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Do You Have a Mentor?

Joe Greengard, left, and Kay Hirai. Photo courtesy of Kay Hirai

By Keiko Kay Hirai
For The North American Post

If you don’t have a mentor right now, you might think about starting a search for one. Why? Because chances are, if you find someone who is a good fit for your personality and lifestyle, you will be able to live your life with more confidence and the reassurance that you are headed in the right direction toward fulfilling your life goals.

What is my definition of a suitable mentor?

A mentor is generally someone who:
• Has a higher understanding or knowledge than you do either in life experiences, in a certain area of expertise or both
• Shares your values and expectations
• You admire
• You feel comfortable with enough to share your inner-most feelings

If you find someone who fits this description and this person is willing to spend the time with you either as a friend or as an advisor, consider yourself very lucky.

Why do we need mentors in our lives? As all of us go through the process of “living life,” many obstacles and challenges undoubtedly come our way. These distractions make it almost impossible for us to clearly make our way and remain on course toward achieving our dreams. As a result, the BIG PICTURE is often lost in the process. As you know, it is easy to get an opinion from someone but it is difficult to decipher the good advice from the bad advice when it is offered to you.

I feel very fortunate because I have a wonderful mentor named Joe Greengard. Joe is someone whom I admire and respect. I first became friends with Lila, who is Joe’s wife. She was an early client of Studio 904 and we have been good friends since our initial meeting. When I subsequently met Joe, he was busy running a clothing manufacturing business in Seattle and had little time for anything else. If I had asked him then to be my mentor, it probably would not have worked out. After he sold his business and had more time on his hands, however, I thought about approaching him to see if he would be available to give me advice on future planning not only for my business but also for my personal life.

After being in business for over thirty years, I still sometimes got confused on the proper road to take from time to time. Because my business was then considered to be in its “mature” stage, my concerns were no longer about running a day-to-day business operation; they were more about strategic, long-term planning.

As a result, it was very difficult to find people who had the necessary expertise to help me. When I eventually turned to Joe and asked him if he would be willing to mentor me, I was delighted when he said “Yes!” It has been over ten years now and I love getting his occasional phone call suggesting, “Kay, let’s meet for lunch and look over your finances and talk about where you are going.”

I am fortunate that Joe had owned his successful business, named “Collectibles.” Personally, I have more faith in getting advice from a real business owner who has worked hard and made a success because of his or her efforts. They have been in the trenches, learned the “ins and outs” of running a business and are usually more realistic and pragmatic in their approach in contrast to consultants, who get many of their ideas from reading business books.

When I meet with Joe, it is often at a time when I feel as though all the doors have closed around me, making me feel hopeless and lost. After presenting my problems to him, however, he never fails to say, “Now wait a minute, Kay! Before you give up, let’s explore some other options!” He always helps me find the proverbial “little crack in the door opening where the light shines through.”

Joe is physically fit, leads a disciplined life and treats his family and everyone around him with the utmost kindness. His mind is extremely sharp and he is always ready to help others solve their problems. I hope you can find a “Joe” in your life…someone you respect and value as much as I do.

Be on the lookout for my next column. I will share a section from my upcoming book on some of the things with which Joe has helped me to succeed in my business.

Editor’s Note: Kay Hirai is the author of “Yumi’s Life Lessons, How to Empower Yourself and Turn Every Day into a Happy Day.” Signed copies may be purchased at Kay’s salon, Studio 904 on Mercer Island or online at amazon.com and chinmusicpress.com.