One true crying shame of life is that as we grow older we stop seeking mentors. Our minds close off to the fact that other people know better than we do. As children, we are acutely aware that we can learn from everyone around us; that we must, or we won’t survive. But when we come into adulthood, we become stuck in our mindset. We lose the mentality that once made us perfect students.
No matter how wise the master is, there’s nothing to teach if you aren’t ready to learn. Part of the reason we stop seeking mentors is our failure to recognize them. Who do you want to emulate? When you think of success, who’s the first person that comes to mind? Even more importantly, in what direction are you trying to go? It’s going to be very difficult to find a guide without knowing where you want to be. The first step to finding a mentor is knowing what you want and being receptive to learning.
Talk is cheap, and so is advice. It’s easy to find someone willing to give you advice. The key is determining those with advice worth giving. Everyone’s an expert when they don’t have to show their work. A great mentor has done what you’re trying to do, been where you want to go, achieved the things you want to accomplish, is the way you want to be.
We don’t need to learn everything the hard way. Roy. H. Williams once said “A smart man makes a mistake, learns from it, and never makes that mistake again. But a wise man finds a smart man and learns from him how to avoid the mistake altogether”. Most mentors have earned their wisdom through their own struggles. You can save countless hours of trial and error by finding someone that has already gone through the same struggles you’re going through.
Mentors provide you with simplicity and clarity. Everything can’t be mastered from reading a book. Knowledge is not the same as experience. You don’t have to know how to build a house before you can remodel your bathroom. Every skill and task has tricks and shortcuts to mastery. A great mentor knows these tricks and knows when to supply you with them.
A mentor can be anyone you emulate for any reason. You aren’t required to think of a mentor in the traditional sense of the word. I am mentored every single day. My mother is my mentor for compassion. My grandfather is my mentor for perseverance. My boss is my mentor for ninjutsu and all things building related. My fiancé is my mentor for intelligence (hence she’s the editor for everything I write). Go seek your mentors my friends.
Note: when I say emulate I absolutely do not mean idolize. Nor do I mean that you should want to be like someone else in every way. You can admire certain characteristics of another person while disliking others.