I've had a lifetime of mentors, starting first with my father, who at 96 continues to be an inspirational leader by example. In his career, he ran a successful retirement fund. To this day, he maintains contact with his employees and is a mentor to others by his sheer presence.

My father lives his life with a sense of purpose for giving back, despite having his share of challenges. World War II and the Depression left a mark on him. He survived the war and lost two brothers. The Great Depression is the reason he hates debt and is committed to starting causes. He believes in leaving a legacy.

Then, there are the personal development mentors I've embraced over the years, including Earl Nightingale, who was the first. This man believes that lifelong learning is essential if we are to maximize our own potential.

"If you will spend an extra hour each day of study in your chosen field, you will be a national expert in that field in five years or less," Nightingale once said.

I've adopted this belief and found other mentors along my path in doing so, including Jack Canfield. I not only trained with him, but I also had the pleasure of being a member of his assisting team.

The first success principle in Canfield's book, "The Success Principles: How to Get from Where you are To Where You Want to Be," states that we must claim 100 percent responsibility for everything in our lives. I believe finding good mentors who challenge us and align with our values is the first step toward accepting that responsibility.

Yet not all people who strive to teach others should make the cut. Discernment is called for. Watch for inconsistencies in what someone says or does over time. Those are red flags that should be cause to question whether the person is the right match for us — or anyone for that matter.

Mixed messages put me on high alert. And if I detect any, I call the mentor out on it. They either have to explain their change of perspective or I move on. My time is too precious to "worship false gods." Fortunately, I've not had to fire any of my mentors.

In fact, many have sailed with me through my ever-evolving sense of self for years. I began seeing my psychologist 10 years ago. We first spoke about how to handle my divorce. Then, we moved onto ways to rise to the top of my career and how to learn from my failures those I haven't managed to avoid.

He's never once contradicted himself. What he said 10 years ago rings true with the positions he takes today.

Additionally, as we grow in our knowledge and wisdom, it's important to be a good mentor to those around us.

"The mentorship casts you as a role model, and engaging in that role model inspires you to call forth the best in you," says Brendon Burchard, touted as the world's leading high-performance coach.

We often teach what we need to learn in our own lives.

Mentors abound in any field. Whether we're looking to increase sales, improve our health, create lasting relationships or rise to the top of our career, smart people know it's wise to trace the clues of success back to their source and discover someone to chart the course to success someone we trust and admire.