There’s zero doubt that mentors and advisors have played a significant role in my life.
Good advice and good mentorship are really synonymous. At times when I was facing decisions, weighing options, or having some sort of crisis, there’d be someone with timely and applicable words of advice that helped get me through. This has been true of career, health, personal finances, spirituality, and relationships. Finding the right kind of mentor with the right kind of advice isn’t always easy.
It’s not always just about the big picture, either.
Recently, in a high country off-road adventure, the red light on my trusty ATV began flashing and telling me the drive train was about to fail. Multiple scary scenarios raced through my brain. We were deep in grizzly bear territory and about 30 miles from the nearest civilization.
Photo by Author
The prospect of abandoning my ride on a mountainside in the heart of the grizzly bear country was definitely upping my heart rate.
However, my biking partner Trevor, wasn’t too fazed.
Photo by Author
“You had the quad trip checked, right?” Check.
“You had the drive belt replaced, right?” Check.
“The machine seems to be running fine, so the light is probably a factory thing.
Let’s just keep going and see what happens. Worst case scenario- we’ll be that much closer to home.”
Trevor called it.
We got back to civilization OK, and a short session on the University of YouTube explained everything.
Turns out the warning light was pre-programmed at the factory to come on at a certain number of hours to ensure getting back to the dealership. A motorcycle gearhead on YouTube named Oaky knew my machine’s exact make, model, and year and exactly why the light was coming on.
Like any good mentor, Trevor challenged my limiting belief and provided common sense encouragement to keep going. Oaky had the precise knowledge and expertise to help me fix the problem and reset the light
Now, if only everything else in life was that simple!
In Today’s World, We Value Self-sufficiency
After all, shouldn’t we be able to get our own lives in order without help from anyone else?
In fact, there are some aspects of life where we feel like we might be looked down on if we ask for help. Aren’t there?
Unfortunately, some cultural values and practices have dwindled through the years. For example, for centuries, the idea of formal mentoring was considered a cultural norm. Thus, one would go into a line of work involving something called an “apprenticeship” where they would work under someone with more experience to learn a skill or trade. For some modern-day disciplines, this is still the case.
The true secret of giving advice is, after you have honestly given it, to be perfectly indifferent whether it is taken or not and never persist in trying to set people right. Hannah Whitall Smith
Fast forward to today’s information age. Naturally, there’s an “I’ll just Google that” mindset that kicks in.
The truth of the matter is: mentorship is necessary if you want to get ahead. This was simply a very formal arrangement that holds the seeds of what modern mentorship is today.
It holds all the shortcuts and gets you where you want to go faster than you could in any other way. So we need mentors, whether we realize it or not.
Consider some of these benefits of mentorship:
Mentors Help Us See Things Differently
One of my favorite writers from another era is C.S. Lewis. In his essay “Meditation in a Toolshed,” he describes the dramatic difference between looking at a beam of light and then looking along the same shaft of light.
“I was standing today in the dark toolshed. The sun was shining outside, and through the crack at the top of the door, there came a sunbeam. From where I stood, that beam of light, with the specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. Everything else was almost pitch-black. I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it.
Then I moved so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed and (above all) no beam. Instead, I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, 90 odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam and looking at the beam are very different experiences.” C.S Lewis
Perspective makes all the difference.
A good mentor helps us see things differently.
Mentors Challenge Us Toward A Better Version Of Ourself
He that gives good advice builds with one hand; He that gives good counsel and example, builds with both; Francis Bacon
In the 2000 movie The Legend Of Bagger Vance, a disillusioned burned-out war veteran, Ranulph Junuh (Matt Damon), reluctantly agrees to enter a local golf tournament. He used to be a pretty good golfer. However, the psychological scars of war left him struggling with PTSD. As a result, he finds the game and much of his life futile.
Enter a mysterious caddy, Bagger Vance (Will Smith), who coaches him back to the secret of his authentic golf swing. It turns out also to be the secret to mastering any challenge and finding meaning in life.
The cinematic turning point is a beautifully captured scene called “The Woods.”
Bagger helps Ranulph look “along the beam” and see what’s possible and just play the game.
Mentorship works much in the same way. You have a goal. The mentor has the expertise and experience to lead you right to what you need to achieve this goal. They’ll even point you to the resources and give you some advice on achieving this goal.
The best mentors are the ones who give their mentees the skills to succeed. This means taking the time to teach them what to do, pointing them toward resources that will be useful, and even sometimes guiding them to the questions they should be asking.
Timely advice is lovely, like golden apples in a silver basket. King Solomon
To paraphrase this ancient proverb from the good king, great advice can actually serve as a highly valuable centrepiece that we can build a strategy around.
Every situation is relatively unique when it comes to mentoring. The best mentors are attuned to the needs of the moment. While a checklist might provide guidance in a general way, finely tuned instincts are needed to know what is called for.
For example, there are times when empathy is the answer and other times when it’s tough love and vice versa.
Today, you can find thousands of hours of content and advice on virtually any topic on Youtube alone.
It’s not the volume of information that’s valuable. Is it from a reliable source? Can you boil it down into a simple system you can quickly implement?
Remember, sincerity, dedication, and a genuine desire to help that counts most for both parties. The rest is just icing on the cake.
Until next time,