Five years ago, as a highly ambitious and involved first-year student at the University of Alberta, I caught up for drinks one night with a former student association president, someone who for months I was told would be great to meet. We met at the local neighbourhood restaurant, the Sugarbowl, and chatted about politics and people for a good hour over drinks. I can’t recall much about what we discussed; however, I certainly remember being thrilled to meet this person, and will forever cherish the fact that we were able to connect.
At the time, I was only in my first year of university, and despite serving on Students’ Council, knew little about what was in store over the next four years in Edmonton. However, I will never forget that a former student association president, and now one of the province’s most well-known leaders in education and politics, took the time out of his evening to introduce himself to me and share his insights. It was a small gesture that has nevertheless influenced my life in a positive way.
This individual and I now meet on a semi-regular basis, and discuss books, philosophy, politics and a wide range of other topics. Thankfully, I can say the same about a great number of mentors — some professors, some politicians and business leaders, and then some in completely different and strange fields — who have taken the time out of their lives to meet with someone only starting out in his career path, and potentially set him on new and interesting trajectories. Over time, many of these mentors have become friends, and we now work together in formal business settings as opportunities arise. Because of these people, I view mentorship as one of the greatest responsibilites for those who have experienced success in their lives.
A few years ago, another role-model in my life, my Mum, remarked that you can tell a lot about someone based on the people they surround themselves with. If someone puts themselves around people who are engaged, who care about what they’re doing and who push each other to succeed — then that someone is likely of a similar breed. Conversely, if someone puts themselves around individuals who demonstrate little motivation to give back to the world, and who zap their energy, then you can’t help but wonder why that someone selects these people as friends. Indeed, our mentors and friends shape us, and are very much a reflection of the types of people we strive to be.
Whether we are starting a new school year, entering another business cycle or travelling somewhere entirely new in the world, it’s worth reflecting on our short and medium-term life goals. Yet, it’s just as important to consider who we choose to surround ourselves with, seeking those who inspire us most and encourage us to become better versons of ourselves. Whether we reach out to these individuals or they come to us, every meeting and interaction serves as a positive step forward in living a more challenging and ultimately, fulfilling life.