It was Aristotle who spoke these meaningful words: “What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies.” Not all mentors are friends, nor do they have to be, but such relationships are best when they exist as one. Both parties must willingly give themselves to a relationship to allow this energetic connection.

We are capable of so much more than we allow ourselves; to believe Aristotle’s wise words encourages us to embrace this. In truth, we can all have many such relationships. When we do so, we not only see eye to eye, we share a perspective that encourages growth and achievement. One plus one always equals more than two.

I am eternally grateful for the mentorship and friendship of a select few individuals who have lived up to Aristotle’s words. This is the story of one such connection.

An Invaluable Connection Begins

I was 22, just back from college and starting a job in sales at the family firm. My father saw these early years as a training ground on everything from accounting to understanding vendor lines and our key relationships to the product lines we serve. The call scheduled that morning was with a certain A. McDowell Hall, known as Mac. Over the phone, Mac made a compelling case for the Wagner company to add another grid line. He SOLD us, using his personality and promises the product would be accepted in an unfriendly market, if and only if we jointly agree to work together. Mac’s message prevailed and we agreed to team up.

Over time, I witnessed Mac’s salesmanship. I came to admire that a guy with a southern accent speaking about business camaraderie while holed up in Cleveland was so believable, his products even desirable, because of the sheer force of his belief. It was his personality that shone through, his commitment to us, the customer, that enabled our enthusiastic YES to his proposition. I decided unconsciously to emulate his style. Mac’s way was to be my way. Believability, credibility, and commitment became my hallmarks, my calling cards, my selling techniques. To be a real person, to speak wholeheartedly and genuinely with other people, was not only a tactic, but a “way of being.” Nice training in my first months on the job!

A Friendship Blooms

As the years passed, I came to witness not only my friend and his style of engagement, but also his marriage to his wife, as an integral piece of the success puzzle. In Germany, Hawaii, and Hong Kong I saw this couple “be themselves,” spreading their genuine energy to countless customers from all over the continent. Two people – one functioning, colorful couple. They were engaging and accepting of me and my young wife at each sojourn. The two of them mentored us, befriended us, and welcomed us.

I turned to Mac for advice often. While the answers were not always crystal clear to either of us, I was never rejected by my friend. On the contrary, I was always mentored to understand what could and could not be managed by strong personal relations. Others did not live or act or think like us, and sometimes we just needed to see the writing on the wall. Mac’s guidance simply shed a light on reality that then permitted my clarity of thought and action.

A Lasting Legacy is Created

This gift of this mentorship, this ongoing coaching by Mac throughout my young career, is now ever so clear to me. The benefits were a unique gift from a southern-born guy to a midwestern business neophyte. The mentorship framed my management style as “genuine relationships, fair treatment, and direct, honest conversation” – this became my way of being, my recipe for success.

Now I find myself where Mac was back then, a mentor and hopefully friend to many entrepreneurs, innovators, and go-getters. I carry his example with me in my work every single day – always seeking to shed light where confusion exists, to encourage honesty and directness, to help create mutually beneficial relationships on a foundation of genuine interest and trust.

I write this now to confirm the gift of a mentorship that literally formed my path for success. It superseded time and has lasted decades – a friendship that never aged even though we did. I am eternally grateful to know A. McDowell Hall. I hope to honor him through continued engagement with the “way of being” he so graciously modeled for me. I hope to provide the value he always sought – two people with a shared perspective, enlightening and encouraging each other at every step along the path.