10 Lessons I’ve Learned from My Mentor

Before I begin my post, please bear with me as I reflect a bit.

It’s been over 3 weeks since my last blog post. To be honest, it’s been very difficult to find inspiration during this time. Just over two weeks ago, my guru, mentor, advisor, and grandfather in law, passed away. Here’s a post I wrote in honor of his 81st birthday, not too long ago.

Rabbi Dr. Stanley Wagner, at the brit of his great grandson, June 2013
Rabbi Dr. Stanley Wagner, at the brit  (ritual circumcision) of his 14th great grand child, June 2012


Poppy, as he was known by all, was an entrepreneur before the term even existed.

He was a visionary, a leader, and a work horse. While most of us shudder at the thought of 1 job, somehow, he was able to uphold 3 (yes 3) full time jobs and succeed in all of them.  Even after retiring, Poppy never stopped working. For a list of his accomplishments, here’s a bio and a brief history.

Not once, in his life, did he take no for an answer. Money was never an excuse. To him, it meant that he needed to work harder to find the appropriate audience to invest in his project de jours.

Selling with a passion was his forte.

Poppy and I met just over 11 years ago, when my wife and I became engaged. Over the years, we’ve forged a bond that very few in this world are fortunate enough to develop. He was my surrogate father, friend and, in some instances, my boss. Was he tough? You bet! But as he said many times, I’m being tough only because I know you can achieve it.

To date, after many meetings, advisory sessions, and family celebrations my proudest moment will remain when I spent the night in the hospital about a month ago (it turned out to be our final meeting).

Despite his physical pain and suffering, Poppy mustered the strength to speak for 2 hours! Everyone remains amazed at the length of this session, since Poppy’s last bout (the 3rd) with cancer took a serious toll on his ability to stay focused for extended periods of time. At this meeting, Poppy finally said to me “after 11 years, I see that my investment in you has finally paid off! Regardless of what happens, you’re ready….”

While I was unable to eulogize Poppy at the funeral, I think he’d be happier knowing that I’m sharing his life lessons with the masses.

10 Life Lessons

Expectation of a Mentor- Seanheritage.com
Expectation of a Mentor- Seanheritage.com

1. Be Passionate–  There are many ways to market a product, idea, concept, or organization but the successful ones are sold by leaders who do it with a relentless passion that is addictive. It’s easily recognizable and 100% unforgettable. If you can’t be passionate about the product, then don’t sell it. Effectively communicating the value propositions and the vision of what the world/market will look like after the success is implemented, is 100% of the time sold with passion!

2. Follow Up Letter– After every meeting, big or small, send a brief note to move the conversation forward. Every recruiter, headhunter, and job placement professional discusses the idea but very few actually engage in this critical communication tool. In 11 years, I have sent 1,000’s and every one elicits an identical response- appreciation for the recognition, goodwill, and clarity.

3. Seek Advice– Everyone’s time is valuable and should never be taken for granted. In fact, it should be recognized and appreciated (see number 2). The best way to meet with leaders is to ask for their advice about something that relates to their industry (not yours) . Take their advice and apply it to your industry. By casting a wide network, and showing a genuine interest in their success, you exponentially increase your success.

4. Family Comes First– In today’s fast-paced society many people invest more time in their business and less in their family. Flip the order. Family are your primary investors and the biggest fans, EVERYTHING is secondary to them. Prioritizing will pay off in the long term.

5. Involve ALL Stakeholders– Every person involved in a venture deserves regular updates about the progress. Failures (not so obvious) are part of that too.  Providing information that is timely, relevant and useful will build a sense of loyalty that will be difficult to relinquish.

6. Be a Risk Taker- This can be very difficult if you aren’t in an environment where it is accepted.  Making mistakes and learning from them will make you the best.

7. Do Your Research– Before any meeting, collect as much information as possible about the other person, product, company, or organization. Use the aggregated content as a springboard for meaningful, deliberate conversation. It will highlight your genuine interest in the growth of any venture and distinguish you as the expert.

8. Elicit Buy In, Don’t Force It– Make every person feel the idea was their own. It may take time to reach your achieved goal, but the long term support is worth more if the other person is vested in it because it was ‘theirs.’

9. Be Sincere– Showing sincere appreciation when the outcome is good, is simple. The opposite, however, is not. Taking the time to honestly critique and/or praise will always yield positive results. People will respect sincerity as it reflects a genuine interest in long term growth.

10.  Invest in and surround yourself with Positive Friends not Drama Queens– ok Poppy didn’t say that, exactly. He did say that there is just not enough time to spend it with those that are determined to be “terminally unhappy”. Be consistently passionate and vocal about what you care about – and you will attract others who care!


Get Out of the Limelight– Most people believe that in order to succeed, they need to highlight their own achievements and accomplishments. It is important but allowing others to take the credit, sometimes, may actually yield a more favorable result and will make you look even better and highlight the importance of the team.

While Poppy may have left this world, his invaluable lessons and tremendous accomplishments have left an indelible mark on me and all that knew him.

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  • Frady

    I thought I knew most of Poppy’s lessons, but a good reminder is always welcome. Well put!

  • R

    I’ve always said that Mord’s relationship with Poppy amazes me & is testament to who both of these gentlemen truly are! Well written, Mordechai!

  • avi moskowitz

    i too learned mnay, if not all of those lessons from poppy, but enjoyed seeing them distilled in that fashion. i am glad they left an impression on you and hope you will be bale to use them to achieve the success you desire and deserve.

  • Devorah

    Mordechai, thanks for taking the time to write this and share this. I could just hear Poppy talking about each of these items! So true and so worth sharing!!!!

  • Tali

    Came across your blog rather randomly – Great thoughts and ever helpful words of wisdom. I don’t usually leave comments, nor do I have much to add, but this list struck me as so true and vital that I had to leave a note.
    Thanks for sharing!

  • simcha

    Lessons for the 21st Century, lest we forget, thank you for reminding us of what it takes to be a mensch and a success in this world.