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John O’Leary shares how mentorship maybe a key way to find purpose, especially during difficult seasons such as the pandemic.

Mom gave me life and taught me how to really live it.

Dad showed me how to harness humor, love, faithfulness, resilience, gratitude.

Jack Buck taught me to listen, dream, write, believe and give back.

Dick James helped me write my first speech, deliver it and refine it.

Edie Varley coached me in my business vision, faith, persistence and patience.

Rusty Keeley believed in my story, was the first CEO to hire me and now sits on my Board of Advisors.

My wife, Beth, teaches me daily about selfless generosity, absolute humility and unconditional love.

During periods of great adversity, these people served as positive influences and a bright light in my life.

The expanded list includes so many more people, such as: my grandparents, five siblings, four children and innumerable teachers, therapists, nurses, pastors, co-workers and friends. All who met me where I was, encouraged, stretched or challenged me to progress forward and ultimately, walked with me toward what was possible.

So, what does this have to do with you?

It turns out that walking with a friend in the dark is much better than walking alone in the light. And in a marketplace  and season where so many feel isolated, overwhelmed or overlooked, there is real value in reaching out for the hand of another for assistance and being that hand for someone else, too.

I recently visited with the President and CEO of Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri, Becky Hatter.

Becky believes entire communities, one life at a time, can be transformed through the power of positive relationships. For more than three decades, she has witnessed the transformative power of matching kids with adults and – through these enduring relationships – seen how not only the child is elevated, but their “Bigs” and the entire community, too.

[I’ve known Becky for 10 years. I serve on her board at BBBSEM and have long considered it one of the best change agents for good of our time. Becky is one of the most brilliant, passionate and compassionate executives I’ve met. To hear why I feel this way and what it means for you: Check out our conversation on this Live Inspired Podcast episode.]

Today, I challenge you to make two lists:

  1. Who have you looked up to as a “Big”? In other words, who mentored you, inspired you and elevated your life? Write the names of family, coaches, teachers, supervisors, neighbors who encouraged you to believe, do, be and achieve more.
  2. Who looks up to you as a “Big”? Could be family, children, friends or colleagues. What relationships are you actively seeking to inspire and elevate? And which ones could you be doing better? Write the names of people who are encouraged to believe, do, be and achieve more because of your mentorship, love and example.

When I completed this exercise, I was reminded of how many amazing individuals from all walks of life have supported me. I am where I am because of their love. And in recognizing their impact on me, it was evident the sacred calling to be a “Big” for others.

My friend, the negativity in our world today, in some ways, has never felt heavier. Heed Helen Keller’s advice and walk with a friend in the dark; it is truly better than walking alone in the light.

This is your day. Live Inspired.
John O’Leary

Who has mentored you in your life? Share in the comments below

1 reply on “How to Find Purpose through Mentorship”

Lib McKethan was my mentor when I started my teaching career with a group of tremendous fifth graders in Fayetteville, North Carolina. My class had been through so much. They were formed by taking a set number of students out of crowded fifth grade classrooms. The good news was the resulting classrooms would be a better size. The challenging news was for my students, being plucked out of the classrooms they were just joining and identifying with into a class with a new teacher. Oh, I was not that teacher; the students went through two other teachers before me, each had quit after just a week. We were into October and I was about to meet my very first students who changed me forever in so many positive ways.

Back to Lib McKethan. Lib was one of the fifth grade teachers who contributed students to the new classroom. Mentors were not “a thing” then, but she not only brought me greetings but also wise words of encouragement and guidance. She saw the love I had for my new students and stood beside me as I navigated the first year challenges.

Lib passed away in 2016 but we stayed in touch as dear friends. I can still hear her voice as I now teach those who are teachers. I remember vividly her telling me:

“To Teach is to Touch a Life Forever”

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