Pro Tip: Establishing personal and professional success is often a result of paying it forward.

On January 30th, 2023, I lost the one person responsible for getting me started in the baking industry.

Sometimes you never take the time to reflect and give a meaningful “thank you” until all the grains of sand have quietly passed through the little opening in the hourglass of life.

Saying I was Junior Brixey’s son long served as an easy way into a conversation with some level of instant credibility. Later, it became an expression of pride. He was a mentor personally and professionally and everyone needs someone like that in their life.

But which is better? To have a great mentor or to be a great mentor? I’d say both. You need mentors in your life to guide you and counsel you, and it doesn’t hurt to have someone who’s established in your field make introductions and put in a good word for you.

Being a great mentor is equally important for sharing the knowledge that you’ve gleaned throughout the years and making connections that can benefit you, your mentee and those around you. It’s a positive loop that is necessary to being a well-rounded success.

To be a mentor means being available and accessible to those who need it most. Assume those looking for mentors are fishermen, and those willing to “give back” and mentor others are a “stocked” pond. In this analogy, I’d recommend to the fishermen that they consider what they hope to catch, what they plan to use as bait and which pond they feel they have the best chance of catching something to hang on the wall.

For those who have found success in life, whether personally or professionally, I’m sure you can think of many individuals that helped mentor you along the way. As the “pond,” it is important that you manage your “stock” and make it easy for the fisherman to find you.

For companies filling leadership roles, ask your human resource associates to add two simple questions to their interview process and then consider the value of the character based on the candidate’s answers.

Question one: Can you name at least one person that served as a mentor to you over the years and what was the most valuable thing you learned from them?

Question two: Can you provide me with the name and number of someone I can call that would name YOU as a mentor? It would be hard, maybe even impossible for me to hire a leader that only fishes yet never helps restock for the future.

I’ve had a lot of great mentors in my life and still do. Not a day goes by that I don’t use something I learned from one of them, and I take a measure of pride in being able to pass down knowledge that I obtained from them. Their gifts have long motivated me to increase the odds of making it onto someone’s list for “question two.”

Rowdy Brixey is founder and president of Brixey Engineering Inc.

You can connect with him on LinkedIn.