Having a mentor is an extremely valuable role that someone older and more experienced can play in your life.
Robert Greene, author of Mastery, describes the mentor-mentee relationship as follows:
“They like giving all of their knowledge to someone younger, like another daughter or son for them. They like seeing the ability to mold a young person and imparting upon them all of their knowledge.
You on the other hand admire and respect them. There’s almost a love between you two. And when you have that emotional connection, you will learn a lot faster.”
A mentor will give you all the value in the world as long as you are reciprocating value as a token of your appreciation.
Here are the 6 reasons why you should have a mentor.
1.We humans learn the best by watching and observing others in the flesh.
It’s the superior form of learning and we are so primed for it.
It is an extremely valuable experience to have a mentor. You can gain so much from simply observing someone who is working in their element and fiercely passionate about what they do.
By being in the presence of your mentor, you are learning through osmosis and are gaining instant, immediate knowledge from them. This is called vicarious learning.
Your mentor’s traits rub off on you and you soak up intangible qualities such as beauty, emotion, truth, or wisdom.
Ultimately, by having a mentor you’re cutting your learning curve into the fraction of the time it would take you to learn by trial and error.
Robert Greene, emphasises how primed we as humans are for the type of learning we can benefit from apprenticing to a mentor.
“The human brain evolved over millions of years in a certain way, a certain pattern. And over the course of these millions of years, we humans learn[ed] the best by watching and observing a person in the flesh.
Not on the Internet, not on a computer, not on your phone but by actually being there with a person; picking up their body language, their way of thinking… Not everything is done with words. We’re such a word-oriented culture.
But actually observing people, just seeing their style, their way of thinking; things you can absorb when you’re next to them. That’s the superior form of learning. We humans are so primed for it.”
2. Avoid making mistakes
Robert Greene suggests that apprenticing to a mentor gives you a short cut to mastery.
Not only are you taught in a condensed form, but also your learning experience is streamlined in a way that you avoid making mistakes.
You can learn a lot through mistakes. But the mistakes don’t have to yours.
There is a saying “if you wish to be young and wise you have to learn from the experiences of others.”
Your mentor surely made a lot of mistakes in his journey to becoming a master in his field. He will impart his knowledge upon you as well as the lessons he has heeded from his mistakes.
3. Learn about your lagging qualities & unfair advantages
Over time, your mentor will learn what your lagging qualities (i.e. weaknesses) are and what unfair advantages (i.e. strengths) you might have.
He will give you feedback on how to compensate for your lagging qualities and what you should focus on mastering to do so.
He will push you beyond your limits so that you capitalise on your unfair advantages.
By being a mentee, you learn how to best accentuate your strengths and how to downplay and compensate for your weaknesses.
Think of it this way. You are a rock and are naturally rough around the edges.
Your mentor is an expert sculptor. Under his tutelage, he will sculpt you into a diamond.
4. Receive guidance & direction
“In many ways, apprenticeship is an extension of the parenting process.
For some, a mother or father figure initiated the transition from immaturity to maturity, but eventually someone else must complete the process.” – Jeff Goins, Art of Work
In our 20s, we are directionless.
Sometimes we focus on banal things and expend precious mental resources and energy on efforts that don’t yield much (if any) result.
Sure, learning through trial and error might be an effective way of learning. But it might not be of the same quality as if it were with a mentor by your side.
With a mentor, your efforts will be more focused and, most importantly, guided. We need someone to channel our enthusiasm and funnel our energy into laser focus.
A mentor will help you harness all these qualities that you bring to the table; guide you to focus on developing relevant skills and producing quality work.
Mentors speed up the process of learning. They make you more efficient in your efforts than if you were to try and learn by yourself.
5. Benefit from life advice
People often give unsolicited advice left and right hoping that someone will give some reflective thought to it and won’t just fall on deaf ears. Your parents know this all too well.
There is some advice to which you might not even give a second thought. You don’t register it because you simply don’t have the perspective (i.e. wisdom) to digest it properly.
You are so far removed, so detached from the reality of such advice that it sticks with you like a droplet of water does to a duck’s skin.
Here’s what my bro says about advice:
“Giving advice is often a pointless exercise. You can keep telling people the answers but they won’t listen.
That’s why I’ve learned to only give advice to those that come to you for it. The ones that ask you for it are the ones you should happily give it to.”
When it comes to advice, having a mentor is a special thing. Not only will he impart valuable wisdom onto you but will also put in the effort to drive the message home so that it sticks and you make the most of the advice.
Even though you might lack the perspective to fully grasp and appreciate the advice (i.e. because you are young, that phase of life is yet to come, and so on) have faith in the validity of it.
This advice will teach you valuable lessons that not only pertain to your work, but to many different aspects of your life.
Be smart enough to take it on board, internalise it, and make the most of it. Treat it as a secret that will enhance your development. You’ll be that much richer for doing so.
6. Gain immediate feedback
A mentor-mentee relationship is one based on loyalty but the central element to it is honesty. The honesty you get from your mentor is one of most precious forms of feedback because it’s comes from a good place.
It’s good willed, genuine, constructive, and is ultimately supposed to shape your character, build upon your skills, and develop you as a person.
A true mentor always has your best interest at heart. For this sole reason, a lot of the feedback will be critique.
You’re learning through negative reinforcement to weed out useless behaviours, habits, and elements of your mindset.
At the same time though, a mentor should – to quote Dale Carnegie – “be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise” to promote desirable behaviours.
The immediacy of this feedback is what makes the criticism sting. But pain equals growth.
You will get a profound sense of satisfaction from all that input when you realise that you are slowly becoming the well-rounded person you and your mentor have been trying to mold you into from day one.
For more information, check out Robert Greene’s talk.
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