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  • Writer's pictureCaleb Jost


The author Steve Maraboli said it best that "my mistakes have been my greatest mentors" because up through my 30's, I was making plenty of them. I was the headstrong master of my destiny. I could do it myself, but it was lonely flying solo. I had no one to bounce ideas off and no one's experience to help me avoid the common pitfalls of my profession.

I don't know if it was because I started thinking more about mentorship or because it was becoming a more common practice, but by the mid-2000's it seemed that mentorship was in the mainstream. Young engineers and students were starting to ask me if I would be their mentor. I was a bit nervous about this: how could I be a Mentor if I never had one?

Given my lack of experience with mentorship, I took a two-pronged approach. First, I researched what it takes to be a good mentor. I read books, articles, and everything else I could get my hands on. Secondly, I found mentors so that I could experience this mentorship-thing for myself, and it ended up being one of the best decisions of my life. I learned a lot from all my Mentors, ranging from entrepreneurs and industry leaders to academics. I learned the most from a man named Norm.

Dr. Norman Abrahamson is among the highly revered scientists and engineers that my cohorts in earthquake engineering and I affectionately call the "greybeards." The greybeards are true thought leaders and the founders of our particular niche of earthquake engineering and seismology.

Of all the greybeards, Norm, a world-renowned rock-star in engineering seismology, is one of the greatest. Cited in over 8,500 publications and projects spanning the globe, Norm is the one you call if your project is so unique or your problem is so complicated that no one else can solve it. His time is precious (upwards of $500/hr) and in short supply, but he saw something in me and made the time to offer mentorship.

A Mentor like Norm changes the trajectory of careers. I know because I experienced it. I am incredibly blessed to receive these gifts, and I feel compelled to share. Based on my research, a lot of Norm's guidance, and my own experiences, I developed tips for developing the three essential qualities that can transform you into a mentoring maven.


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