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JEFFREY TOBIN: Mentors show the way

by on May 11, 2014 1:49 AM

Which of these two statements fits you the best?

1. “Yeah, I’ve been around for a while. I know what’s going on in my work and my life. I feel pretty confident about myself and my abilities.”

2. “I’m still kinda new at all of this. I have lots to learn and hope I can find my way.”

If you fall in the first category, you didn’t get there by yourself. You gained your own experience, and other, more experienced people helped you along your path.

For those of you who fall into the second category, have hope. Soon you will have accumulated enough experience and knowledge that you, too, will feel much more confident and valued.

None of us gains experience on our own. I look back over my life and can easily name the moments that profoundly changed me. They are the milestones, benchmarks and major changes, of course. More importantly, they are people — people who had been there before me and who were both wise and kind enough to share their experiences with me. They are my inukshuks, a small, hastily made statue of a man.

Photographer Rolf Hicker defines inukshuks this way: “The inukshuk, which means ‘likeness of person’ was first used by the Inuit people to mark trails, indicate caches of food, locate nearby settlements as well as good places to hunt or fish.

“Most of the Canadian arctic is dominated yearround by permafrost and only has a few natural landmarks which could be used for orientation. That’s why inukshuks are used as directional markers.”

I found inukshuks during a recent trip to Banff National Park near Calgary in Canada’s Alberta province. At Moraine Lake, someone had taken time to erect a number of these unique stone statues. I discovered that they were used as aids for others, as markers and as helpful tools for directions.

Someone had been there before, and had made a point to be helpful to those who followed behind.

A substantive part of my purpose on this planet is to be a mentor, an inukshuk for others. If you fall into category No. 1 above, you should, too. If you agreed with statement No. 2, find a mentor who has been there before — someone who will leave markers along your trail.

Do you want to make it on your own? Good luck. It’s much wiser to look actively for your own inukshuks. And when you’ve made enough progress, be one for the many other travelers behind you.

Jeffrey Tobin, an international speaker and business coach. He is also the owner of Henry Hall Office Products in Indiana and hosts the website His professional advocacy columns appear Sundays in the Business section of The Indiana Gazette and the Community News page on The Indiana Gazette Online.
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