Monday, April 14, 2014

An Ode to My Mentor, Arnie Thomas

2012 Running Start Women to Watch Awards

My mentor, life coach, and dear friend Arnie Thomas recently passed.  I would like to share with you some of the invaluable lessons he taught me.  I can't begin to share all the wisdom I gained from him, but hopefully you can learn a thing or two.  He wrote regularly for Everyday Mentor, and I highly recommend you read his direct words there.

I hope someday you can find an amazing mentor like Arnie!  I pray that someday I can be an incredible mentor to someone else, the way he was to me.  Arnie touched the lives of many. 

If you so feel compelled, I am sure Arnie and his family would be most grateful if you considered making a donation of any amount in his honor to Running Start, the organization that we served together on the board of directors.  I'm so grateful to Running Start for bringing Arnie into my life.  Thank you very much for giving back to Arnie's dream of empowering women leaders!

What Arnie Taught Me

"What Can I Do to Be of Service to You in the Future?"

Arnie embodied Dale Carnegie's philosophy of putting yourself in someone else's shoes.  He taught me to always, without hope of personal gain, offer myself to help others.  When sending emails to others, he told me to end with the words, "Please always let me know how I can be of service to you in the future."  When interviewing for jobs, he encouraged me to ask the interviewer, "What is your biggest challenge?  How do you see me helping with that?"  Everyone has a challenge they are dealing with.  Try to figure out what that is and how you can assist them in that endeavor.  The best way to grow in your success and happiness is by helping others.  Together, we can make the world a better place. 

Be Vulnerable

One of my favorite Arnie lessons was when he encouraged me to listen to Brené Brown's Ted Talk about The Power of Vulnerability. Arnie taught me that to be vulnerable with others was a strength and not a weakness.

Be an Avid Reader

Arnie was a demanding coach!  Each week, he gave me a book to read that we would then discuss.  Reading is one of the best ways to stay on top of trends and reflect on your growth. 

Recognize Your Bad Habits & Cultivate New Habits

One of the best books Arnie made me read was The Power Of Habit - Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg.  I now recognize my triggers for bad habits and how to create incentives to modify that behavior. 

Classy is a State of Mind

Arnie taught me that no matter where you come from in life, you have the choice to create new possibilities for yourself.  First and foremost you must respect yourself, and not settle to be treated any such less by others.  If others no long serve you in this way, you need to let them go.  You are not obligated to persist in unhealthy relationships.

How to Find a Mentor/Coach

Arnie and I met while serving together on the board of Running Start, a national nonprofit preparing young women for political leadership.  I really liked him the moment I met him, and always knew I wanted to get to know him better.  At the time we met, I worked for a women's leadership nonprofit, and we were starting a mentoring program.  I knew he was an expert on mentoring, so I asked him to coffee and he shared his advice with me.  I then invited him to a networking reception for our organization.  I continued to see him at board meetings, and always smiled when I saw him.  He exuded positive energy.

It wasn't until about a year after casually knowing him that we entered into a more formal mentoring relationship.  I had entered a period of significant personal and professional transition, and knew I needed help.  I was going through my mental Rolodex of my network to find support and Arnie came to my mind.  I asked him again to coffee to seek his wisdom on how to navigate this new hardship.  He suggested we work together formally and he offered to be my life coach.  For a period of about seven months, we met almost weekly in the halls of the Willard Hotel or at Bistro Bis. Arnie was always nothing but class!

I can't emphasize enough the value of making the personal investment of time and money to work with a life coach.  I have had many other mentors and am indebted to them, but engaging in a formal, regular mentoring relationship through coaching yields different results.  For all the money you spend on yourself on Starbucks, clothes, and manicures, a more long lasting investment would be working with a coach!  You can only take yourself so far in your personal development.  You need the help of another to teach you what you don't know that you don't know.

Arnie believed in me during a time when I did not believe in myself.  He taught me ways to be self-sufficient for my personal happiness and well being.  I couldn't be where I am today without his support.

In terms of choosing a coach, I recommend finding someone who shares your values, but also is distinctly different from you.  Like me, Arnie was a feminist, and also a Catholic.  However, I feel I highly benefited from working with a male coach.  I have always worked in female dominated workplaces, and the vast majority of my personal and professional network was female.  Having a trusted male perspective was extremely helpful!

So if there are people in your life you admire, respect, and want to get to know better, just ask them to grab a coffee.  It could lead to a life changing mentoring relationship!

Learn more from Arnie!  Check out the resources below: