Dining with the Dead and My Mentoring Questions

1024 682 Ellen Ensher
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mentoringIf you could pick one dead person from your field to have dinner with who would it be and what would you ask them? This was the intriguing premise of a recent article that I contributed to in the recent edition of LMU Magazine. As the editor, Joseph Wakelee-Lynch, pointed out you tend to learn a lot about a person through the historical figure that they selected.

For the article, I selected Steve Jobs. I would love to talk with Steve about his experiences being mentored. I found a great blog post from Mike Bergelson (CEO of Everwise) that discusses the four mentors of Steve Jobs. In case you are wondering Steve’s four mentors were: Robert Friedland (an apple farmer…yep…. Hence the name- Apple), Robert Noyce (inventor of the microchip), Bill Campbell (well known as the Uber mentor to many technology industry legends), and Kobun Chino Otagowa (a Zen master). I am really interested in the whole idea of developing a network as a well as a lineage of mentoring relationships. I think it behooves all of us to start thinking about who is in our mentoring lineage the earlier the better. So, for this reason, if I could cross over to the next dimension or go back in time or something, I would also love to have not only Steve at the table but also Bill Campbell and their very much alive current protégés like Larry Page and Mark Zuckerberg. I would ask them about ideas related to mentoring that I am currently researching and that I find interesting.

So, I would ask them how they tested and challenged each other and what are some of the tests they routinely give protégés and mentors (for an academic take on this idea, click here to see my article with Susan Murphy). I would also love to know how their mentoring relationships helped them develop grit and what they do develop grit in their protégés. There is new research by Angela Duckworth and her colleagues and I am fascinated by the importance of grit for successful people. I think it is likely that mentors can play a big role in helping folks develop this necessary attribute. And finally, I am super fascinated by the idea of callings. When you think about Steve Jobs, he was one who seemed absolutely called to his work and exhorted others to pursue work that calls to them as well. I wonder how did his mentors help him find his calling and life work? How can a mentor help you find yours?

So if you could eat a delicious meal with someone no longer with us on planet Earth who would it be and what would you discuss? For my colleague’s answers, read on!