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Leader of the Month: Ben Colas

Posted on 12 January 2018

I am fortunate to have several mentors who have been instrumental in helping my personal and professional development. Some I've met through my church and others I have been introduced to through various organizations (SEA Change, JumpStart, Cleveland Leadership Center, Teach for America).

There are a few particular ways in which my mentors have been especially helpful in my development. The first way is guiding me in regards to integrating my faith and work. As a Christian, I believe my faith should be shaping all aspects of my life, including my work, but as a teacher and entrepreneur, what does this look like practically? 2 particularly helpful reminders have been the call to work with excellence and remember that all people are created in God's image and therefore have inherent value. Ask any teacher, and if they're being honest, they'll admit that there are some students who are difficult to love. I am called to love my students and treat them with dignity and respect regardless of whether they are or aren't meeting my expectations because of the inherent value they have as human beings.

A second area that my mentors have been extremely helpful is in weighing through personal and professional decisions. It is very rare that I'll present an opportunity and a mentor will say, "you definitely should pursue A," or "you definitely should pursue B." Rather, they are unbelievably gifted at asking great questions which helps make a more informed, holistic decision. What are the implications of leaving X to pursue Y? Are these the only two options or is there a different way of looking at it? How would you maintain these relationships in that capacity? If you want to be at this point in 5 years, walk me through how this step could be helpful in moving in that direction. There have been countless times that someone asking me challenging questions has opened my eyes to my own biases and blind spots and helped me confidently make a better decision.

There have been so many other ways that my mentors have been huge in my development. 2 years ago, KinderKits was an idea. This year, over 5,000 families received readiness kits. I had studied finance but had no practical experience in entpreneurship, marketing, web design, logistics, etc. Having mentors who were patient enough and willing to sacrifice their time to coach me, provide insights, give direct feedback, and introduce me to others in their network with great experience has been huge.

Each day, it become more and more evident to me how little I know and how ignorant I am in regards to so many things. At the same time, there are countless people in my community with a wealth of knowledge and expertise on every topic imaginable. I am grateful to have had opportunities to tap into the knowledge of a few of these people and call them mentors. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone and offer to buy them drinks in exchange for the chance to pick their brain.

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