10,000 Mentoring Relationships Detailed in the Mentoring Hall of Fame

HallofFame3We reached a milestone in our collection of famous mentoring relationships in our curated collection known as The Mentoring Hall of Fame.

The list of mentor pairs was compiled by Rey Carr from a variety of sources including autobiographies, biographies, newspaper articles, personal interviews, and diligent historical research. Mentor pairs portrayed in fiction or movies are also included.

Pairings are divided into ten general categories. In most cases, mentors and their partners could be included in the same category. However, where a mentor and partner are from different career or life areas, the pairing has been placed in the partner’s category. (A few historical facts or humorous references to the term mentor are included at various places in the listings.)

The Categories include:

  • Actors, Comedians, Producers, and Directors (Stage, Screen, and TV
  • Mentoring relationships depicted in motion pictures and television
  • Musicians, Songwriters, and Singers
  • Classical and Broadway Musicians, Composers, Conductors, Ballet, and Modern Dancers
  • Fashion, Media, and Celebrities
  • Artists, Writers, Photographers, Publishers, Novelists, Poets
  • Mentoring relationships depicted in print (novels stories, fiction)
  • Sports Figures, Athletes, and Coaches
  • Historical, Political, Spiritual and Civic Leaders
  • Business, Industry, Education, Science, and Medical Leaders

Some of the latest additions:

American film icon and director Clint Eastwood was a mentor to American director, screenwriter, and producer Michael Cimino (1939-2016); and is a mentor to Canadian film director Stephen Campanelli.

Minnesota Twins outfielder and baseball Hall of Fame member Kirby Puckett (1960-2006) is a mentor to Arkansas-born former professional baseball fielder Torii Hunter. He was remembered by one of the many people he mentored as a person who “Let us know we can pursue anything that we want to as long as we work hard.”

American short-story writer and poet Raymond Carver (1938-1988) considered his mentor to be American novelist, university professor and literary critic John Gardner  (1933-1982).

In Meg Wolitizer’s 2018 novel, The Female Persuasion, feminist Faith Frank is a mentor to college student Greer Kadetsky.

Kentucky-born American actor, director, activist and philanthropist George Clooney is a mentor to Boston-born American actor, director, producer and screenwriter John Krasinski.

Terrace, British Columbia-born Canadian choreographer, and dancer Crystal Pite is a mentor to award-winning Puerto Rico-born American dancer and choreographer Bryan Arias.

Former Vietnamese Prime Minister and economist Phan Van Khai (1933-2018), who was the country’s first post-American War in Vietnam leader, was mentored by Vietnamese politician, former Prime Minister of Vietnam and revolutionary veteran soldier in the war against the French colonists and American forces, Vo Van Kiet (1922-2008).

Texas-born American jazz guitarist Herb Ellis (1921-2010) was a mentor to jazz guitarist Emily Remler (1957-1990).

British educator and social entrepreneur Sir Cyril Taylor (1935-2018) was described as a “true mentor” to many who worked with him. Sir Cyril considered Jimmy Coronna, the travel director of the American Institute for Foreign Study, as his mentor.

Mentors in Memorium: Jay Cross (1944-2015)

Jay_CrossJay Cross was the author of the book Informal Learning: Rediscovering the Natural Pathways that Inspire Innovation and Performance (Amazon), described as the turning point for the learning industry. He was often referred to as the Johnny Appleseed of informal learning, and he is credited with creating the term “e-learning.” He challenged the conventional wisdom about how adults learn, and he inspired and had a lasting impact on many learning practitioners.

One of those he influenced said, “I remember being struck by his interest in what I was doing. He had a natural curiosity and wanted to explore why I was doing what I was doing, and the learning value that came out of it for me.”

Another said, “Jay’s contribution to the field of organisational learning was huge. He made us think hard about the edges of our profession. When many were fretting about perfecting the irrelevant with better classroom courses, Jay was pulling us into the emerging world of eLearning. When most were still focused on integrating eLearning into courses and curricula, Jay was shouting that the real power wasn’t in structured learning at all but in workplace and in informal and social learning approaches.”

“He was a mentor and colleague. Whenever I was struggling with an idea or needed some creative diversion, Jay was the person I called.”

Ravi Pratap Singh, the Co-Founder of Learnnovators has compiled a list of Jay Cross quotes that he extracted from an interview with Jay a couple of month’s before his death in November 2015. The quotes are available here.

Much of Jay’s work is still available on the Internet, including his great blog, Working Smarter Daily.

“Bringing people together face-to-face is a catalyst for innovation, collegiality, and rewarding conversations. Collaboration has its intrinsic rewards. It is sinful to waste this time together aimlessly or passively listening to presentations.”

Dream Keepers Needed

s2020137.jpgProtecting our dreams has become one of the most difficult tasks in our contemporary world. Almost every dream I’ve had has been accompanied by external assaults and self-sabotage. Many of my dreams have simply become compromises. Keeping focused on what matters most, as coach Bruce Elkin has called our dream quest, requires a moral and ethical courage of significant proportion.

Media remind us continuously about the horrors, terrors, and crimes which touch on almost everyone’s day to day life. “Our senses are bombarded with aggression,” warns Margaret Wheatley, acclaimed speaker and author of “Finding Our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time.” Violence, moral challenges, political shenanigans, and the unprecedented examples of leaders engaging in deceit, lying and cheating appear to be eradicating the positive stories and role models we have for engaging in the activities necessary to achieve our dreams.

Accountability Can Block Dream Fulfillment
Are we also noticing a significant increase in aggressive demands for retribution, punishment, or vengeance when another person or official makes a mistake and strays from his or her own dream path? Has the use of derogatory, demeaning, and disrespectful terms increased when describing someone who does not share our values and dreams? Has righteousness replaced forgiveness and compassion? Are those who have let their dream falter to be despised? Are their mistakes, errors in judgment, and immoral acts so large that retribution rather than justice is the only alternative? Has Western society exaggerated the meaning of accountability so that someone always has to pay? Has assigning blame outstripped identifying and fixing problems as a full-time pursuit?

Recent business news provides two strikingly different examples of blame and accountability. Millions of dollars have been spent identifying, prosecuting, and convicting executives associated with the Enron disaster in the United States. Thousands of employees lost their jobs and pensions; thousands of investors were bilked out of their savings. One of the executives associated with this mess received a 24-year prison sentence; another died from the stress, and still others received assorted prison sentences and punishments. “Heads must roll,” was the catch phrase of former employees, government officials, and the general public.

Contrast this with the actions taken by the Sony Corporation when it was discovered their laptop batteries, which are used by almost every major computer maker, had the potential to overheat and catch fire. Sony recalled the batteries and initiated a global replacement system. Such a defect clearly tarnished the Sony brand reputation, and the recall program alone cost Sony more than $430-million (U.S.). When Sony announced they had discovered the technical reasons for the defect, they issued an apology to the public and did not fire a single employee. “Take responsibility;  identify and fix the problem,” was the catch phrase that went through Sony.

Character Lapses Can Obscure the Dream Path
While assigning blame appears to have become an obsession in western culture, it has also been accompanied an unprecedented number of challenges to moral character. Television, newspapers, magazines, and the Internet are crammed with stories about people who were pillars of the community one day, and felons, predators, killers, or untrustworthy the next. In most cases these reports are about normal, everyday people who started off with a dream, but wound-up getting severely side-tracked.

Unfortunately, such detours are not just a case of increased reporting. Instead, there is evidence that many people are engaged in detours from their dreams. A recent study of 36,000 U.S. teens by the Josephson Institute of Ethics sadly revealed that 82% of the teens polled admitted they lied to a parent in the last 12 months about something significant; 57% said they lied two or more times; 62% admitted they lied to a teacher in the last 12 months about something significant; 60% cheated on a test at school within the last 12 months, including 27% who said they lied of the survey itself; and 28% stole something from a store in the past 12 months.

The Josephson study also found that 59% of the students agreed that “in the real world, successful people do what they have to do to win, even if others consider it cheating;” and 42% believed that “A person has to lie or cheat sometimes in order to succeed.”

Michael Josephson, the founder of the Josephson Institute, describes this disturbing set of statistics about American youth as a “hole in the moral ozone.” The results of the Institute’s study are consistent with other surveys conducted previously by the Institute. “It is clear,” Mr. Josephson concludes, “that dishonest habits and values have become deeply entrenched in the next generation of corporate executives, cops, politicians, journalists, generals, and parents.”

Dreams Are Always Present and Can Be Reborn
But there is hope. There is an opportunity to turn this situation around. The Josephson study also found that:

• 98% of all students polled said, “It’s important for me to be a person with good character.”
• 98% reported that “honesty and trust are essential in personal relationships.”
• 97% of the 36,000 young people polled said: “It’s important to me that people trust me.”
• 83% said: “It’s not worth it to lie or cheat because it hurts your character.”
• 94% said: “In business and the workplace, trust and honesty are essential.”
• 90% said: “Most adults in my life consistently set a good example of ethics and character.”

This discrepancy between the real world behavior (actions and cynical attitudes) of the young people polled in this survey, and their desire or “dream” about what is truly important in life, is one of the key reasons why coaches, mentors, and peer assistants are essential in today’s society. It is just too easy today for young people to become sidetracked from pursuing their dreams. There are no short cuts for the hard work and character building activities necessary for a dream to become a reality.

Coaches, mentors, and peer assistants are in the best position to help people to articulate their dreams, to recognize the detours that interfere with dream progress, and to learn from their detours. Young people particularly need opportunities to learn how to make better choices to stay true to their path. Our willingness to listen, to express curiosity, and to encourage the expression of passion enables us to join with others to reconnect with their true path.

No one is completely immune from lapses in moral fibre or character. We all have events or actions in our lives that carry forward regret, shame, or guilt. But having a peer coach or mentor in our lives enables us to accept and use a lapse as a way to illuminate more clearly where we desire to be and how we can move toward that destination.

Coaches, mentors, and peer assistants are more often than not role models as well as skilled practitioners. This doesn’t mean they haven’t experienced their share of troubles, difficulties, and detours. What it does mean is that coaches, mentors, and peer assistants are more likely to have turned such life experiences into growth opportunities. Their ability to share their lives and connect in a supportive, non-judgmental, appreciative manner with their clients, partners, networks and communities contributes greatly to helping others reduce the gap between their current reality and the dreams they hope to achieve.

Everyone deserves to have their dreams protected. Everyone deserves to have someone in their life to help them rekindle the flame that powers their dream. I’m glad to be part of that dream protection team and grateful that so many others have had that impact on me.

de Zulueta, F. (2007). From pain to violence: The traumatic roots of destructiveness. New York: Wiley.

Elkin, B. (April 11, 2006). Coaching for creating what matters MOST. Simplicity and Success: A Life Coaching Newsletter about Creating What Matters Most, 4, 5. (Retrieved June 25, 2006 from http://www.bruceelkin.com/newsletter/news_vol4_06.html )

Gray, A., Stephens, S., and Van Diest, J. (2006). Simple living for the worn out woman (Lists to live by). Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Publishers.

Josephson Institute of Ethics (October 15, 2006). The biennial report card – 2006: The ethics of American youth. Los Angeles, California: Author. (Retrieved October 15, 2006 from http://www.josephsoninstitute.org/reportcard/ )

Merrill, R.R., Covey, S.R. (2006). The SPEED of trust: The one thing that changes everything. New York: Free Press.

Renard, G. (2004). The disappearance of the universe: Straight talk about illusions, past lives, religion, sex, politics, and the miracles of forgiveness. Carlsbad, California: Hay House.

Roehlkepartain, E.C., Ebstyne King, P., Wagener, L., and Benson, P.L. (Eds.) (2006). The handbook of spiritual development in childhood and adolescence. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage.

Tolle, E. (2004). The power of now: A guide to spiritual enlightenment. Novato, California: New World Library.

Wheatley, M. (2004). Solving, not attacking complex problems. A five-state approach based on ancient practice. (Retrieved October 10, 2006 from http://www.margaretwheatley.com/articles/solvingnotattacking.html )

Wheatley, M. (2005). Finding our way: Leadership for an uncertain time. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Wolfe, D.A., Jaffe, P.G., and Crooks, C.V. (2006). Adolescent risk behaviors: Why teens experiment and strategies to keep them safe. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press.

Core Mentors Provide Mentoring from a Distance

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.

Annika Sorenstam

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) ~

Mentoring Plays a Significant Role in Contemporary Music Part I

Virtually anyone can benefit from having a mentor. And most well-known, accomplished and successful people can identify people in their lives who acted as mentors. The mentor pairings that are described in this section of the Peer Bulletin were identified from a variety of sources including autobiographies, biographies, newspaper articles, personal interviews, and diligent historical research.

An extensive list of additional well-known mentor pairings, including those from TV, motion pictures and fiction, can be found on the Peer Resources website at www.mentors.ca/mentorpairs.html. In addition to the list of mentor pairs from the world of entertainment, business, creative arts, sports, politics, history, and science available in the Peer Resources listings, a few historical facts or humorous references to the term mentor are also included.

Many well-known artists are revered for their talent and creativity, and those two characteristics are often considered as solitary or individualistic activities. However, in his recent book, Keith Sawyer, Associate Professor of Education and Psychology at Washington University of St. Louis, advances the idea that almost all creative endeavours are based on collaboration with others.

In examining the biographies of people in the music business, they often make reference to those individuals who inspired them or assisted them in some practical way to become the creative and successful artist they are today. Here are just two examples.

189_JW-PepperJohn Wilfred Pepper (1919-2009), born in Saskatchewan, left school in grade nine to support his parents during the Depression. Although he didn’t finish school, he had a life-long passion for music. He received a violin when he was a boy and fell in love with classical music. He was also an expert with his hands as he learned to do many repairs on his parent’s farm. He also started to craft violas and violins.

He moved to Victoria, British Columbia and played with the Victoria Symphony and local chamber groups. Like many other musicians, he needed to supplement his love of music with paid employment from another area. He used his Saskatchewan farm experience to establish a career in the grocery store business.

Mr. Pepper’s determination and compassion touched everyone who came into contact with him; and according to a story in the Victoria Times Colonist, one young boy who was strongly influenced by Mr. Pepper was Canadian and Grammy-award winning music producer David Foster (born in 1949), who lived next door to Mr. Pepper.

189_David-FosterMr. Foster recalls, “This was a guy that was so dedicated to practicing. I was just a kid, practicing classical piano, and he had that work ethic that just filtered down to me. I remember thinking, ‘Wow, so that’s what you’ve got to do to be good.'” While Mr. Foster acknowledges the influence of Mr. Pepper’s musical mind, what he remembers most is the “gentleness of the musician.” Mr. Pepper died peacefully in his sleep with his family at his side at age 90.

Mr. Foster has gone on to be a mentor to Celine Dion, Michael Buble, Philippine singing sensation Charice Pempengco, Josh Groban, Whitney Houston, Faith Hill, Christina Aguilera, and dozens of other highly successful artists.


Townes Van Zandt

Townes Van Zandt (1944-1997), a Texas poet, songwriter and folk hero, was a mentor to a wide variety of recording artists. Although Mr. Van Zandt struggled with bipolar disorder and died from alcohol addiction at age 52, his power as a songwriter attracted singer-songwriters from Bob Dylan to Willie Nelson as part of his legacy. He was a mentor to many other musicians including Steve Earle, who, according to online biography, said Van Zandt was ‘the best songwriter in the whole world and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that.’ Van Zandt responded, the online bio continues, saying: “I’ve met Bob Dylan’s bodyguards and if Steve Earle thinks he can stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table, he’s sadly mistaken.’


Some of the other artists who described Townes Van Zandt as a mentor (and the songs he wrote that they sang) include: Mickey Newbury (“For the Sake of the Song”), Guy Clark (“Old No. 1”), Cowboy Junkies (“Black Eyed Man”), Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard (“Pancho and Lefty”), Emmylou Harris (many different hit songs), Lyle Lovett (“Step Inside This House”), the Flatlanders (pioneered the Texas brand of country-folk created by Van Zandt), Norah Jones (“Feels Like Love”), and Neil Young (“Harvest”).

Sawyer, K. (2010). Group genius: The creative power of collaboration. New York: Basic Books.

Remembering the Wizard of Mentors: John Wooden (1910-2010)

Mentorlogo(Virtually anyone can benefit from having a mentor. And most well-known, accomplished and successful people can identify people in their lives who acted as mentors. The mentor pairings that are described at Famous Mentor Pairings were identified from a variety of sources including autobiographies, biographies, newspaper articles, personal interviews, and diligent historical research. In addition to the list of mentor pairs from the world of entertainment, business, creative arts, sports, politics, history, and science available in the Peer Resources listings, a few historical facts or humorous references to the term mentor are also included.)

A frequently discussed topic in the professional literature is “What’s the difference between a mentor, personal coach, sports coach and teacher?” While many have tackled this question, a realistic answer is much more difficult when all these roles are superbly combined in one person. And no one combined them with more skill, elegance, and success than American Basketball Hall of Fame player and coach John Wooden, who died at age 99 on June 4, 2010 in Los Angeles California.

One of the advantages of attending the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s was going to their basketball games in the Men’s Gym and watching the team set records for the most consecutive games won (88) and the number of NCAA championship seasons.

When I graduated from UCLA in 1964, the team won every game they played, including the NCAA championship (and nine more NCAA championships after that). And while the Shah of Iran was the controversial commencement speaker at my graduation ceremony, the most well-known and revered person on campus was John Wooden (1910-2010), the coach of the UCLA basketball team, known to everyone on the Westwood (Los Angeles) campus of UCLA as “The Wizard of Westwood.”

John_WoodenCoach Wooden, known simply as “Coach,” was not just a hero to students, he was loved and revered by all his players and was a mentor to virtually every player he coached during the 27 years he was at UCLA.

Jamaal Wilkes described Coach as “one in a billion as a coach, mentor and friend. As a friend, whenever you reached out to him he always reached back unconditionally.”

The reciprocity or mutuality we often mention as part of a relationship-based mentoring connection was demonstrated when Coach Wooden was asked to describe his ideal player, he told the New York Post in 1985: “I would have the player be a good student, polite, courteous, a good team player, a good defensive player and rebounder, a good inside player and outside shooter. “Why not just take Jamaal Wilkes and let it go at that.”
Kareem Abdul-Jabaar (known as Lew Alcindor when he played during my student days), the all-time leading point scorer in the National Basketball Association, said, “Many people have asked me if Coach Wooden was for real. They wanted to know if he really didn’t use foul language or really didn’t tell his teams they had to win a specific game. Coach’s value system was from another era, it was developed in an America that has passed on. The one thing that impressed me about coach was that he never stopped being curious, understanding he hadn’t learned everything that was possible to know.”

“Coach Wooden’s legacy transcends athletics, what he did was produce leaders,” UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said in a statement released by the school. “Through his work and his life, he imparted his phenomenal understanding of leadership and his unwavering sense of integrity to so many people.”

Former University of Louisville basketball coach Denny Crum, who was an assistant coach to John Wooden for 10 years at UCLA, said that Coach was “a ‘life coach’ before such a thing existed. Coach walked the talk; doing the right thing and living like basketball was incidental to his family and life.”

Another one of the players he coached, Bill Walton, who went on to an outstanding career in the National Basketball Association, recognized Coach as his most cherished mentor, saying that his own family’s home is “a shrine to John Wooden.”

“Coach Wooden never talked about winning and losing, basketball Hall of Fame player Walton, recalled in a statement released after Coach’s passing, “but rather about the effort to win. He rarely talked about basketball, but generally about life. He never talked about strategy, statistics or plays, but rather about people and character. Coach Wooden never tired of telling us that once you become a good person, then you have a chance of becoming a good basketball player.”

When Coach wanted to renew his driver’s license at age 95, one of his former players, Michael Warren, drove him to the licensing office. He recalled the event saying, “It’s like walking around with Jesus or Mother Teresa. It may sound outlandish, but in all sincerity, when you think about the things he accomplished and how humble he remained, he’s one of those figures who transcends everything – ethnicity, gender, and race.”

I was fortunate to meet Coach when I was dating a coed who was a UCLA cheerleader, and we often attended events to support the basketball team. She introduced me to Coach, and despite his fame, reputation, and commitment and engagement with his players, he wanted to know what I was studying, what sports I enjoyed, and what I was planning on doing when I graduated.

When he learned that I was a psychology major he wanted to know if I’d be interested in his Pyramid of Success. What impressed me most about this is that he didn’t say I should really know about this, but here was one of the most revered people in sports asking me if I would be interested in a copy. Of course, at the time there was no website to refer to, just actual paper documents. His offer to provide me with a copy and be interested in my future stayed with me for many years.

His Pyramid of Success is used by athletes, coaches, and business leaders around the world, and he is known not only as a great athlete (he was himself a three-time All-American basketball player at Purdue), but as a mentor who believed that learning and practicing the fundamentals of a successful life was the major contributor to being a successful athlete. Coach summed it this way, “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”

Coach Wooden is probably the most quoted athlete/coach of all time, and what he has had to say in his many inspirational speeches and talks is widely circulated on the Internet (close to 500,000 websites include his quotes) and catalogued in his many books. An inspiring sample of his ideas about success, their origins, and finding the best in each of us is illustrated in his 2001 TED talk.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but most of the short conversations we had during the time I was at UCLA were filled with things he would say that were inspiring, quotable, and personable. Despite his busy schedule he took the time to be friendly and warm, and when he talked he seemed genuinely interested in what I (as well as my cheerleader girlfriend, Barbara) had to say.

He was the first person I talked with who expressed the view that adversity was a great teacher and a way to get to know yourself. His viewpoint acted as a catalyst to help me make some key changes in how I was coping with my own lack of success in my athletic career. One of his quotes was “Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out,”

I think that he was a mentor, friend, and teacher to almost everyone he came into contact with. Coach said, “You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.” I’m sure that anyone who had a conversation with him realized that the differences between a coach, mentor, or teacher were no where near as relevant as the spectacular way Coach combined them all.

Mentor in Memorium: B.B. King (1926-2015)

BB_KingOne of the most influential blues musicians ever, B.B. King, sold millions of records worldwide and was inducted into both the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Mr. King played a guitar he affectionately called “Lucille,” and with his soulful voice, heartfelt lyrics, and scorching guitar licks became a mentor to dozens of musicians.

One of those he acted as a mentor to was British blues guitar legend Eric Clapton, who said of his mentor, “I want to thank him for all the inspiration and encouragement he gave me as a player over the years, and for the friendship that we enjoyed. There’s not a lot left to say because this music is almost a thing of the past now, and there are not many left to play in the pure way that B.B. did. He was a beacon for all of us who loved this kind of music. If you’re not familiar with his work, I would encourage you to go out and find an album called ‘B.B. King: Live at the Regal,’ which is where it started for me as a young player.”

Mr. King was raised by his grandmother after his parents separated and his mother died. At 7 he picked cotton, drove tractors, and dropped out of school in grade 10.

Shirley King, one of the 11 of his 15 surviving biological children said, “I didn’t get a chance to hug my daddy and tell him goodbye.”

Mentor in Memorium: Leslie Nielsen (1930-2010)

Leslie_NielsenBest known for starring in big screen comedies “Airplane!” and “The Naked Gun,” Leslie Nielsen was an expert at goofball humour while maintaining a deadpan delivery and bumbling style.

The characters he played typically provided movie lines that became unforgettable. In the movie, “Airplane!” he played the buffoonish hero doctor who finds himself on a plane overcome by food poisoning. A passenger says to him, “Surely, you can’t be serious.” His reply: “I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley.”

Fellow comedians quickly came under his influence as he was just as eager to make those around him laugh as he was to play funny roles on TV and in film. Canadian comic Brent Butt said of him, “He definitely loved to entertain; he loved to try and get laughs all the time, that was kind of what he was about.”

Actor Paul Gross, who worked with him on the TV-series “Due South” and the film, “Men with Brooms,” said that “Leslie’s huge heart and fierce intelligence defined oddball comedy and he was its undisputed master. His loss will be felt by all. More personally he was a mentor and friend. I will miss him terribly.”

Nielsen appeared in more than 100 films and hundreds of TV shows throughout his six-decade career.

If the name “Lt. Frank Drebin” is familiar, you were likely a fan.

Walking into Discovery: A Metaphor for Coaching, Mentoring, and Peer Assistance

rac-trial-islandThe city I live in is one of the premier tourist destinations in Canada. It’s a city known for gardens, ocean views, residential architecture, mild temperatures, and friendly people. Traffic, crime, noise, and pollution are all minimal here. And although I’ve lived here most of my adult life, it’s only been the last few months, that I’ve really gained a knowledge of where I live.

While I used to drive or cycle virtually everywhere in the city, I’ve been spending much more time walking as a way to exercise and improve my health. Daily walking has become a passion and has led me to literally “take the road less travelled.” I’m addicted to it. And I’m amazed at the benefits it has had, not just for my health, but for my perspective and spirit.

Slowing down, strolling, and meandering through my neighbourhood has revealed to me much of what I’ve been missing for many years. Not only have I been able to see beautiful gardens close-up, but I’ve been able to stop and talk with their gardeners. I’ve met more neighbours, their children, and their dogs and cats. I’ve learned more about renovations, financial troubles, family needs, and civic concerns.

I’ve also found short-cuts, trails, paths, and back alleys that I didn’t use or know about previously. I’m travelling in the same area, but I’m seeing things I hadn’t seen before. I’m experiencing the importance of neighbourhood relationships in an urban area, which seems to be essential during a time in our history when many factors act to separate us as neighbours.

Walking also facilitates communication. Almost everyone I walk by expresses some acknowledgement with a “hello,” “how’s it going?” or “lovely day” comment. Eye contact is common. And I even get a chance to learn how others see me. Some people that I say hello to when I’m walking by, return the recognition with, “Hello, sir.” I didn’t realize I had gotten that old yet to have the privilege of being called “sir.” Every now and then a conversation starts that goes beyond mere acknowledgement.

As a cyclist I knew that I was already seeing, smelling, and experiencing things that driving in a car didn’t provide. But I didn’t realize what I was missing. Walking has allowed me to slow down and actually take in much more than I knew was there. I’m seeing things that I’ve always seen, yet I’m seeing them differently.

Walking is probably a good metaphor to use to describe a way to improve our work in coaching, mentoring and peer assistance. The pace of our daily life may not leave much time for reflection, contemplation, meditation, and silence. Too often we don’t slow down enough and we miss what’s really going on. Typically when I return from a walk I feel energized and more connected within the layers of myself. If I can communicate a slow walking pace in my mentoring, coaching and peer work, I think I’m providing a safer and grounded area for deeper exploration, curiosity and adventure. A slower pace signals, “Our time together is a sacred place.”

Destination walking is a useful way to get to a specific location, and using it as a metaphor again, having a destination or goal can be an essential element of progress in coaching, mentoring, and peer assistance. I used to be an avid destination seeker. But sometimes having a goal interferes with exploring a detour and possibly discovering a treasure that is hidden in a less travelled lane.

Destination walking often is associated with taking the shortest, quickest or easiest path. While I still take destination walks, I am no longer consumed by a focus on getting to the end; instead I’m ready for detours or travel down an unfamiliar route. The number of things I’ve discovered, and the satisfaction I’ve experienced during the journey in an unfamiliar neighbourhood have enriched my life. Since a common element of coaching, mentoring, and peer assistance is the focus on the practitioner and client (or partner) working together, walking seems to be a highly suitable way to travel.

When I walk down avenues I have walked along many times before, I often see something new or something I hadn’t noticed before. And the landscape changes with the weather and the seasons, just as our “inner landscape” changes with our moods, or insights and growth. Going over familiar territory in coaching, mentoring or peer assistance sessions may lead to noticing some new aspect, focus, or perspective that did not surface previously.

From what I’ve been reading about brain neurobiology, walking increases cohesion between the left and right hemisphere of the brain so that creativity and cognitive processes can better connect; the brain becomes more integrated and our ideas flow more freely. Walking allows us to stop and “smell the roses,” although in my neighbourhood, it’s more likely to also include “smell the tomatoes.” I hope you will be able to travel the road less travelled.

Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time.

~ Steven Wright ~
American humorist