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Being Mentored by Gen Colin Powell

I know you spend so much time and energy trying to connect with mentors or others who can sharpen you and visa versa, but it can be so tough! Your mentor has to be in the right phase of their life to be able to take on the task and time requirements of regularly meeting with you, and this is getting tougher and tougher to do in today’s world. When I was in the middle east, I felt very lonely. It was tough to connect with those around me, because we didn’t really have anything in common besides our service. And in a rough-and-tough work place that doesn’t do vulnerability well, it’s easy to feel isolated. Thank goodness for BOOKS!

I’d had a love affair with books when I was a little girl, but that hobby went by the wayside as soon as I started working. I poured all of me into my job which meant I had zero time left for curling up with a good book. And then I went to far places of the world where I felt super isolated. Climbing up the ranks at work meant there were fewer and fewer people with things in common with my peers, and while I had great, well-intended bosses, it was tough to connect on a personal level with them. They were usually geographically separated from me or things just weren't clicking.

Then a dear friend introduced me to the world of audiobooks. I was able to listen to books while I commuted, cleaned, and brushed my teeth. The multi-tasker in me rejoiced, and my soul almost immediately felt the impact. I initially picked up work-related books. “Duty” by former SecDef Robert Gates was magical for me, because he talked about his struggles with our policy in Iraq as well as in the E-ring of the Pentagon. A lot of his insights and lessons learned had been things I’d felt on an intuitive level years earlier while I was in Iraq and other middle eastern countries doing the work on the ground. This was really important to me, because it helped confirm that my gut instinct had always been right on. Where I previously would dismiss or invalidated those thoughts because I didn’t have hard proof in front of me, I learned that I really needed to listen when my intuition was telling me something because it had actually never been wrong.

I’m sure you saw in the news that Colin Powell died yesterday. While I was deeply saddened that our country lost such an incredible human, I was also immediately flooded with comfort at thinking about how two of his books – “My American Journey” and “It Worked For Me: Lessons in Life and Leadership” – filled my soul during some of the darkest and loneliest periods of my life. The mentorship I so desperately needed in that season was tucked away between those life-giving pages. As Colin poured out insights on his unlikely ascent to the top of the federal government to his biggest failures discussed in detail, it felt like his book had been written just for me during that difficult season.

“Reading is an honor and a gift from a warrior or historian who—a decade or a thousand decades ago—set aside time to write. He distilled a lifetime of campaigning in order to have a conversation with you.” - former SecDef Jim Mattis from his book “Call Sign Chaos”

And so, if you are struggling with finding the right mentors and encouragement in your life, I’d love to encourage you to pick up a book – or your ear buds – and give books another chance. There are millions or even billions of books out there all written by people who wanted to impart their own wisdom, so you don’t have to suffer or experience pain the way they did. If you don’t have the disposable income to purchase books, I recommend checking out your local library. In addition to hard copy and books in CD format, they also have audiobooks you can download onto your device FOR FREE usually via the Libby or Overdrive apps. (Libraries are glorious!)

Here’s a list of other books that have been deeply impactful to me:

· When you feel like you’re alone in your experiences…

Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown

· When you feel overwhelmed and burned out by life…

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

· When you feel like an outsider…

Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst

· When you want to take better care of your body…

Bare by Susan Hyatt

· When you want to learn how to lead authentically and blaze a path for something new but don’t know how…

Creativity Inc: Overcoming The Unseen Forces That Stand In the Way of

Inspiration” by Ed Catmull (founder of Pixar)

· When you don’t have a creative bone in your body, but you want to grow one…

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

· When you want to develop a more strategic way to combat spiritual attacks…

War Room by Priscilla Shirer

I was recently featured on “LinkedIn News,” because of my commentary on how Gen Powell impacted my life. If you want to read more about Gen Powell's impact on my life,

Photo credits:

  • Random House Publishing, "My American Journey"

  • Harper Collins Publishing, "It Worked For Me: In Life and Leadership"


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