never ceases to thank me for planting the seed...for inspiring him...for being a mentor. The odd thing is that I did this unwittingly. I simply set an example. And I have continued to cheer for him and congratulate him as the years have passed ... because the sign of a true and good mentor is that you feel nothing but joy for the person you have inspired.

Your challenge: Remember that you never know when you'll influence and inspire someone to reach for the stars. You never know when you'll be the person others look up to and want to pattern their lives after. You never know who’s watching, learning and taking their inspiration from you. What do your actions say? How do you treat others? You may talk the talk, but you must also walk the walk. Choose your words carefully. Be lavish with your praise. Be cautious with your criticism. Be someone others know, like and trust. Share yourself, your knowledge and your talents. AND if someone has been your Mysterious Mentor, let them know that they've had a positive influence on your life.

© 2008 Vicki Voisin, Inc.

Do you want to use this article in your newsletter, e-zine or website? You can, so long as you include this entire blurb with it: Vicki Voisin, also known as The Paralegal Mentor, publishes the bi-weekly ezine ‘Strategies for Paralegals Seeking Excellence’ where she offers tips for paralegals and others who want to create lasting success in their personal and professional lives. Get tips and information at no cost at

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