In ‘Shining Brightly,’ Howard Brown shows us the power of mentors to pay it forward, generation to generation

Three decades ago, Howard Brown became the Jewish Big Brother to Ian, forming a relationship that far exceeded the hopes of the agency’s experts.

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“We’re not given life to see how much we can get—
We’re given life to see how much we can give.

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By HOWARD BROWN
Author of Shining Brightly

Among the dozens of endorsements I have received for my new book, Shining Brightly, one note that is especially close to my heart is from Cari Uslan, CEO of Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles:

Shining Brightly is Howard’s testament to the transformative power of mentorship. In 1993, he became a ‘Big’—a Jewish Big Brother—to Ian and truly made a difference in his life. Our staff members are proud to have matched these two incredible people and to have supported their growth—and we are so happy to learn in this book that the scholarship provided by our organization helped Ian afford college and pursue his dreams. Howard exemplifies the efforts our mentors make to transform the lives of youth, and how in some special cases they go above and beyond and become family for life.

Back in the early 1990s, when we first met, I was only Ian’s “Jewish Big Brother” on a carefully monitored trial basis. Today, I simply call Ian “my brother”—because our relationship has extended and strengthened through cross-country moves, various academic degrees, job changes and shared family milestones. Ian now is an essential part of our family.

All that love and the inspiring adventures we’ve shared in life sprang from a generational commitment to mentorship. That’s why my wife Lisa urged me to consider volunteering as a “Big Brother” in the first place. That’s why I followed her advice and signed up. And that’s why, today, Ian shares that same value and is a mentor to our college-age daughter. It’s a circle that keeps turning, knitting one generation to another.

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

What I’m saying here, and in Shining Brightly, is that mentorship is in my DNA—and that value can be passed along through families and through entire communities.

My book opens with the harrowing story of my Bubby Bertha, who embodied a true American Dream. A century ago, she managed to escape the grinding poverty and deadly antisemitism in Eastern Europe largely because other family members and friends who had left that region remembered to keep in touch and “pay it forward” for others who were left behind in the shadow of violence that eventually would build into the Holocaust. Bubby Bertha made it to America long before Nazis rose to power and the Holocaust could ensnare her. And, as a result of her daring odyssey to reach America—I eventually became part of her living legacy. I grew up to become one of the successful early Silicon Valley pioneers because I shared in the simple principles of mentorship: We don’t live successful lives alone. We always make time to befriend and help others. We always pay it forward.

And so to this day, one way I pay it forward is by mentoring students at Babson College. I’m proud that Babson wins the top rating from US News each year for the best college program on entrepreneurship. One way I have given back to Babson was by serving for years as the head of the college’s worldwide alumni organization. And, in Shining Brightly, I share some downright astonishing stories about how Babson’s founder Roger Babson embodied and taught this concept of joining with others to make the world a better place. You’ll likely find yourself turning down the corners on some pages involving Babson’s life to share those gems with others. That’s why you’ll also find a dozen long-time Babson leaders endorsing this book.

But I want to be clear about this. The value of mentoring is not all about achieving success in business, although that is one outcome.

The conscious choice to care for each other, to pay it forward and to form mentoring relationships also is crucial to surviving traumas such as cancer—another major theme of my book that I wrote about last week. That lesson of healthy mentorship became especially powerful when I had to conquer aggressive stage IV cancer not just once—but twice in my life! The “cancer whisperers” who helped to save my life transformed me into a committed cancer whisperer myself. Serving as a cancer-survival mentor—a “cancer whisperer”—is now an essential part of my daily life.

In 2022, this is such a timely message. In today’s world of conflict where selfishness is often celebrated as a winning strategy—I’m sharing with the world a potent antidote to that dangerous message.

If you come away from my book with any message, it will be this:

“We’re not given life to see how much we can get—
We’re given life to see how much we can give.

That’s true from start to finish in the true stories I tell in these pages.

Want to read some of the keys to mentorship, which I listed as part of the discussion guide for Shining Brightly? Scroll down.

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And here’s my brother Ian celebrating with me today …

 

Free to download from the Shining Brightly discussion guide:

Why should we become mentors?

Over three weeks, we are sharing with our readers the three major themes of Shining Brightly by Howard Brown—along with some inspiring samples from the book and parts of the book’s discussion guide.

Click on this image to download a printable and shareable version.

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Care to learn more?

This is a perfect moment to become one of Howard’s growing global community of friends by ordering your copy of his book.

Here are other articles we have published, exploring the launch of this book:

Take a look at the book’s Foreword: ‘Shining Brightly’ Foreword by Dr. Robert J. Wicks: ‘Learn anew about the American Dream’

We ask these timeless questions at each New Year: ‘Who shall live and who shall die?’ In this moving and inspiring column, Howard Brown writes about the powerful spiritual resources in our religious traditions that can help families struggling with cancer renew their resiliency.

Download printable and shareable resource guides for discussing Shining Brightly:

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