Learning Through a Mentor
About the Guest
Author Kent Evans encourages men to unlock the hidden wisdom of others by seeking them out as mentors. Evans remembers how a former employer called him to task when he didn't have a project finished on time. Evans still marvels at the hard lesson he learned that day and continues to seek out mentors for himself.
Author Kent Evans encourages men to unlock the hidden wisdom of others by seeking them out as mentors.
Learning Through a Mentor
Bob: Do you have someone that you can turn to who will help provide you with wisdom, good advice—help you get pointed in the right direction? Kent Evans says there are guys out there willing to help.
Kent: I put a lot of the burden of mentorship back on the protégé. The reason I say that is because, for anything I’ve ever chased and wanted to learn, I had no trouble finding a guy who would teach me. I remember one of my long-time relationships—I’ve known this guy almost 20 years now, and he’s a great ministry guy—I met him because he spoke at a lunch. He spoke up there; and I thought: “He’s a good speaker,”—a Christian guy—“He knows the Bible.” So I called him and said, “Can we have lunch?” You know, I’m not holding myself as the perfect example, but what I am saying is—guys will respond if you genuinely want their help.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, March 24th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.
The Bible says if anyone lacks wisdom, let him ask of God. There are godly men and godly women whom we can be asking for counsel. We’ll explore that subject more today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Who would you say, other than your dad—in high school, was there anybody? Was there a coach? Was there a mentor or somebody, who was a little older—not a peer—but somebody, who was a little older than you, who marked your life and pointed you in a significant direction?
Dennis: Well, it was around athletics. I wouldn’t say there was a spiritual direction to where they were pointing me, but I had a coach by the name of Bud Routh. Bud was a great coach. I played for him, as I recall, from the time I was a freshman until I was a senior.
I was the sixth man on the varsity squad.
Bob: This was basketball you were playing; right?
Dennis: Basketball—right—when I was a freshman. I learned how to compete at a very, very high level with a guy who knew how to win. There are a lot of lessons to be passed on to a young man around that theme.
Bob: When we were raising our boys, one of the things I recognized was that I would probably, for good or for ill, leave the biggest mark on their life. Just because of the amount of time they were going to spend in my presence, I was going to mark them more than anybody else. But I also recognized that, for them to grow up to maturity, they needed more than just me leaving marks on their lives. They needed other men around them, who were pointing them in the right direction as well.
Dennis: That’s right. That’s exactly what we’re going to do today, Bob—we’re going to provide a man to stimulate dads, grandfathers, young men to love and good deeds.
Kent Evans joins us again on FamilyLife Today. Kent—thanks for being the number one draft choice to stimulate all of these men around the country to be God’s man. That’s quite a responsibility! [Laughter]
Kent: This is the first team I’ve ever made! That’s fantastic! [Laughter]
Dennis: That’s pretty cool!
Kent is the co-founder of Manhood Journey, a ministry that helps fathers and mentors build into the next generation of men. He has been married to April since 1995. He has four boys, and did you say you have another one on the way?
Dennis: —on the way from Ethiopia.
Kent: You’ve got it, sir! I’m looking forward to seeing little Titus get home soon.
Dennis: Yes! That’s cool! He has written a book called Wise Guys: Unlocking Hidden Wisdom from the Men Around You.
Sometimes, the men around you show up in some interesting places. In your life, you had a guy that you were working for who was a builder of roofs.
You actually shared this story a little earlier, but I wanted you to unpack more of the story. Share what your relationship was like with this guy and the impact he had as he confronted you around something.
Kent: Yes; some guys lead out of being really vocal, and very dominant, and hyper, and loud. That’s kind of sometimes is the path I pick, which is not always a good path. This gentleman, Rick Steinrock—he led from a position of calm confidence. He never raised his voice / never got out of hand.
I owed him something. I was in the marketing business, and he was my customer. I was not delivering for him. So he kept calling me. True story—I just avoided him. I didn’t return his calls / I didn’t return his emails—I just did nothing. The problem with that is—if you’re going to avoid somebody, don’t go to the same church they do. [Laughter] That is just too risky; right?
One day, we were coming out of church. Rick said, “Hey, Kent!” I mean, seriously, guys, I was in such a place, spiritually, that, if I could have hidden behind a garbage can, I probably would have; but he had already seen me. He said, “Do you have a second?” I said, “Yes”; and I knew this was going to hurt. We walked back into the sanctuary—a big sanctuary. There were just two guys in it—he and I.
He said, “You know,” and he just looked me in the eye. In about 20 seconds, he just goes: “I get the sense you’re avoiding me. I think it’s because you don’t have the project done. As a business guy, I think you, you know, you should do better. But, as a brother in Christ, I’m really disappointed.” That was it. You know, deep down, I wanted him to get irate, or throw something at me, or yell, or use foul language so I could deflect or do something other than just acknowledge: “Yes; man, you got me. You’re right.”
Now, he closed it by saying, “But I think you’ll figure it out, and I look forward to getting this finished.” He moved on. Several years later, he sent me a gift card to a steakhouse. We’ve repaired our relationship. So, through his graciousness, he continued to allow me to work with and for him on projects. But, man, that was a great example of Galatians 6, where it says, “When someone is caught in a trespass, restore them gently so you will not also be tempted.” Rick did a magnificent job of restoring me gently, because that was his heart. His heart wasn’t to ridicule or rebuke; his heart was to restore me.
Bob: You know, Rick modeled something there—just in terms of initiative—that I think a lot of guys today shy away from.
Dennis: I think you’re exactly right, Bob. I think a lot of guys, at points, may be fearful—
Dennis: —and think, “You know, the easiest thing to do here is nothing.” So that’s exactly what they do. They don’t realize they may be a key person in that younger man’s life to call him up and out of something that he’s into.
Bob: Well, in fact, one of the reasons that there is not as much mentoring happening as I think all of us would like to see happening is because, I think, guys are a little scared of relationship—a little shy. It’s easier to just go home and watch ESPN than it is to get involved in one another’s lives. We’re going to be exposed / we’re going to be found out—we can’t be posers like we all like to be. How do we get over that hurdle so that we can reap the benefits of being engaged with other men?
Kent: I put a lot of the burden of mentorship back on the protégé. The reason I say that is because, for anything I’ve ever chased and wanted to learn, I had no trouble finding a guy who would teach me; you know? It’s not because I’m perfect at this—I’m not.
But what I know is—I remember one of my long-time relationships. I’ve known this guy almost 20 years now, and he’s a great ministry guy—I met him because he spoke at a lunch. He spoke up there and I thought: “Man, he’s pretty good. He’s a good speaker,”—a Christian guy—“He knows the Bible.” So I called him and said, “Can we have lunch?” You know, I’m not holding myself as the perfect example, but what I am saying is—guys will respond if you genuinely want their help.
Bob: And I think it’s important to say, when you called him and said, “Can we have lunch?” you made it easy for him to say, “Yes.”
I had a guy come to me one time and he said, “Would you mentor me?” Honestly, when he said that, I had these thoughts going on in my head: “First of all, I don’t know what exactly you’re asking me to do,” and “If I say, ‘Yes,’ to this, I don’t know what kind of a commitment I’m making here,”—
Dennis: Right; right.
Bob: —and “I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do. If I say, ‘Yes,’ I don’t know what Step One is in mentoring you.” And so, I was like, “I don’t know how to answer that!”
But if he had said: “Hey, can we go out to lunch? I’d just like to ask you some questions.” I’m up for that anytime; right?
Kent: I’ll tell you—I went to lunch a couple weeks ago with our former pastor, who was the pastor of our church for 40 years!
Bob: Bob Russell.
Kent: Bob Russell, an amazing man.
Bob: Great guy.
Kent: He will always give me time if I ask for it. I just asked Bob one question, and I got 90 minutes of advice. Do you know what the question was? “Hey, Bob, I’m new at this ministry game. You’ve seen this—you’ve had a wide-angle lens on ministry forever. How can I blow this?”
I got everything from fund-raising, to board development, to personal purity, to you-name-it; right? It was an hour-and-a-half of pure wisdom! It’s not because I’m a genius, but it’s because I’m willing to ask the question.
Kent: And I would love to see guys be willing to ask other guys: “Hey, man! You know, how did you do what you did?”
Dennis: So who has been the most influential mentor in your life?
Kent: Probably one of my early bosses. I’ll say this for a very specific reason—Frank Austin. You know, there are guys who are good at asking questions. You guys do radio, and you ask great questions. He’s like the Mariano Rivera of question-asking; right? [Laughter] I mean, he’s an amazing guy! He does it in a sales context. He’s made a lot of money selling. He taught me how to ask questions, and he taught me how to ask questions in a sequence that, if I needed to get you to do something—if I was trying to sell a product—I could ask you questions in a sequence. But, more importantly, he just taught me to be inquisitive and ask probing questions.
I can sit down with someone, who’s my superior—it’s like Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Every man I meet is in some way my superior; and in that, I endeavor to learn.”
I love that quote, because no matter whomever I meet—if I met a homeless person, who lives on the street, they could teach me how to live on the street; because I don’t know how to do that! So everyone I meet knows something I don’t; and in that, I try to learn.
Dennis: You’re talking about something there that, if a man is going to be a mentor, he ought to know where his—in baseball terms, we call it the fat part of the bat—where, if the baseball can hit it there, the ball really takes off. Every man, I believe, has got some fat-part-of-the-bat core lessons that they’ve learned in their lifetime that, frankly, they ought to be about passing on to the next generation.
In fact, that’s a good inventory for any man—especially men in their 30s, 40s, and 50s, as they get older—to ask about themselves and take that inventory to know where their messages are, because every man has some life messages.
It’s not just a pastor who has life messages / it’s not just authors of books who have life messages—everybody has got a story, and everyone has things they can pass on to the next generation.
Kent: You know, Dennis, in your book, Stepping Up, you listed a bunch of guys who had poured into you—I’m sure the list was even longer. I think one thing we get wrong about mentorship and protégé-ship is: “I’ve got to go to Bob, and he’s going to be my only mentor. He’s going to give me everything! Man!—finances / marriage—you name it!”
No! I look at it kind of like life. I can learn something from Bob, something from Dennis, something from my father-in-law, something from my brother-in-law. I can pull those things together, and I don’t have to submit to one mentor and put the pressure on that mentor to give me everything in life that I need! I looked at your list in the book, Stepping Up,and I thought, “Each of those guys had different things they could teach you.”
Dennis: And did. And what I encourage young men to do is to go and ask for a year—once-a-month, a meeting for a year—around a topic or around an area of life that they need to be developed in.
Then, at the end of the year, you can decide, like an insurance policy, if you want to re-up for another year or if you need to go in search of another mentor who may train you in another area.
Bob: You share a lot of the people who have mentored you—you share some of the stories in your book. Tell our listeners about Jim Hedley and his impact on your life.
Kent: Man, Jim Hedley is a former owner of a business that I worked at. One time, he and I were traveling in St. Louis. We were at a Chili’s® at the airport—I remember it clearly. I could probably take you guys back to the very table where we sat.
Dennis: Bob can probably tell you the table that you sat at. [Laughter]
Bob: I can tell you what you ordered!
Dennis: You mentioned two key things in that sentence—you said, “restaurant” and “St. Louis.” He grew up in St. Louis, and Bob has never met a restaurant he didn’t like. [Laughter]
Kent: Oh, that’s fantastic!
Dennis: He’s like Mark Twain. Did Mark Twain say that? [Laughter]
Kent: I didn’t know I stepped on a bomb there!
Dennis: You did! You did!
Kent: I believe I tripped it.
As we sat there, Jim was—you talk about intentional question-asking—Jim had the ability to ask you questions, and questions, and questions. It’s almost like, by the time you were done, you were standing over the trap door and—poof!—down you go! He knew, the whole time, he was getting you to the trap door.
What Jim did for me that day is—he asked me questions about my family, growing up, and he dove in. Here’s the boss of the company that I’m traveling with, just as a sales guy. It could be intimidating; but he stepped right into my personal life and said, “Tell me about your family—about your mom and dad.” I told him. I probably still had a little bit of that disappointment or anger in my voice about my upbringing, to a degree.
Jim said, “Do you know what every dad wants?” He just stopped me. I said, “I don’t know.” He said: “Every dad wants his children to know that he did the best he could with what he had. And if you could look back and think about most things your dad did do for you, he might like to hear that sometime.” It was powerful; because I had built this life around what didn’t go right and what wasn’t given to me, as a 13-year-old or 15-year-old.
What Jim taught me was, “You should probably go back and think about what he did right.” I wrote my dad a letter, and it was liberating for me.
Dennis: Is your dad still alive?
Kent: He is indeed.
Dennis: I’ve got a little assignment for you.
Dennis: And this is going to be an interesting assignment for you. A number of years ago—and, by the way, this is one of my life messages. I came about it, not because I was looking for it, but I started speaking to high school young men and women, and then, college guys. I began to find out the waters were deep around young men and young ladies and their parents / their fathers.
I began to speak to that out of the Ten Commandments, which, if you’ll re-read them again, the first four have to do with our relationship with God. Number five has to do with our horizontal relationship with our mother and father—it commands us to honor our parents. I gave a practical project to young men and older men—to write a tribute to their dad / to their mom.
Back then, when I developed this message, I asked them to—and challenged them—to typeset it / pay to get it typeset, and then pay to get it matted and framed, and then present it at a key holiday, or birthday, or anniversary, or just an occasion that is fitting for that, and read it, face to face, out loud.
Kent: I like it!
Bob: You’ve coached a lot of people on how to do this in the book that you wrote called The Forgotten Commandment. And you’ve heard from a lot of people the same thing we just heard from you about the liberation that comes when you step across that line and, instead of holding your parents hostage for the things that they didn’t do perfectly, you give them grace—instead, you honor them for what they did well.
Dennis: And I’ll tell you what I’ll do, with our listeners—I’ll read your tribute on air to your dad.
Kent: I accept the challenge.
Bob: So let’s go back to this idea of the need that we have to grow, and how other guys can help us in that, and then how God can use us in the lives of others. Somebody listening today needs an action point from this program. Would you say the action point ought to be to seek out a lunch with somebody you respect and just ask them a couple of questions? Is that how you start this process?
Kent: Yes; I think you could start there. I think one step—that you could even do first—would be: “What do you want to do?” One of the reasons I was attracted to that gentleman, who was speaking, was because I wanted to speak in public in a way that was not, you know, clumsy and horrible. I was attracted to him because I knew that was part of what I wanted my future to include. So I would say you can start with the lunch and just start out, right out of the gate. I would say you could also make a short list of two, or three, or four things that you want to get better at.
I mean, there’s a guy across the street from me, guys, whose yard is perfect! Now, I don’t really care that my yard be perfect; but if I did, I could walk across the street and get Dan to tell me, all day long, how to have a perfect lawn. So, for me, because I don’t really care about the yard being perfect, I don’t need to go talk to Dan.
So, for me, there’s a step before that that says: “What do you want to do? Do you want a better marriage? Do you want better finances? Do you want to be a better dad? Would you like to be a better son, like Dennis was pointing out a moment ago?” Fine! Identify those things, and then you’ll start to see people who are that way. If I want to be a better golfer, all of a sudden, I’m going to notice the guy who has a shirt on that has a country club [logo] on the side. It’s just that God’s going to work like that. I am going to say: “Aha! You can teach me how to be a better golfer.” So I think there is a part of this that is just: “Guys, what do you want to do?”
Dennis: That reminds me of a proverb I heard one time: “You can’t raise grass and kids simultaneously.” [Laughter]
Kent: Beautiful! Amen to that!
Dennis: You had a man who impacted your life, who has been a guest here on FamilyLife Today. He gives leadership to TrailLife USA, which is a ministry to boys—dads reaching down to the lives of boys and forming kind of scout groups of sorts. Mark Hancock had an impact on your life that was indelible.
Kent: You’ve probably experienced this, Dennis, where you have people who want to corner you on doctrinal issues. They want to have a debate about something in Scripture. I don’t like those debates. I think we end up pretty bad, and I don’t know that we approach them very well.
One day, I got a question at a TrailLife event, where we were exhibiting as a vendor. This question was doctrinally-related. Later, I asked Mark Hancock—bumped into him in the hall—and he has become a cherished friend and a true ally in the ministry fight. Mark and his son happened to walk by, and I had one of my teenaged sons nearby. I said: “Mark, what do you do with doctrinally-divisive issues. How do you handle those?”
Instead of answering the question, he turned to his son and said, “You know, I have some ideas; but why don’t you tell Mr. Evans what you think first.” In an instant, I learned four or five lessons--right then!--deference, humility, letting a young man give his best answer.
And then, after his young son answered—which, by the way, incidentally, was an amazingly articulate and intelligent answer—Mark just said, “Man, that’s a great point.” Then Mark added one idea that he had that did not compete with or overrule what his son said. It was a masterful move in how to bring your son into a conversation of manhood that another man was having. It was beautiful. I learned a lot in just a split second.
Dennis: Well, I want to exhort every man with a couple of points. Every man listening to this broadcast--whether you’re a teenager or whether you’re a grandfather—every man, listening to us, needs a mentor. You need to have someone that you have named who is building into your life. Then the second thing I want to say—to every teenager, and to every man in between to that of a sage, in the twilight years—is every man needs to be a mentor.
So the question is: “Who’s your mentor?” And the second question is: “Who are you mentoring?” You ought to be able to name them. You ought to have a couple of guys that you’re building into. For a teenager, you just need to reach down into junior high or into the freshman class of your high school. There are young men who need to be mentored, who need an older guy to look after them and take their influence, as an upperclassman, and make it count for something for Christ. You can have a big impact in a young man’s life.
For those of us who are a bit older, we need to look back over the landscape and think: “What’s my contribution here? How do I do this? What’s the best way to do this in the lives of the men that I know?” Then make yourself available. If you make yourself available to young men, I’m going to tell you—God will use you in a powerful way.
Bob: And one of the things you’ve modeled well—and that I think a lot of us have learned from you—is that, in that role, don’t just talk about your successes; but talk about what you’ve learned from where you’ve messed up in life.
Kent: That’s right.
Bob: Some of the most powerful lessons we can pass on to others are the lessons of our failures and how we can help them avoid stepping in the same potholes we’ve stepped in.
Dennis: And, Kent, I just appreciate you and your book, Wise Guys, doing that repeatedly—not only talking about some things that you know a lot about that are successes and what you’re modeling—but also the humility to share, out of your defeats, those lessons you’ve learned. I just appreciate you / I appreciate the book. I hope a lot of guys will not just listen to today’s broadcast and go: “That was entertaining. That was good”; but I hope they will do something about it.
Kent: That’s right.
Dennis: Thank you for being on FamilyLife Today. I hope you’ll come back and join us again sometime.
Kent: It’s my pleasure. Thank you, guys.
Bob: And let me just say that one of the things guys can do in response to today’s program is to get a copy of your book—it’s called Wise Guys: Unlocking Hidden Wisdom from the Men Around You. We’ve got it in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center.
Go online at FamilyLifeToday.com to order a copy. This would be great for a group of men to go through together. Again, the book is called Wise Guys by Kent Evans. Order from FamilyLifeToday.com, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order.
Let me also mention Dennis’s book, Stepping Up—another great book for guys to go through together. There’s a companion video series / a ten-part video series you can go through as well. You’ll find all of these resources on our website, FamilyLifeToday.com. Or order when you call 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
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And with that, we’ve got to wrap things up for this week. Thanks for being with us.
I hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend.
And I hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to start getting you ready for what ought to be the biggest celebration your family has all year as we get ready for the coming of Easter. Barbara Rainey will be here to talk about how you can be prepared and things moms and dads can do so that the kids look at Easter differently in your home. I hope you can tune in for that on Monday.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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