Orrin Woodward LIFE Leadership Team

Winner of the 2011 Independent Association of Business Top Leader Award; Orrin Woodward shares his leadership secrets.

Mentoring – Learning to Think Through Life

Posted by Orrin Woodward on March 22, 2008

I read a fantastic article by Rick Beneteau on giving and listening.  It reminded me of the role of mentoring in helping someone think properly through their life.  Life can be tough and it certainly isn’t always a bed of roses.  If life is tough for everyone, why do some people seem to ride the waves from peak to peak, but others are buried by the waves?  I believe it is not what happens to you in life, but how you think about what happens to you in life that matters most.  Do you see your current challenges, roadblocks, and setbacks as evidence of no opportunity or do you see the same situations as evidence that God has a BIG plan for you!  Think about it for a minute!  If God is calling you for a big assignment—wouldn’t it make sense that He would place some major challenges in your life to develop character first?  God must develop the person for the assignment given and challenges are a great way to develop the necessary character for advanced assignments.  Instead of fighting our fate, let’s be drawn to our destiny! 

 

When Laurie and I sit down to mentor couples, we tell them to share with us the good, the bad, and the ugly.  We are not listening so we can have a pity party with the couple.  We listen to celebrate the good, make adjustments for the bad and address the ugly immediately.  Every great leader has had good, bad and ugly things happen to them, but the key is how they are thinking through the situations.  How are you thinking through the good, the bad, and the ugly in your life?  Do you secretly enjoy the bad and the ugly things that are happening?  Many people surprisingly do!  The reason for this secret enjoyment is they feel it justifies their lack of results and causes others to feel sorry for them.  DO NOT EVER PLAY THE ROLE OF VICTIM!  It may feel good to have others feel sorry for you, but it is a drug that creates a harmful life addiction.  YOU are a champion and all champions will have to overcome the bad and the ugly in their life.  We are not training people to be victims, so take the bad things that happen to you as God’s way of developing character.  The greatest gift a mentor can give to you is the absolute belief that you have what it takes inside of you to overcome your present difficulties and win in the game of life.  Laurie and I believe strongly that all of us have what it takes and we have dedicated our life to teach others how to think through their difficulties to be champions in the game of life!  We must give to others, but the best thing to give to others is a champion’s way of thinking through life.  Anything else that we give to them is giving less than our personal best!  God Bless, Orrin Woodward

 

“Give ’til it hurts.” You’ve probably heard this a thousand times. I know I have. A well-intentioned expression that I always found somewhat strange as “giving” and “hurt” are concepts that seem to be polar opposite.

 

I want to share with you a personal story where “giving” in fact “hurt” a person I was trying to help. In order to do that, I need to give you a little background about myself. Please indulge me.

 

For whatever reason the universe has, I have been blessed to have had many people seek my counsel during my fifty years of living. They trusted that I could help them in some way.

 

I’ve been told that I am a good listener. Coupled with an inherent desire to help others, even during my high school days, I seemed to become the counselor of choice for many of my peers.

 

I vividly recall private chats I had with my high school cohorts, normally conducted in my sooped-up ’67 ‘Cuda, during lunch, spare periods or skipped-out classes. Problems about girlfriends, boyfriends, teachers and parents were the norm. Usually self- esteem issues were at the core, as is the case with most problems thirty years later.

 

And later, my twenty-and-thirty-something friends and family members, as well as many of the employees in my drycleaning business, could always count on complete confidence and my objectivity when discussing problems that they had in their personal lives.

 

As life moved along, I was faced with a myriad of not only challenges to overcome, but tragedies to deal with. The death of two of my siblings, my father and many close family members and friends, business losses, divorce and being the parent of a special needs child were among them. The lessons learned and the strength gained from these life experiences ultimately led to what I have chosen to do with my life today.

 

But being pretty well-schooled in life does not always mean that one has the right answers though.

 

He has been in my life a long time. I was mostly always on the listening end. Conversation after conversation he would laundry-list his assorted problems. And, as many “victims of life” have it, they were never in short supply. I would allow him to “share” his stories of suffering, time after time, consuming much of mine. Like the traditional psychologist, I would just listen, as I felt listening was a large part of “my role” in trying to help him.

 

Thing was, no matter what suggestions I would offer to try to help him, the problems not only remained, but amplified over time. He never acted on my advice and I eventually began to feel rather impotent and confused about how I could make a difference in his life.

 

Suddenly, in a conversation last year, at a point where I became very irritated at listening to his negativity, it struck me. This person was receiving so much more benefit from knowing I was listening to him spew about his miserable life than he ever would from finding solutions and improving it. It finally dawned on me that he LOVED having problems!

 

I hadn’t helped him. Not one bit. In fact, for years, I was simply feeding this need in him. I was helping him to have a great time at his own pity party. All this time my giving was, in fact, hurting him!

 

He was shocked when I interrupted him mid-sentence and blurted out that I didn’t want to listen to any more about his problems. There was an awkward silence but when he finally asked me “why” I quickly reassured him that I was still interested in helping him. But it was not going to be on his terms anymore. The new deal would have to be that from this conversation forward, we would not discuss the past. Only the present and future. We would address current issues by working on solutions. He would need to act on my suggestions. Things such as reading certain books or listening to certain tapes and making small adjustments in his thinking that would produce positive results. Our future conversations would consist only of discussing the changes he would sincerely attempt to make to improve his life. He seemed somewhat stunned, and reluctantly agreed.

 

Those next few times we talked though he tried very hard to steer the conversation down his familiar road attempting to inform me of the latest, greatest grief in his life. But I didn’t allow that, sticking to the agreed-upon plan and changing direction to our new proactive approach.

 

You know what? It really didn’t take too long before the tone of our conversations became more positive in nature and soon he was beginning to “get” some important concepts about how his mind, and the universe, really worked. He started reading and listening to materials I suggested. He was beginning to learn that his current results were the product of his current thinking and that he was never a victim of life – not for one minute! That growth has continued.

 

Now we have great talks, often upbeat, and any real problem he has is briefly outlined and then discussed in such a way that a solution can be found and acted upon. In fact, I’ve become comfortable sharing some of my problems with him! More than once he’s reminded me to take some of my own medicine!

 

It’s both magical and comforting to me at the same time to know that when the simple truths of how things work in this world are realized, things can really begin to change for the better and in a big way. It’s unfortunate that it took so long for me to realize how I could better serve my friend, but then, the universe has it’s own timing for things like this.

 

It is my hope that if you have been trying to help someone like my friend and find yourself doing a lot of “listening”, that just maybe, your giving is hurting.

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