Inspired by the interviews in the Paris Review and Bomb magazine, “The Questions” in Sports Illustrated, and the regular interviews on the blogs of Tom Peters and Guy Kawasaki, Comment has asked a diverse group of mentors for their stories.
Comment: How would you explain what you do to an interested nine-year-old child?
Mark Meehan: My personal mission statement is “I was created to grow in beautiful intimacy with God, helping to develop healthy, world-enriching organizations by creatively mentoring, teaching and leading in local and global communities.” First, I walk with God and grow in my relationship with him. As I do that, he has wired me to help a lot of very different groups of people by getting to know them and what they hope to do in the world, then helping them reach their goals. Typically, I help them reach their goals through mentoring, teaching, and serving in a leadership role.
Comment: What first drew you to this work?
MM: Working in the nursery-tree farming business . . . seeing how God grows things over time, that the beginning of an organism’s life can largely determine how it functions later. Understanding intervention, and when to let nature take its course.
Comment: As a novice, what were your most valuable learning experiences?
MM: They were through the lives of key mentors. I have had many terrific people pour wisdom out to me throughout my life, but, especially, early in my professional life. Learning how to see something with great promise and then watch it fail. Learning how to be a husband and father. I guess there is little in my life that has not come from others.
Comment: What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
MM: That I must walk with God before anything else.
Comment: From what sources do you draw inspiration for your work?
MM: I am inspired by reading a wide variety of texts. I read everything from Thomas Paine to the Bible. I used to read only historical works, but was challenged by a mentor to read widely, especially the classics. That sent me on a whole new journey. I love art, poetry, anything that is true, beautiful, and relates to the human condition.
Comment: What rituals and habits structure your workday?
MM: I’m up early nearly every day—five o’clock in the morning. As in introvert, I really need to start my day alone. I spend an hour or so in prayer and study, then some kind of a workout, depending on the time of year, but always something outside. I like to be in the office early and respond to email from the night before, get things squared away before the day begins. I read the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and one other paper online every day. In my role, it is very important to be current. Almost all my meals are with people during the day. Evenings are for family, usually a walk with my wife, reading together.
Comment: What are your favorite tools?
MM: My Treo, which connects me well wherever I am. I love having everything in one device. My carbon fiber Trek, which is like owning a Mercedes without the payments and an amazing way to blow off steam.
Comment: Tell us about a project that delighted you.
MM: Last year we revised and relaunched the Nyack MBA program. Wow, that was fun. We streamlined the courses, making the professional areas even stronger. We also added a required global immersion experience, a course on creativity and design for business, and a course
Comment: How do you plan your work?
MM: I’m a big Stephen Covey fan. I do annual goals every year, which come out of a focused time of prayer, discussions with colleagues, etc. The goals include specifics for me professionally, personally, spiritually, and for my roles as father and husband. I structure time commitments around those goals and assess them as I go. I frame my weeks each Sunday, always looking for room to work out and connect deeply with friends and family.
Comment: How does your work connect to other aspects of your life?
MM: My work is part of my passion, and if it does not connect well to other aspects of my life there is something wrong. I really believe that if I’m walking with God vocationally, my work will enhance my family’s life, and not just financially, but in the place we live, the schools that are available, the opportunity for us to work together on things, etc. My work is important to me, but it is not the first thing in my life. It has to fit with other aspects.