A Mentor Story
Carter May (#24) is 14 years old, just entering high school in Redwood City. Last Saturday I sat down with him to share what I learned in my 81 years that might be helpful to him. We covered a lot of ground, but the most important was – seek out and nurture relationships with people you can learn from. Do not be hesitant. You might be surprised that they want this interaction more than you think. For Carter it will be teachers in high school, professors in college, and business leaders in the world of work.
This morning at 4:30AM, I’m daydreaming in my reading chair, before the papers arrive, recalling a remarkable English professor I had at SF State in 1961 named Sinclair Kirby-Miller. I ended up in his class following advice that you should seek out the teacher, not the class, and certainly not the time it is taught. He was legend.
He was born in 1899, and a Rhodes scholar, none of which meant a thing to me as a 22-year-old college senior. I was a psych major with an English miner. Funny though, in this English class, he had us reading Carl Rogers, Erik Erikson, and Sigmund Freud. The Rogers book we read, Counseling and Psychotherapy (1939) opened up a whole new universe for me. I was hardcore psychoanalysis when I took the class and felt “counseling” was too light-weight for me. I needed the “heavy” stuff of Freud. Years later when I began doing therapy, it was Rogers that was my North Star. Freud melted away in a few short years.
I looked up Kirby-Miller on the internet. He died in 1985 at 85 in Carmel, California. By 1980, I had finished my psychology career and moved on to corporate. Yet, I always remembered Kirby-Miller’s class with fondness. It pushed me in a new direction. Could I have looked him up in Carmel, invited him out to lunch and found out more about his own development? Why Carl Rogers? Why the English department? Who were his mentors? Pretty sure he would have been pleased to hear from a former student whose life had been impacted by his teachings.
I look back with great sorrow at the important mentors in my life who I never got to see in the latter phases of their lives.
So my advice to young Carter May was, don’t make the same mistakes I made. Stay connected to those important people who will shape who you become. It will help to fulfill you, and give them great satisfaction.
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