Tony Dungy Mentor Leader

I just finished reading Tony Dungy’s latest book – The Mentor Leader, while laying on the couch in our rental travel trailer. My wife and son are playing on the beach of the Gulf of Mexico, and my daughter is (finally) getting a good nap in the back of the camper.

What a book this was! I am an avid student of the concept of mentoring, as it’s something I very much desire as a trait that defines much of what I do, especially in relationships I have in which I have the opportunity to truly share life, as I call it. Whether it’s with the teens I teach and hang out with at church, my staff, my customers, my family, or even myself, I believe there is much to be gained in sharing life with one another on a daily basis.

The end of this book could not have come at a better time for me. While on this 10 day vacation that we’re on, I’m having the opportunity to live on “island time,” to put the clocks away and schedule by daylight, amount of heat, rain showers, and naptimes. It’s been a wonderful and much needed catalyst to reflect on where my efforts are currently at in life, and if they are truly focused on the real sharing of life that I believe they should be.

As I got to the end of this book, I was reminded that every day – in fact, every moment – is an opportunity to be sharing life. However, that doesn’t mean that every “opportunity” should be taken. There are distractions, both those I am unprepared for in my own naievety and those that are actually in opposition to what I desire to do, that I must be prepared for. Some of these are very inviting distractions. But what they do is feed me, instead of feeding others.

A guy named Nelson Henderson once said, “Life is about planting trees under whose shade you never expect to sit.” In the world of trees, this makes much sense. Unless one stays in the same place for decades, that seedling you planted will be more “in the way” (of the mower, primarily) than it is beneficial for the shade it provides. But how else will a grove of trees be planted where none existed before? Long term planning, and living with the end in mind, are constant reminders that what we do now DOES matter, but not just for the here and now. Ultimately, life is all about the benefits others will receive after me, through me, and even in spite of me.

As Tony Dungy said it, “”Rewards can’t be your primary motivation . You have to derive satisfaction from seeing your group flourish and achieve its goals
and to see EVERYONE reap the benefits of success.”

So I’ve been thinking… in sharing life as I do with others, am I doing so for their benefit, or for my own reward? Upon some thought and introspection, I’m finding that there are still quite a few places where I’m pouring a lot of energy into things – relationships, tasks, whatever – for reasons that are ultimately selfish. In turn, those I am sharing life with in fact be the objects of a life-sucking experience that they need not be.

No matter what the cost, I am committed to share life with others. To find those I can reach out to and bring them along in any means I can. Although he was talking about setting boundaries in relationships with those we mentor, I think this line by Dungy sums it all up:

“Yes Its important to have boundaries in mentoring relationships. But the important thing is to do everything you can for the benefit of the other person. If you keep that in mind, you’ll never cross the line and go beyond where you should.”

What a great statement. What a convicting statement. Are the relationships I have – even ones where I do all the listening, the serving, or whatever – geared toward my own benefit? “Yes” could certainly be the answer to that in many cases… I derive satisfaction from so many places, but if I’m totally honest, I must say that it means a lot – to me – to be told that I’m helping someone. Or to feel wanted, or to feel needed. While that’s certainly not a bad thing – I think we all need those moments of affirmation – they don’t need to be the defining lifestyle I live for, but rather moments of affirmation, rocks to add to the pile, and reminders that the lifestyle of serving and helping others is what truly matters.

I’m excited to see where this takes me. I find that reading, getting away from the clock, and reconnecting with my family has a way of reprioritizing much of what I do. And even though we’re only gone for 10 days here, that’s a big thing for me, and very welcome. Walking back into “the matrix” will of course be tough, both because of the pile of things I’m sure that will be there, but also to maintain traction with things God is teaching me while He has more of my attention than normal. Life is seasonal, and I am truly grateful for this season I’m having right now, no matter what “the cost” may be to my comfort level down the road.