No great accomplishment is ever done alone.
Certainly dogs rely on humans for many basic needs, but Grace started out living on the streets by herself. She found her own food and shelter; having enough self-preservation and willpower to do what she needed to survive. But even in those amazingly challenging times, I have no doubt that she watched and learned from other dogs how to work the system to get what she needed. (She is certainly a master of that now when it comes to getting things she wants from me!)
Soon after I got her, a professional trainer told me I should think of Grace as a survivor, not a victim. It was true. Grace found the resources she needed for her basic survival, even as a young pup.
I was reminded of the importance of reaching out for help last week, when I served as a panelist for a career forum at a local university. Two other women, along with myself, were asked to offer advice and suggestions to college students who are planning for their future careers.
As the three of us recounted the stories of our career path, it was clear that we all had at least one significant mentor that helped us along the way. And if we went deeper in our stories, I know there would be numerous people who played a part in our success. These individuals invested in us with their time and knowledge because they wanted to do so, not because it was a burden or an obligation they needed to fill.
It’s not just when we’re planning our career that we need mentors. In any important decision or life situation we face, it is always easier–and more successful–when we gain the benefit of having a knowledgeable, caring individual walking beside us.
I know that we don’t always feel comfortable asking for help, thinking the other person is too busy or doesn’t care. That is rarely the case. I think we can look to dogs as a reminder. They seem to get it. They understand their role to teach and to learn.
I was always so impressed by the interactions that Grace had with a neighbor’s dog, Sunny. Grace had just come to live with me (she was about eight months old at the time) and Sunny was about 2 years old. Sunny was dropped off to my next-door neighbor on work days to stay with her “grandparents,” (the parents of Sunny’s people), while they went to work. It was an ideal situation for Sunny, but Grace was a huge beneficiary of the time spent with this well-behaved and loving dog. The two played together well and Sunny was a patient, wise mentor. Grace learned many important lessons from the time they shared together; it was enjoyable for them both and so helpful to Grace’s development. I felt Sunny understood her responsibility in teaching Grace, too. It was if she knew it was her place to be that teacher.
Mentors who take their job seriously are the ones that have not only rewarding, but successful, outcomes. Being a good mentor is more than just having an occasional conversation to offer advice. It requires that you understand what the other person needs and wants, and that you give your time and expertise to help that person find those things.
No matter where we are in our lives, whether seeking a new job or learning how to do a new job, mentors are important. We can offer and receive valuable mentoring at any time in our life. We can always find people who know more than we do — and know less than we do. Make sure you offer of your own talents when the opportunity arises. And when you’re facing something new, unknown, or difficult, seek others who can help you.