Sunday, November 24, 2013

in the absence of the mentor

A few months ago, I had a written exchange with my friend Keith on the subject of mentors.  He presented to me the benefits of having a mentor.  Someone to push you when you are feeling weak.  Someone to guide you through the uncertainties in life.  Someone who has been there before and can show you a way out.  And so on.

I agreed with pretty much all that Keith said.  Really, mentors are great.  But I do not have any at the moment.  Maybe I have not invested enough time and effort in finding one.  Maybe someone that I know has been trying to serve as a mentor to me, but I have not acknowledged him as such.  Anyhow, as far as I am concerned, I do not have one.  So, considering the big dreams that I want to realize, what's the next best thing?

Do things yourself.

The truth remains that not everyone who is skilled in a mentoring role can be a suitable mentor for you.  Even the mentors that seem suitable for you are not always available.  Even after finding a mentor that seems both suitable and available, you cannot just expect them to do wonders in your life.  You have to have something to show.  Be it some clarity about what you want, a willingness to get things done, an experience of accomplishing great things, or even just an intense emotion (that is not necessarily positive) about something in particular.  Or even something else.  I think that the best mentors are inclined to help if you have something to show.  It reminds me of a lovely quote that I learned in French a few years ago: "Aide-toi et le ciel t'aidera" (which literally translates to "Help yourself and the sky will help you" though some take it to mean "God helps those who help themselves").  So, how do you go about having something to show?

Do things yourself.

Until you find a mentor that is good enough and available for you, you are better off getting the ball rolling on your own.  That means no lying idle, no occupying your time with easier and less important matters.  If you are taking action on something meaningful to you, even if slow or questionable, you are cultivating a sense of commitment that can potentially be attractive to a mentor, and he may become inspired to help you.  If you are lying idle or occupying your time with trivial matters, well, you are only developing a habit of doing just that, which makes it more difficult to break the habit after crossing paths with someone who you think could be a great mentor to you.

So do things yourself, when you do not have the luxury of a good mentor.  Besides, at the end of the day, it's all about you doing the work.  Having a mentor does not mean he is going to do the work for you.  A mentor is primarily a means to an end; an end that you define, directly or indirectly.  A mentor is there to make the process faster, easier, and more efficient in general.  And things are arguably more fun with a mentor than without one.  Yet, even in these preferred conditions, the fact remains that there is work to be done and that you will have to do much of it, if not all.

Adapting yourself to work without a mentor while remaining open to the eventuality of finding one requires embracing the approach of trial and error.  It's a process that can be quite enlightening, even if lengthy.  Without a mentor, we can equip ourselves with information from literature of all kinds, from people that we know, from current events ‒ really, the sources of inspiration are endless and within reach.  For my part, I see myself as having "virtual mentors" like Simon Sinek and Paul Arden in the absence of a real one, and they have been helping me for a long time.  Regarding the practice of trying new things, we must keep a open mind, questioning things that we always considered set in stone, imagining different possibilities.  Afterwards, we must allow ourselves to realize some of these possibilities.  Does it work?  Does it not work?  How do I feel about that?  What can I do better?  Where can I find other opportunities?  These are only a few of the numerous questions that you may discover and rediscover during the process.  Questions that excite, questions that motivate, questions that inspire, questions that lead us to develop purpose in our lives.

As I see it, this kind of process is what being a free spirit is all about.  While a mentor is valuable, free spirits do not depend on one, technically speaking.  Free spirits enjoy venturing into unknown territory and figuring out things on their own, even if they choose people to help them do that.  A mentor can be a great resource for a free spirit, but I think that too much mentoring can interfere with free spiriting.  Ideally, the best mentor would be one that enables the free spirit in a person to bloom, so that the person can lead a life of his choice in the absence of the mentor.

If you believe that you can be a good mentor to me and you are available, let me know how I can reach you by leaving a comment below.

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