The Power of a Good Mentor

If you know me well, you know I love to run.  I cherish every chance I get to change into shorts and t-shirt, don my running shoes, slap on a headband, start the stopwatch on my iphone and go!  Four miles, five miles, six miles – the longer the better.  Usually the distance is only limited by how much time I can carve out of my schedule.  Before I leave town, I am searching Google maps for trails or walkways near where I will stay for the best course.

And competing raises my engagement even more!  I stick with short runs – 5Ks – to avoid long-term strain on my joints.  But no worries – there are plenty to sign up for in Montgomery County!  Some are neighborhood gigs, others are major fundraisers, and still others are big races that attract the regional champs.

I love to compete.  I’ve placed in my age category in the neighborhood gigs.  I’ve come in the top third or fifth of finishers in the larger ones.

But I will never be competitive at the regional level.  It’s not because of my age – they do have age categories to compete in.  It’s not because of my health – I’m in excellent shape.  And it’s not because I don’t train: I have a rigorous training schedule leading up to a race, running 15-20 miles/week.  I do short runs and long runs.  I carefully time myself and am sure to cut my running time down as the race approaches.

No, the real reason I will never be regionally competitive is because I design my own training program.  I came up with it; it’s my plan.  And as long as it is my plan that I devised, then it will suit my needs, my schedule, and my comfort level.  It will make sense to me.  But it won’t make me competitive.  I know full well that to be truly competitive, I would need to get a trainer, ask them what to do, follow their plan, abide by their rigor, meet their incremental goals for me as the race approaches, run as fast as they think I can run, do the exercises, conditioning, and drills they prescribes, etc.  And guess what?  I don’t want to do that.  I don’t want to let someone else run my training program because I know they may ask me to do things I don’t want to do, push me further than I feel I can handle, stretch me beyond my own proven ability.  And I’d rather not.  At least not with running.  And I’m OK with being a good, not great, runner as long as it keeps me in my comfort zone.

But as for being a human being, ‘good’ doesn’t cut it for me.  I would like to be a great human being.  And to do so, I cannot rely on my own training program.  It won’t get me there.  I need a mentor.  Several.  I have a mentor, a coach, an advisor, a prayer partner, support groups, consultants, etc.  I need them.  Because going it alone I won’t stand a chance.  My mentor does not ask if I’m a pretty good guy.  Because that’s not the goal.  He sees who I can become and is offering strategies, exercises, daily disciplines, to allow that to happen.  It’s not easy.  It doesn’t always make sense.  It’s not how I would do things.  But it is working (still a work in progress!) because – precisely because – it’s not my training program.  I am well into the 2nd half of my life and still learning – how to be patient, how to accept what I cannot change, how to forgive, how to let go, what is right, what is wrong, who to trust, what to believe, etc.

You get what you train for.  Or to put this maxim in context, you get who you train with!  I’m convinced that, even with all my flaws, I am 2-3 times the person I would have been because of those who have spoken into my life.  I am a team!  And I am honored to be on the ‘team’ of others who are seeking the same thing.

One famous rabbi would just walk up to people and say, “follow me.”  We don’t know if anyone ever turned him down – if they did, those stories weren’t recorded – but those that did follow him not only led a different life but had their lives transformed, becoming men and women of stature and character their friends and family barely recognized from the past!

I’m a good runner and that’s enough for me.  But being an OK human being is not.  This world needs a whole lot more than reasonably nice people.  It did when I was a young man and it certainly does now!

Who’s training you?

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