You Need A Mentor
There is an image that has is deeply ingrained into our culture, and into our psyche. Not western culture, but human culture – found in every major and almost every minor culture to grace the earth. We find it all over our literature, our movies, TV, advertisements, even art work. While it is slowly leaving modern western society, it’s still a cornerstone of Japanese culture. Whether you call it master & apprentice, mentor & mentee, teacher & student, sempai & kohai, the duality of this special relationship has existed so long, it predates writing.
It’s so common and integral to us, we don’t even think about it much of the time. Luke had Yoda, Harry had Dumbledore, Mickey had the sorcerer. There are even real examples such as Plato and Socrates, and a whole host of Renaissance artists. There was a time this was very common. A boy learning about life from his father, or grandfather. Not very long ago a boy would often be sent out to apprentice in a trade. When he was young, my father apprenticed to be a barber.
Now days there’s really only three places you find this structure, because the modern world treats you like a machine and machines don’t need mentors. You find it in traditional martial arts (not modern martial arts which are mostly about sport). You find it in the business world, where it’s usually a commodity. And you find it in organizations like Big Brothers/Big Sisters – a group basically built on the principle. There are a few other exception, but by-and-large in the western world mentorship has been left behind. And it’s killing us.
A boy growing up needs a mentor, by whatever name. If he doesn’t have one, he finds one in celebrities, athletes, or unsavory places like a gang. A boy needs someone to take him by the hand and teach him about life. Much of that will be a father, but a lot will not. My grandfather was an Alaskan Pioneer, he taught me a lot, including how to shoot. And I shoot well.
There are so many basic things that boys are supposed to learn – somewhere – but no one teaches them: how to change a tire or the oil in a car; how to balance a checkbook; how to cook; do laundry; a craft. To some extent a lot of this was covered by many by the Boy Scouts (I was one). But, not so much anymore.
A young man in his teens also needs someone to come up alongside him and show him how the world works. Not very long ago a teen boy would be learning a trade, but not anymore. Now, they might learn one in college in their twenties, run through an impersonal system and spit out into the world without a care of it they actually find a career.
And men, even older ones, need mentors. I’m in my mid 40’s, I have mentors. There are people that are ahead of me on the path that take the time to help me along it. When you have a mentor, you find the path is much easier as you have a guide. You spend far less time stumbling in the dark trying to figure out where you even are. And, even though you are helped along and your path looks similar to your mentors, you will forge your own path.
Regardless of your age, you need mentors – or you need to be one to others. If you’re around my age, you do both. But pick your mentors (by whatever name) carefully. I say mentors because, in this age, you’ll need more than one. First, despite what some may say, there is no such thing as a virtual mentor. It has even been suggested that reading an author’s books makes them your mentor, even though you two will never meet. It was of course suggested by an author…
A mentor is someone you actually interact with and actually knows you. Someone who can help you along the path, whatever path that may be, and guide you with your best interests in mind. I’ve seen numerous “mentors” that will be yours for a fee. Their only motivation to help you out is monetary, and they’re not going to tell you anything that will jeopardize that aspect of the relationship. If you stop paying, they stop mentoring. That’s not a relationship, that’s a business transaction.
Who do you look to for guidance and help? Who do you have in your life that has, or is willing to, take you under their wing? If you can’t think of one, it’s time to build that relationship with someone. I would only worn you that if your mentor (or potential mentor) is a women, be sure she’s mentoring you, and not mothering you – and that you’re a mentee and not trying to be her child or boyfriend. Don’t avoid women mentors, just be aware the tendency does happen.
Do you have a mentor already? What areas of your life do you think you could use one? Let me know in the comments below. And good luck, on whatever paths you may travel.