The Importance of Being a Mentor

By Erica Sofrina, Motivational Speaker, Teacher and Author

We don’t cultivate and value Mentors in our western society. Few of us were lucky enough to have parents who were mentors and could teach us about the important ways to navigate through life. Most of us learned these crucial lessons on our own, feeling like we are were up a stream without a paddle.

Because our own parents were struggling with these issues themselves and their own parents couldn’t help them, they could not offer a lot of mentoring to us. So, important lessons about how to deal with money; how to successfully negotiate something; how to fight fair; the give and take of having a successful relationship; how to be a parent; how to stand up for your self and so much more, were learned by the seat of our pants.

In other societies such as in Native American and Asian cultures, the elders are highly revered. They were and are valuable contributing members who had the important job of teaching the younger ones basic work and life skills and imparting wisdom.

Our society worships youth and beauty and does not value wisdom. Teaching life lessons and transmitting it to the young is not highly esteemed in the culture.

We’re housing seniors in large institutions where they are isolated from young people. Our young people need their wisdom and our elders need to feel what we all need - that their life has meant something and they have contributed something of importance that will live on.

My own mentors were teachers I had, authors that moved me and relatives who didn’t know how much they were giving me from observing the way they lived their lives.

One was my Aunt Doreen, my uncle’s wife from England. She had gone to the Royal Academy of Music and played the piano superbly. Everything she did reflected who she was , from the casual yet elegant way she dressed, to the way she laid out her table, to the food she prepared and the books she read and the music she listened to and played. All of this was done with her wonderful signature minimalist style. I, as a teenager obsessed with rock music and the latest fashions and convinced adults had nothing interesting to offer, had my world view broken open by Aunt Doreen. She was completely, confidently, charmingly herself . This was her teaching to me and my three sisters, all of whom adored her. Many things we still do and value today came from her important influence.

Maya Angelou was one of my great author mentors. My mother knew someone who was her close friend and one of my greatest thrills was to meet her when I was 15 . I had just read her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings which completely rocked my world. The way she took the lessons of a difficult and abusive childhood steeped in the extreme prejudices of the deep south and turned them into lessons of inspiration and hope, was utterly mind-blowing to me. She made a conscious choice to transcend her past and somehow was able to show humor and humanity amidst the rubble. She was and continues to be a beacon of strength, dignity and wisdom to many women around the world. I so idolized her that I was utterly tongue tied when we met. Her eyes seemed to see my soul and conveyed that she knew how I felt about her.

I came across this poem recently which has been widely attributed to Maya Angelou, but in doing further research found it was actually written by a woman named Pamela Redmond Satran, a writer for Glamour magazine. It is sort of corny (sorry guys, I am sure your eyes will roll) but it has some wisdom and lessons that I could have used as a younger woman.

I would like to share parts of it with you and leave you thinking about who your mentors were and how they helped or changed your life. I hope you will share this with us.

I also encourage you to adopt a grandmother/grandfather, aunt/uncle if you don’t have one, and give them a place to mentor and share their valuable wisdom.

I realize not every elder is mentor material, some are stuck in the past, some are cynical or bitter and have lost their faith in life, but the chances are you have friends who do know some wonderful ones that you can adopt. The wonderful sage and poet David Whyte teaches ” Anyone and anything that does not bring you alive is too small for you”. Choose your mentors by the ones that make you feel better just by being with them. You may want to ask yourself if people could say the same about you.

Ultimately the way we live our lives is the most powerful teaching. Becoming conscious of this may encourage us to make better decisions, realizing the impact we have on younger souls who, like sponges, are learning from our example whether we like it or not.

I encourage you to embrace this important role and consciously mentor those who are coming up, whether they be co-workers, employees, students, children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, friends, your friends children, or by being a Big Brother or Big Sister.

Who knows, you may become their ‘Aunt Doreen’ whom they go on to write about years later as one of the most important influences in their lives!

Excerpts from Things Women Should Have and Know by 30

By Pamela Redmond Satron - (click here for complete version)


  • Enough money within her control to move out and rent a place of her own, even if she never wants to or needs to.
  • a youth she’s content to leave behind
  • a past juicy enough that she’s looking forward to retelling it in her old age,
  • a set of screwdrivers, a cordless drill, and a black lace bra,


  • One friend who always makes her laugh, and one who lets her cry.
  • a good piece of furniture not previously owned by anyone else in her family,
  • eight matching plates, wine glasses with stems, and a recipe for a meal that will make her guests feel honored.


  • A feeling of control over her destiny,
  • how to fall in love without losing herself.


  • How to quit a job,
  • break up with a lover,
  • and confront a friend without ruining the friendship.


  • When to try harder, and WHEN TO WALK AWAY.


  • That she can’t change the length of her calves, the width of her hips, or the nature of her parents
  • that her childhood may not have been perfect…but it’s over…


  • What she would and wouldn’t do for love or more
  • how to live alone, even if she doesn’t like it.


  • Whom she can trust,
  • whom she can’t,
  • and why she shouldn’t take it personally.


  • Where to go…be it to her best friend’s kitchen table,
  • or a charming Inn in the woods…when her soul needs soothing.

Please share with us your own experiences of mentors in your life!




Ellie Damann
.6 years ago


Faith B.
Faith Billingham6 years ago

great article, thanks :)

Patrick Carabin
Patrick Carabin6 years ago

a few days ago, a little girl told a friend i was her grandfather... i found this funny... maybe i can try to become a mentor for her

Erica Sofrina
Erica Sofrina6 years ago

Thank you all for the wonderful sharing. Yes, Carol, I think about the same things as one of two aunties for my nieces and nephews. It is so important to be the example and guide them with our example.
Shirley, yes indeed Grandparents are the perfect people to mentor, and often times now a days they are indeed the ones that take care of the children.

Shirley E.
Shirley E6 years ago

I think here in the UK our grandparents are having a better chance at mentoring lately because they are the childminders of choice (usually unpaid)for the offspring of our many working mums.

Carol Kemski
Carol Kemski6 years ago

I have had quite a few people in my life who I would consider were mentors to me. As I moved through different times of my life, I had different mentors. They were all very important to me.

But for me - the bigger challenge has been in BEING a mentor for those young people I care about. As I go through my day to day life - I pay particular attention to situations where I think I might be able to help - or to teach someone - or to explain something that some people may take for granted. Many of us will NEVER ask a question if we don't know something - we just nod our head.
But the most important challenge to be has been to be a mentor to my only niece and nephew (now 38 and 35). I'm their only aunt. Throughout their lives, I have intentionally gone out of my way to be there for them - to go the extra mile and to show them how a self proclaimed single, successful woman looks and acts. Things like flying across the country in a blinding snow storm to be at the State Championship games for my niece. Spending $1,000.00 to buy my nephew a complete set of fine crystal stemware because even when he was 21, I knew his life style would lead him to need those things.
The difficult part is knowing if I did enough. Did I teach the right lessons? Was I available enough? Do these kids relate to what I was trying to show them so that they can go on and do the same thing for others?
That's the challenge for me - but it's also the thing that makes me stronger and gives me validati

Susan Gammon
Susan Gammon6 years ago

I would define a mentor as any "teacher" who has helped us learn a life lesson. I have come to learn that everyone in my life has been a mentor/teacher to me, even though I wasn't always wise enough to see it at the time.
I think it is a good goal to look for mentors that will "make us feel more alive" or "make you feel better just by being with them," as from those people we often learn love, compassion and (self) acceptance. However, from the others, we can learn fortitude, forbearance,and forgiveness--just to name a few.

Lynn Marie M.
Lynn Marie M6 years ago


No Emails H.
beba h6 years ago

Awesome !! I going to start looking for more mentors !

caterina caligiuri

thanks for the article very well done