“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
“What is a teacher? I'll tell you: it isn't someone who teaches something, but someone who inspires the student to give of her best in order to discover what she already knows.”
“One thing I know; the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.”
One of the things I’ve wanted for a long time was a mentor. Perhaps I’m kidding myself. Perhaps what I really wanted was a father figure. Perhaps what I really wanted was someone to answer my life’s questions and give me guidance.
For a long time I gravitated towards older men (and sometimes older women) in search of someone who could parent me and/or give me emotional/professional/spiritual guidance. I was fortunate to have a few in my life who acted thusly, but for a variety of reasons, usually the passage of time, none of those relationships lasted more than a couple of years.
Perhaps I was being lazy, because the interesting thing is that once I started doing my own work, the need for a mentor passed. The need for approval passed. This doesn’t mean I wouldn’t accept guidance. There are still people I would love to spend time with and learn from. But here’s what I realized about mentors:
1. They can’t do my work.
2. If I’m not doing the things I should be doing, no amount of love or guidance will help me.
When I was in my 20’s, I had two men who affected me deeply. One was Jim, a pastor at the church I was attending at the time. I loved him. He laughed at my jokes and spent time with me. He had a compassionate heart and a listening ear. At the time, our church was very focused on “discipleship,” older people mentoring younger ones. I wanted Jim to “disciple” me because I liked him so much, but he couldn’t, due to time constraints, I suppose. Still, he gave me his time when he could and I treasured it more than any other relationship in that church of 2,000.
The other person was Larry, my employer at 7-11. I cannot imagine any employer being more patient. I was lazy, selfish, rude to the customers and I even quit on him two or three times because I thought I had found better situations. Three times, he let me take off for three weeks to see the USA, Tijuana and Mexico City. But he always took me back. Sadly, I didn’t realize how much he was putting into my life. Whenever I mention that my only two regrets in life were that I wish I had been kinder and I wish I had worked harder, I am specifically referring to this period in my life. One time he told me that he really wanted me to do better work, but his delivery was so good, I felt like I’d been promoted instead of being dressed down.
Still, sadly, despite the encouragement of these two men and several others, I rarely reached my potential, because I thought laziness was less work than work. (It wasn’t.) I also thought I could give my problems to someone else to solve. (I couldn’t.)
No one can solve my problems, except me.
No one can solve your problems, except you.
People can help us. Chances are that we are blessed with many people who are able to give guidance and direction. But no matter how well someone draws me a map, I will still be stuck in the same place, if I don’t Get Started and Keep Going. There’s really no other way to do this. Action is what is required. The good news is that it’s all that’s required. I don’t need a mentor, a parent figure, a friend or a pastor to do what I need to do. In fact, if I’m not doing my work, all I will do, ultimately, is damage those relationships, because most people can only watch someone avoid the truth for so long. Then it gets too painful.
On the other hand, watching someone do their work, live out their Purpose, is a joy. It’s a miracle. I have a friend who recently found his passion and when I hear him talk, there is a strength and certainty in his voice that I have never heard before. It’s intimidating, or it would be, if I weren’t busy in my own Purpose.
So do I need a mentor now? Well, I wouldn’t turn down Steven Pressfield or anyone else who offered their counsel, but ultimately, I have to do my work on my own. No one, no matter how much I admire or love them, can cause me to sit down and write or study. This must be my decision. It is a decision I must make every day, sometimes several times a day. But it’s always the best decision I could ever make.