What to Ask For From a Mentor

Sometimes I wonder what God’s voice would sound like. Fortunately Hollywood has given us countless versions to sample over the years, from the sublime to the silly and everything in between.


One of my favorite “God” embodiments was Morgan Freeman in the 2007 comedy Evan Almighty. (Let’s face it, he could read the dictionary aloud and make it sound good.)


In one scene, God appears as a table server to Evan’s wife Joan (Lauren Graham), although she doesn’t know he’s God. As they chat, she finds herself confiding in him, sharing how her husband Evan (Steve Carrell) is building a giant ark in their yard because, he claims, God told him to do it.


“What am I supposed to do with that?” she asks helplessly.


His answer sticks with me even today, 15 years later:

“Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience?

Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient?

If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous?

If someone prayed for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings,

or does he give them opportunities to love each other?”


Regardless of your beliefs about God, the underlying message is inarguable:


Personal growth doesn’t come from wishing for it or instant fixes. It comes from opportunities to work on improving the areas in which we want to grow.


Lots of people can give us advice, models, or some answers, but we have to put all that into practice, again and again, if we truly want to see, hear, and feel results.


(Whenever a client says they wish they could bypass the practice part, I just smile, hold up my pen, and reply, “Sorry, it’s a pen, not a wand.”)


Sometimes the hardest part is actually finding the opportunity to practice, much less shine.


This is one of the many areas for which this week’s guest on Speaking to Influence, Dr. Brenda Allen, 14th President of Lincoln University, professes being driven by an attitude of gratitude.


President Allen acknowledges the role mentors played in her success along each stage of the career path that started as an undergraduate student at the very university she now leads. In particular, she shares the value of mentors who


  • Taught her how to take a seat at the table,
  • Encouraged her to ask questions,
  • Challenged her to be part of every conversation
  • And not only gave her some initial opportunities to do all this and more, but
  • Taught her how to make her own opportunities on the journey.



Paying it forward, President Allen now looks for people with key skills among her own students and university community to join her team and then helps give them opportunities to be noticed and to shine along their journey.


Listen to the full conversation here or watch it on Youtube here.


But before you do, take a moment to look inside and ask yourself where you are simply wishing you were (or life was) different, better, received more or had less of something, such as

  • Patience
  • Authority
  • Love
  • Depth of relationships
  • Courage
  • Reputation as a thought leader
  • Charisma, or
  • A friendly work environment

… just as a few examples.


Then ask yourself what you need to put into practice, ask for, or give to others, in order to ultimately create it for yourself.