Nov10200812:11 pm

Mentoring: Paying it Forward

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to drive out to Gaithersburg, Maryland and visit my mentor, Dr. William Olson, and his wife Betsy.  They live in an apartment at Asbury, an attractive assisted living facility.  Bill recently celebrated his 88th birthday.  We no longer have our monthly breakfasts at the Cosmos Club so our occasional visits are particularly special. 

I thought a lot about Bill and other mentors who have contributed so much to my own career as I read this article from the November 2008 issue of “Associations Now,” published by the American Society of Association Executives and the Center for Association Leadership.

Seeing Bill on Saturday reminded me of all of the ways he helped me these past 25 years – inviting me to write a chapter for a book he was editing, offering to be my primary sponsor nominating me for membership in the Cosmos Club, counseling me when I considered a job change…

There is no way I can ever repay him, but I can help others the way he helped me.  When I invited Mark to coauthor Working World, I was doing what one of our profilees termed “paying it forward.”  One of the marks of a true professional is that she or he is conscious of the debt owed to others for the teaching, training, and encouragement received.  Take a moment as Thanksgiving approaches to thank a mentor.  I’m so glad I can still tell Bill how much I have benefitted from his wisdom and counsel.  Last Saturday I got to tell him again how, though I cannot properly pay him back, I’m doing my best to “pay it forward.”

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