CAUTION: All lessons time sensitive

Published on September 7, 2011

Reflecting on the mentors in my life in my last blog, Gotta Have It to Give It,  has caused me to rewind a bit into my upbringing and recall the host of mentors in my life that have contributed in countless ways to where I am now...the current day version of Nikki Buckelew.

Undoubtedly everyone interprets the word “mentor” differently and so I even found myself searching for my own version of the definition of mentor in my life.

I came to the conclusion that it is someone who:

  • Left a significant positive emotional imprint on my heart through their actions.
  • Went above and beyond their “role” or “title” in showing me love, kindness, or direction.
  • Utilized a well-balanced mixture of care and candor to help direct my decision making and/or behavior.
  • Saw my God-given unique talents and provided me with resources that would help me to strengthen them.
  • Prayed for me, loved me, and/or showered me with spiritual gifts despite my resistance to them.
  • Took time out of their life to add value to mine.
  • Pushed me to fully use my natural born talents in order to reach my full potential.
  • Fought for my honor even when it put their own integrity and reputation at risk.
  •  Equipped me with the physical and emotional tools necessary to have courage in the face of fear.
  •  Stretched my thinking and made me move out of my comfort zone in positive ways.
  •  Created a safe environment for me to fail and then encouraged me to get back up.

It was an interesting exercise...making this list of criteria for mentorship. With each one I found myself recalling the people in my life from the time I was a small child who in one or more ways helped mold and shape me.

It appears to me that there are a lot of “types” of mentors which I have grouped into four primary categories.

  • Familial - parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, caregivers, etc.
  • Cultural - people who are a part of our community, social circles, and friendships
  • Educational - teachers, sports coaches, and others who taught us formally
  • Career - bosses, colleagues, and trained professionals


As a professional coach, trainer, and mentor, I spend a lot of time helping people work through their thinking which originated with their early mentors.

Not because their early mentors were fact they were highly effective. They were so effective that we often carry those lessons and teachings with us into adulthood and we hold on very tightly to them.

The reason we spend so much time working “through” them is because those lessons served a very specific and important purpose for the time in the person’s life they learned them.

The lessons we learn are almost always CONTEXTUAL in nature. Some are universal of course, but most are not. Because we don’t see them as contextual, however, we deem them ABSOLUTE and apply them to our lives yet still today.

If you were to go back and have a conversation with early mentors who originally taught you a lesson, my guess is that they would share with you an entirely different lesson based on their future learning making their original lesson obsolete or at least newly revised. The original lesson was good for the time it was wasn’t intended to be a FOREVER lesson.

It is those original lessons taught to us or observed by us through role models that sometimes (more times than not) cause us to get stuck.

Our ideas about money, success, relationships, child rearing, career paths, religion, politics, work ethic, and many others all came from our early mentors. Most of the lessons were learned before we were even 6 or 7 years of age.


I am so grateful for my early childhood mentors... those who did the best they knew how to help me succeed in life. My appreciation for them is immense.

I am also grateful to my more recent mentors and coaches who have helped me see that some of those early lessons no longer serve me. I can let them go. It is up to me to now, as a capable and wise adult, to choose my own path  based on my life experiences and my own intuition about what I want MY life to be.

This reflection and appreciation for those in my own life bring to light the fact that I will never know all the lives I touch. I can only hope to someday show up on someone’s list as an esteemed mentor.

Note to anyone who has me on their list:

CAUTION... all lessons were effective in the context and time you learned them from me (or observed them). Revisit often and release when necessary!


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