How To Select A Great Mentor / Coach


For over 30 years, I’ve been blessed to have been both informally and formally mentored; I have mentored and/or coached others for over 20 years now.  When mentoring is executed well, there’s nothing better; once you’ve experienced it, you’ll never want to be without.  Selecting the right mentor or coach can be daunting: by nature of the relationship, you are empowering this person to have tremendous influence in your life.  Your mentor / coach doesn’t have to have it all figured out; they just need to be a little further up the road than you are.  Life is too short to limp along with just a ‘good’ mentor; hold out for and track down a GREAT mentor that can help you navigate the landscape on the way to becoming the best version of yourself.

Great Formal Mentors are:


Motives matter.  The best mentors are those that are Off Self, On Others.  Those who have had the greatest impact in my life have been radically sold out to your success.  The motto of my favorite mentor is, “Keep helping people.”  Nothing worse than a mentor who just needs their ego stroked.


During sessions, your coach should be totally focused on your time together.  They should be an appropriately engaged listener.  You should get the sense that you are the only person in the world during this time; there is no phone, no interruptions, no computer screen; just YOU.


Great mentors hit the ground running; they’ve invested time thinking about you and this session beforehand. Now, they should be flexible enough with their planned content to meet your most relevant needs today; anything they were about to get into takes a back seat to the fire you’re putting out right now, but they should be warm at the start of the session.


Can they feel what you’re feeling?  Do they accurately relate to a situation you’re working through with a similar time in their life?  Better, as they explore with questions and actively listen, can they emote feelings you weren’t even aware you had?


Trust is earned.  I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to trust someone who asks me all about me, but isn’t willing to get as naked emotionally with their stuff.  How about their shortcomings and mistakes?  Beware the mentor who has never failed or suffered loss.


Are they someone you want to be like?  You don’t have to agree on everything, but your foundational philosophies and presuppositions should be aligned, or a breakup down the road will be inevitable.


Some mentors are available once a week; others only have time for one call a month.  You need to determine what kind of availability you’re looking for.  Occasionally, when it’s formal / paid mentoring, this is driven financially: how much can you invest into tailored personal growth?  From there, does your mentor aggressively seek time to connect with you?  I love it when my mentors say, “Let’s set up our next time before we go.”


Can your mentor adjust their style when you share what you’ve liked about a certain call?  If something rubbed you the wrong way during a session, bring it to them; the best mentors will adjust and meet you where you’re at.


When we get together, the conversation is two-way, but very much about you and your needs.  Your mentor should be emotionally stable enough to see your situation with clarity, not projecting their own mess into your world.


What lessons have they learned from their mistakes along the way?  Can they walk you through how they got through?  How about their wins?  Can they share nuggets without bragging?


Does your mentor have a mentor too?  If they are pouring into you, they had better have someone rejuvenating and pouring into them.  Also, mentoring often acts as a mirror; objective as mentors try to be, much of the advice given is also applicable to them, too.  Are they learning and growing with you?


Great mentors never make you feel inadequate or weak; instead, they inspire, encourage and empower.  Even if they don’t have a fiery personality, if you feel like running through a brick wall at the end of a session, you have an epic mentor.


My Favorite Things List

One of my preferred exercises in coaching is to have people create their own, “My Favorite Things” list: what makes life taste good, increases your joy; what do you love to do, eat, play, etc.  From simple and free to complex and expensive, leave nothing off.

Tony Robbins explained this concept during a Larry King interview on New Year’s Day 2006; I had a lengthy but inspired flight from Vancouver to Montréal to cultivate my own list.  Since then, my List has grown and I have discovered several truths:

1) during the natural course of life, I do many of these things – except now? I pause & recognize that this was a great moment. Life brightens…

2) I have manufactured more of these moments; life’s too short to not do these things regularly.

3) The vast majority of my Favorite Things are free.

4) Since meeting Kristy 13 years ago, some of the best are shared.

A sample from my List:

Writing in my journal

Smelling my children’s hair after a bath

Nachos with salsa

Runner’s high

Speaking to an audience and seeing the light bulbs illuminate

Writing with a Mont Blanc pen

Filet Mignon cooked to medium rare with a full-bodied Red

Learning new music on my acoustic, electric or bass guitars

Feel free to grab any from my list that inspire you – and share some of yours!

Moments like these are rare – even for the most accomplished. I must admit: I read through the brochure cover-to-cover!

What are you currently considering that would force you to become a better version of yourself in order to accomplish? Read this post and DO IT!

Be the Change

So this wasn’t at all how I envisioned signing up for my first IM. I was asked by a colleague about doing a triathlon in Couer d’Alene next year-2013, so I checked it out and it was only a 6.5hr drive from our place and I could of sworn I saw on the web a 70.3 option. So I thought- that will definitely be a challenge for me, I have only done an Olympic distance and the swim in that one was hard enough-so I knew 70.3 would be tough for me.  I just had a friend do a 70.3 and I was very inspired. So I agree and say, ya we will go, Warren and I. Then I go to sign up and realize there isn’t a 70.3 option at all-I can’t find it anywhere. I email Wes and say, “ya know I only intended on doing the half…

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Use Words When Necessary

“Preach the Gospel at all times.  Use words when necessary.”

– St Francis of Assisi

Did St. Francis actually utter these words?  Blogger Julie Zimmerman’s take:

This is a great quote, very Franciscan in its spirit, but not literally from St. Francis. The thought is his; this catchy phrasing is not in his writings or in the earliest biographies about him.

In Chapter XVII of his Rule of 1221, Francis told the friars not to preach unless they had received the proper permission to do so. Then he added, “Let all the brothers, however, preach by their deeds.” (for more, click here

My friend shared an account where simple engaging kindness lead to an invitation to hang out, which lead to a another friend sharing the gospel, which lead to the young man attending church and considering making a decision for Christ.  I don’t think this guy winds up hearing from said friend without the initial warm friendliness extended – lifestyle evangelism at its best.

I’m a huge fan of lifestyle evangelism…especially when it’s consummated with WORDS.

Romans 10:14 tells us, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”

Some Christians have the GIFT of evangelism, meaning they’ll probably bang about every person they see with the Good News that man can have peace with God in this life and enjoy eternity with him in the next.  (I don’t have this gift.)

However, gifting aside,  ALL of us who call Christ, “King”, have a responsibility to follow the Spirit’s leading to plant seed, water and/or sometimes harvest a soul who is READY.  That requires being in tune with the Spirit…and eventually using WORDS.

With regards to being in step with the Spirit, many of Christ-followers are aimlessly wandering and missing opportunities to share their faith because they’re not reading their Bibles & praying regularly.  Worse, they forego any chance at lifestyle evangelism because they act precisely the same as unbelieving friends: engaging in gossip, excessively worrying, get publicly drunk (or worse), use foul language, etc.

I wonder what it is about that lifestyle that they hope to pin Good News on?  Some of them claim, “freedom from sin,” and then hurl accusations about judging them.  The fact remains, they are missing opportunities to be used by God to change lives forever.

They are missing chances to greet people in heaven that say, “I’m here because God used you.”

Hey Christian: sometimes you gotta use WORDS!  Peter admonishes us to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” 1 Peter 3:15.  We must not limp through life not being able to share our story, or knowing what’s required if this person wants to cross that line of faith NOW…

The first part of that verse commands us to “…revere Christ as Lord.” – if we’re doing this, then we will take His Great Commission seriously:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19-20

My New Rig

Riding in his sweet, paid-for Mercedes, I remember thinking Uncle Vic had figured something out.

He would buy really good cars in the middle of their life at a low price (less than what it was worth) – he would target about $20K.  When he’d enjoyed the best these cars had to offer – about 12-18 months – he would sell it for at least what he’d paid, often more, and buy another newer one.

The key seemed to be getting that first one.  This was over 12 years ago, but I distinctly recall buying in to this philosophy, hoping to someday actually do it. 

At the time, I had been leasing for my entire adult life. New cars were kinda cool, but with my travel schedule, I was getting killed on mileage charges when I turned them in.  Most often, the dealer would “help me out” by rolling any overages into my new lease. 

Yeah, it kinda felt like being on the hamster wheel.

Fast forward to 2011: I finally broke down and read Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover.  Beyond ripping the concept of “fleecing” cars (we all get fleeced when we lease), Dave recommends creating a sinking fund for a car and paying cash. 


Paid-for. In FULL.

So, Kristy and I saved for 11 months; in December, we finally had $3000 saved, with hopes of buying a car valued a little higher.  When I checked Craig’s List on 12/28, hundreds of cars were listed in the $3-5000 range within 30 miles of us here in South Jersey.  I narrowed my list: I had been driving my friend’s standard ’97 BMW 328i this past year (on loan), and really wanted something similar. Dozens of BMWs were listed, starting mid-to-late 90s.  After wasting one afternoon of test-driving cars that had few details or pictures, I decided to be more judicious about my legwork.

One simple email to an advertiser yielded a solid lead: a BMW salesperson was selling their ’95 530i; it had only 91K miles and had been serviced the past 4 years at the dealership.  The pictures looked great; standard transmission (sweet & rare); V8 meant the POWER was there.  

She rightly listed an asking price of $5000.

I’m not the negotiator that I intend to be…someday. But it’s easy to negotiate when you have a hard ceiling: all we had was $3000 cash.  I asked if she’d consider that price, knowing we would care for her baby; she said she would if we threw some prayers in on the deal.

We did. 

After googling our seller’s name to make sure she was legit, we drove to Delaware (45 minutes away) and arrived a little early at the meeting place – there was a nasty, rusted late-80s BMW in the parking lot, and Kristy’s heart sank.  Fortunately, that wasn’t it.

This was parked across from it:


We gave her the money after she started it up without even driving it.  Turns out the seller had also google’d me: her pre-printed Bill of Sale had my correct address on it.  Life in the Web 2.0 age…

I’ve bought cars before, but nothing compares to the satisfaction derived from this experience: delayed gratification, culminating in a value-added purchase that serves our bigger financial goals.