I recently learned about a story told by John Ortberg, senior pastor of a large church in California. He is a popular speaker and author within his professional circles, giving keynote talks at leadership events and routinely preaching to his congregation of over 4,000 people. But apparently he wasn’t always an accomplished speaker. Ortberg attributed his success to an influential mentor in his life, John F. Anderson.
As a young seminary student, Ortberg participated in an internship at Anderson’s church. The first time he got up to speak in public, he fainted. Anderson encouraged him and gave him a second chance. Ortberg fainted again. He figured that would be the end of things, but Anderson picked him up and gave him a third chance. Again, he fainted!
Ortberg told about being called into Anderson’s office. Certain he was about to be fired, he was surprised when Anderson said, “you are going to speak again next week. If you faint again, then you’ll speak the week after that. You are going to learn to speak in public if it kills you.” Ortberg praised the way Anderson persevered as a coach and mentor, helping him gain the confidence he needed to succeed.
This was an inspiring story, but what made it even more fun is that I know John F. Anderson. That is exactly the sort of thing that I’d expect him to do. He has mentored and supported many people, and will someday leave a legacy of lives he has influenced for the better. I heard Ortberg’s story at an event in which Anderson was present. At the end, everyone applauded in spontaneous appreciation of the kind of leader that Anderson has been.
Looking back on my role as a leader, I wonder if I have made the same sort of difference. Do I see the potential in people and nurture it? Are there successful leaders out there who would credit me with part of their success? How often have I been patient enough to give people a second chance, let alone a third one?
Dee Anne Bonebright
Dee Anne, this is a powerful story about the difference one mentor can make in someone’s life. Thanks for sharing. Anderson certainly must have seen some spark of talent in Ortberg to persevere in helping him gain confidence as a speaker. Many others would have probably given up at the first or second try!
I’m curious about others’s views on the dividing point regarding the mentor’s methods. At some point, does behavior such as this cross a line from pushing someone out of their comfort zone to bullying? Even though it turned out well for everyone at the end?