Once upon a time, greed and ruthless ambition ruled the Halls of Business. Maybe not really, maybe not in every case, but such was the common perception. You made it to the top of the corporate ladder by climbing on the backs of others. If someone seemed to be gaining on you, well, you crushed their fingers under your $300 shoes. After all, it was a dog-eat-dog, every-man-for-himself world. Instead of stepping on a colleague's outstretched fingers, successful business people are those that extend a helping hand.

Too many people think of mentoring as a structured, "official' arrangement that's a misconception. If you want to benefit from a mentor, you must take the initiative to seek the advice and wisdom of people you admire. Volunteer for projects that allow you to collaborate with them. Take them to lunch and ask them questions. Ask if you can 'shadow' them at work and see what they do. Just pay close attention when you're around them. Today's mentee is not a passive recipient of knowledge; he or she is an active participant in the mentoring process.

I am a big believer in the power of "impromptu mentoring" - those unpredictable moments in business and in life when you observe a success principle in action and integrate it into your own belief system. Indeed, A Message from Garcia is rich with examples of people I have worked with, met, or just heard about who made a profound impact on my life. Here are a few examples of these men and women and the lessons I gleaned from them:

Write down your life's dreams.
There is the amazing story of Charles D. Kelman, ophthalmic physician and eye surgeon, professional musician, inventor with more than 150 patents to his name and winner of numerous awards. How did Kelman achieve such astonishing success and, more to the point, happiness? One of the keys was a 28-page book (author unknown) titled simply It Works. This little book explains the critical importance of writing down your life's dreams, reviewing them at least three times a day, and discussing them with no one. Most of you understand this principal since you have signed up to this Web-based software program at www.successcompass.com which helps you identify your dreams and goals and then sends you an e-mail reminder three times a day.

Treat everyone you meet as if he or she were a war hero.
When I was a cadet at the Air Force Academy, I knew a squadron janitor named William Crawford. To some cadets, this man who scrubbed toilets and mopped floors was a nonentity; to others he was an object of ridicule. Then, one day a cadet discovered that during World War II the lowly janitor had been a war hero, saving lives, getting captured by German soldiers and ending up as a P.O.W. He was a Congressional Medal of Honor winner! Mr. Crawford told the cadet that after he retired as a master sergeant from the Army in 1967, he took the janitor's spot so he could teach future Air Force officers what he had learned from his experiences in the military. I keep a large painting of Mr. Crawford in my office to remind me that within everyone is the potential to be a hero. Not every person you meet will be a war hero. But if you want to be successful, treat everyone you meet with respect.

Pursue your passion, regardless of the cost.
To fulfill her family's wishes, Theresa Park attended Harvard Law School. For 15 months after she graduated, she worked as a high-powered corporate lawyer. But she felt unfulfilled. Feeling drawn to a career in publishing, she moved to New York City and looked for work as a literary agent. Finally, she found a job as an assistant to two agents. The salary was only $18,000 a year, less than half of what her former secretary made! But Park stuck with it, working hard all day and combing the "slush pile" (a term for rejected manuscripts) at night. After about a year, she came upon a manuscript about two elderly people in love. Touched and impressed, she contacted the aspiring author, a 28-year-old pharmaceutical salesman. Pitching the manuscript as the next Bridges of Madison County, Park worked to sell it to different publishing houses. Jamie Rabb at Warner Brothers finally bit, with an offer of $500,000. But, unbelievably, the agent said no. She was looking for a seven-figure deal! Ten minutes later, Rabb called back, offering $1 million! The deal was done. The author? Nicholas Sparks. The novel? The Notebook, which spent over two years on bestseller lists around the world. Park is now one of the most sought-after literary agents in the business.

Bring at least three solutions to the table.
After graduating from the U.S. Air Force Academy, I became special assistant to General John R. Galvin who later was named Supreme Allied Commander of NATO. When the General gave me my first assignment, I nervously came back with a list of questions. That's when General Galvin gave me some valuable advice: "Don't bring me problems, bring me solutions." Later, after I came back with a solution, the General clarified further: "If you always think of at least three different ways to solve a problem, you will look at things from a different perspective and you'll make sure that you are not grasping at the first solution that comes to mind."

Work hard & play hard.
When I served as a White House Fellow, I worked as a Special Assistant to former Secretary of Education and Drug Czar William Bennett. When Bill Bennett was the Drug Czar, he shunned the Washington social scene in favor of a more reserved personal life. But it wasn't all work and no play for Bennett. Most Sundays a group of us would play a spirited game of touch football with Bennett. He looked at sports as a metaphor for life and he believed that sports are a way to learn, after either victory or defeat, that another day, another chance, comes tomorrow. And sports are a good way to put work behind you for a little while.

If you can learn a valuable life lesson from anyone, then he or she qualifies as an impromptu mentor. Looked at in this way, mentoring isn't something you benefit from only at work, or something you outgrow. And it most definitely isn't a one-way street. I firmly believe in returning the favor and teaching others what you, yourself, have learned about the nature of success.

Not only my career but my life philosophy has been shaped by watching and learning from some of the most fascinating people in the world. I am grateful for that, and I want to return the favor. That's why I currently mentor several young people through my work at Sterling Financial, and it's also why I wrote my book. My advice is this: look for mentors everywhere, and be a mentor every chance you get. It's a major key to success in every area of life.

Ways to Make the Most of Mentoring
Charles Garcia - Author of Wall Street Journal Business Bestseller A Message from Garcia: Yes, You Can Succeed - Offers Insights for People on Both Sides of the Mentoring Desk

Tips for MENTEES . . .

* Looking for a mentor? Consider trade organizations. Sometimes you can find a mentor through a professional or trade organization to which you belong. If you don't belong to one, consider joining.

* Don't discount nonprofits. SCORE ("Counselors to America's Small Business") is a nonprofit association dedicated to providing entrepreneurs with free, confidential face-to-face and e-mail business counseling. Business counseling and workshops are offered at 389 chapter offices across the country.

* Prepare for your first meeting. At the core of virtually all successful and personally satisfying mentoring is a meaningful relationship with another person. Prior to your first meeting with your mentor, write down at least three things you would like to achieve through this relationship. If not already included in your lists, write down at least three things you would like your mentor to provide.

* First, know thyself. Prepare a brief autobiography that you can share with your mentor when you first meet. Be sure also to include your own vision, mission or life goals.

* Time is of the essence. It is likely that you selected or were matched with your mentor because of his or her resources. This typically means that your mentor has both considerable gifts and a tight time schedule. Using time efficiently is a key aspect of successful mentoring. Make sure you are clear about your needs.

* It's not a one-way street. The focus of most successful mentoring is mutual learning. Feel free to explore what you have to offer the mentor.

* Make sure you're having fun. A sense of humor and a sense of enjoyment of your time together are essential as well. If your needs are not being met, discuss this with your mentor.

* Know when to hang it up. Terminating a mentoring relationship or switching to a different mentor is not a sign of failure. Recognizing your changing needs and finding a respectful way to meet your learning goals are key to successful executive mentoring.

. . . and Tips for MENTORS

* Listen deeply and ask powerful questions. The two skills that are essential for successful mentoring are (1) in-depth listening, that is, suspending judgment, listening for understanding and providing an accepting and supportive atmosphere; and (2) asking powerful questions, that is, questions that are challenging in a friendly way and questions that help the mentee talk about what is important to him or her.

* Plan for the next meeting. At the end of a meeting, the mentor should ask to review a mutually developed agenda to determine what progress has been made. Then solicit any ideas about what the mentee might want to discuss at the next meeting. Also, ask for an impression of how this meeting went and what you might be able to do (or stop doing) next time to make the next meeting even better.

* Experiment with process. Over a period of several meetings, you might use coaching, role plays, simulations, brainstorming, and other techniques that feel natural. For relationship building, you also might just go for a walk together, sit on a bench sharing lunch, or attend a special event.

* Focus on wisdom. See yourself as a resource, catalyst, facilitator, idea generator, net worker, and problem solver, not as a person with answers. Although you have learned from your experiences, do not see your mentor role as one in which you "tell" another person what to do or how to do it. Freely share what you have done (or have learned) not as a prescription, but as an example of something from which you gained wisdom. Also, you should feel comfortable contributing ideas or suggestions, not as a sage, but as a collaborator.

* Maintain and respect privacy, honesty, and integrity. Don't participate in events where these key values have been jeopardized. Disastrous consequences can accompany violating these values. You can't offer confidentiality in the legal sense, but you can do the best you can to ensure that "what is said in this room stays in this room."

Four Facts That Put Mentoring in Perspective:

* The original Mentor is a character in Homer's epic poem The Odyssey. When Odysseus, King of Ithaca, went to fight in the Trojan War, he entrusted the care of his kingdom to Mentor. Mentor served as the teacher and overseer of Odysseus' son, Telemachus.

* The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a mentor as "a trusted counselor or guide.&"

* A mentor is an individual, usually older, always more experienced, who helps and guides another individual's development. This guidance is not done for personal gain.

* Mentoring is used in many settings. It is common in business, and it is used in educational settings, especially with "at risk" students. It is also the basic principle behind the Big Brothers and Big Sisters programs.

Author's Bio: 

Charles Garcia is a successful businessman and author. His recent book, A Message From Garcia contains life lessons from An Author Who's "Walked The Talk."

Charles has created a Special One Day Promotion for anybody Interested in improving their life. Details are below:

Life Transformation in Less Than an HOUR
You get $615 worth of valuable e-bonus gifts and up to $5,995 worth of savings AND the most profound principles to propel you to success, help you discover your true calling in life and lead the rich rewarding life you deserve when you buy Charles Garcia's best selling book "A Message From Garcia" today (and you get this best selling book at a huge discount of 40% off!) But you must act today February 4th!

Click here to find out more: