Embodying the Example We Learned From Our Mentors is an Essential Part of our Self Development

My mentor list

William Schmidt was my American History teacher in high school. His lectures were outside the box for a secondary school professor. He was brash, funny and a great storyteller. His style of teaching could engage the most disinterested crowd of teenagers in an early Monday morning American History class. Not a showoff; he cared for his audience and knew how history’s fundamental lessons had the capacity to teach young people how to create a better world. Faced early in in my engineering career with the need to explain complex projects, I wanted to be like Mr Schmidt. After failing a few times, I realized that presenting something successfully was not about entertaining and audience; it was about honoring their need to understand and absorb information on things that would affect their lives. I picked up from Mr. Schmidt how to be warm, concise, interesting and open-minded to any audience, even when they were shouting at me.

Mentors Don’t have to be perfect people

One curious thing I learned about mentors is that, although they can be people of unmistakable character, they don’t have to be perfect people for you to learn something of value. My mother and father are good examples. Most people saw my mom and dad as good people who overcame great difficulties to give their children a better life. This is true. They also sacrificed everything for my brothers and I; the greatest act of love I have ever experience. But dad was a demanding, emotionally withdrawn man. Mom was mentally ill and incapable of controlling her emotions, specially her temper. My brothers and I grew up walking on eggshells around those two. Yet, my father taught me the value of working hard and how to persevere when life is handing you lemons. I learned about the importance of making people laugh from my mother. She also taught me how to be a good storyteller, a handy skill to have when you are a writer.

Mentors don’t have to be people you know personally

People you don’t know can also be your mentors. Rosa Parks is one of those people. She taught me about how, when the pain of staying in a bad situation becomes greater than the fear of making a change, you get the courage to say, “fuck it, I’m not putting up with this bullshit anymore” . I know this is not what Rosa parks actually said but, after having had enough, she took a courageous stand against the oppressive discrimination of the Jim Crow era. I’ve been in oppressive situations that need to be changed and Rosa Parks taught me that speaking up can change the world.

We also learn from those with bad behavior

Ironically, we also learn from people who taught us the invaluable lesson of how not to be. I will not name anyone here to protect their reputations and their families. Just like me, they were doing the best they knew how to do. An example that comes to mind is that of a colleague whom I labeled a “grenade thrower”. This individual caused nothing but chaos. In almost every situation, he pitted people against one another rather than help solve the problem. He was also incapable of valuing a solution if it was not his idea. The grenade throwing metaphor came to me after observing the chaos that remained after he left any meeting. The rest of us had to stay behind to clean up the damage he had caused.


The ancient Buddhist quote, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears”, reminds us we are not alone in this life, we get help along the way. This is who mentors are. Some call them teachers or guides. Some even refer to them as angels, but they are ones who opened your eyes to a greater way of being and feeling fulfilled.

Reach Deeper

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Going through a difficult life transition?

You might enjoy reading my latest memoir, Catch and Release: One Man’s Improbable Search for True Love and the Meaning of Life. Download a PDF of the first 5 chapters of Catch and Release free. To order your inscribed copy in either hardcover or paperback, click here (https://www.guillermovidal.me/shop/). Catch and Release is also available on Kindle here (https://www.amazon.com/Catch-Release-Improbable-Search-Meaning-ebook/dp/B07F26N1HS/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1535494644&sr=1-2). Happy reading!



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Guillermo Vidal

Guillermo Vidal

Author/Speaker/Mentor/Mayor/Immigrant/Engineer/Spiritual Seeker/Teacher. Willing to share my life experiences and lessons. Follow me on www.guillermovidal.me.