I attended graduate school later in life. In a class setting we were asked to share who has been a mentor in our lives. All of my cohorts shared stories of their CFO or CEO that inspired them and aided in their development; both personally and professionally. Although I had a similar story, I chose a different path to share with the class.
It was a warm summer day. The kids were off school and I was working on a song. Candidly, I really wasn’t working; I was stuck and struggling to know where to go with it. Music is a hobby of mine that brings balance into my busy schedule.
That summer day was like most. My son would have time to himself and engage in independent play. Other times, he and I would play together. We mixed it up. I had a small business so it afforded me a lot of flexibility. So, that day I decided to work on a song I was writing. With every passing minute, I was getting frustrated that it wasn’t flowing freely.
To compound matter, my son wanted to play and I wasn’t done exhausting my efforts on this tune. He’d knock on the door and I’d turn around. “What is it buddy?” I would say. “Would you swing me?” he would ask. “Not right now. Maybe later.” I responded. And I gently closed the door. A few minutes passed and I heard the same knock, supplied the same question, with his same response and my lame/frustrated answer, “Not now. Please give me some time.” I felt bad that I turned him away. There are times when I’m on a roll with a business problem, or whatever, and I need space to work it out. This was no such scenario. I felt bad because I was getting nowhere AND depriving my son of some bonding time with dad.
About a minute later, I heard a knock again. I was ready to lose my cool. I turned around to see a little hand slip a note under the door and then pull away. I thought, “This kid is pretty creative.” At that point, I took the bait. I got up, walked to the door, knelt down and picked up the note to read it. It said, with all of its jagged lines and over-arching curves, “Go into the bathroom by the tub.” A smile appeared on my face. I opened the door and proceeded to the bathroom; which was about four feet from where I stood and to the left. Anticipation began to grow.
I walked into the bathroom with no idea what to expect. The shower curtain was closed and I thought for sure that this little guy was behind it. I remember mischievously thinking, “Should I turn on the water? Nah.” In one quick swoop I pulled the curtain open and said, “Ah ha!” only to find, not a boy, but another note. My smile was amplified. With every word I read I could hear his voice, breath and inflections. It said, “Come to my room.” I took the note, walked out and proceeded to his room; which was about an arms length from the bathroom door.
His door was shut. I almost opened it but then decided to knock. Knock…knock…knock. “Come in” he said. I slowly opened the door and was greeted by a little boy sitting with his legs crossed and large brown welcoming eyes looking up at me. He said, “Will you swing me now?” Without hesitation I said, “Of course.”
We walked to the park and he sat in the swing. He said, “Do an underdog” which was codeword for me holding on to his waist and slowly pushing forward along the arc of the swing till I couldn’t reach any higher. It makes for a huge first push off! Then I let go. As I pushed him, joy overcame my soul. Seeing his smile and hearing his laughter was contagious. I also remember the stress leave my body. It was a sacred moment.
Through all of this, the song that I was so frustrated with just twenty minutes earlier began to enter my consciousness. Only this time, the broken bridge of creative thought was repaired by a spiritual moment with my son. The missing piece was filled and the song was complete. Our souls were complete too.
Sharing that story in class left all who heard with an expanded view of what mentoring is. Sure there is the obvious mentoring definition and I whole heartedly respect that. But I chose to share a deeper more enriching story that is far reaching and long lasting. A story that has applicability with many faces and is rarely shared in business school.