Mentoring has traditionally involved people who interact with each other in person. Technology has expanded mentoring to include partners who communicate exclusively by email and telephone. But in both cases, the mentor and the partner establish and acknowledge their relationship.
However, there is another type of mentoring relationship where the partner is unlikely to meet the mentor and the mentor has no knowledge of the partner. Rey Carr, the CEO of Peer Resources, calls this relationship “core mentoring.” According to Carr, “Core mentoring occurs when you learn specific life lessons from the actions of a public or even historical figure.” A core mentor is more than a source of inspiration, a role model, or an admired hero. Carr believes that although we may observe or read about thousands of people worthy of our admiration, only a few prompt us to reflect on what we learn from them and integrate that learning into our everyday life.
A recent example of a core mentor for Carr is Annika Sorenstam, considered the most successful woman golfer of all time. Even with all her tour titles, tournament wins, and record career money winnings, Sorenstam sought additional ways to challenge herself. She accepted an invitation to play against the men in the PGA Tour at the Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas. She wanted to take her game to the next level. She wanted to test herself against the best golfers in the world.
“Dream big is one of the things I learned from Annika,” says Carr, “and then create goals to help you achieve your dreams.” Carr believes that all successful people, like Sorenstam, have dreams and put those dreams into practice through goal-setting.
Because Sorenstam was the first woman to compete against men since Babe Zaharias put the same dream into practice 58 years ago, her participation in the Colonial tournament garnered worldwide media attention. TV networks, journalists, and thousands of fans lined the course to watch her tee up. The pressure on her to perform was enormous. Every shot and putt was being viewed by millions of people.
Sorenstam’s ability to stay focused and maintain her concentration was clearly a life lesson. “Sometimes when I’m working on a project, my focus is more like melting ice cream,” Carr said, “but Sorenstam taught me that my focus needs to be more like a laser beam. Work on what is most important and what will result in the greatest payoff.”
She was prepared. Her training and practice included thousands of hours of physical and mental toughness exercises. But after 72 holes and the second round of play, she had reached the top of her “Mt. Everest.” She said, “I climbed as high as I could. It was worth every step. I’ll never forget this day in my life.”
Although Sorenstam did not make the final round of this PGA tournament, she had stretched herself beyond her normal comfort zone. She went on to win the Kellogg-Keebler Classic the following week with a 17 under par score. “Going beyond my comfort zone is not something I look forward to,” Carr admits, “but Sorenstam’s example brings home the need get out of my zone to really make life progress. One way I’ve found to do this is to surround myself with a safety net of people who challenge me and will also provide support and encouragement regardless of how well I do.”
Virtually every daily newspaper provides a story about a person who qualifies as a core mentor. Libraries, bookstores, and other media sources abound with works about core mentors. The key to recognizing a core mentor, according to Carr, is to tune into your emotional reaction when you read about or observe another person. “A sense of ‘resonance’ will occur indicating that something is touching your core. By asking yourself, ‘What am I learning from this?’ you will be able to generate a number of life lessons.”
The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.
~ Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) ~