There is no doubt that you must have mentors. You must have someone on top of the mountain that is guiding a rope down to you. You need a person who has been there and done that. You need a person who can show you the short cuts and the pitfalls to avoid. If you have them you can massively cut your learning curve. It could be someone that you don’t even physically know but modeling them provides a compass for what to do and where to go. Here is the first lesson that I have encountered for mentors.
- Accept what’s useful from all
I had an experience in college where I had to interview a local manager about their profession and leading. The person I interviewed had many people underneath them and enjoyed his job quite a bit. One of the questions was, “What leadership books he found to be effective in shaping his leadership style?” His answer was that he stopped reading them because they were all conflicting. They were all saying something different. Though this was probably true to a degree this did not sit well with me.
If this was correct then what would be the usefulness of reading? Why go to seminars? Then the Bruce Lee quote hit me, “Adapt what’s useful, reject what’s useless”. Of course everyone is not going to agree. Of course different contexts require different strategies but you must be learning from people who have done it before you. I bet you though if you looked hard you would start to find commonalities. If all you focus on is the differences then that is probably all you will find.
If you don’t take advantage of learning from mentors you will spend much more time in trial and error. You could have saved yourself months, years, even decades by taking the wisdom from the best out there. As the Bruce Lee quote say, the art is to take what is useful from as many experts as you can. Maybe you don’t buy-into everything they say but I am sure you can at least one useful nugget of information from them. Imagine what would happen if you got one each and every day. Imagine where you would be after even one year. Heck there have been friends who have presented things in such a useful way that I have adapted. So it does not even have to be experts (Even though you should be possibly a bit weary if there not). Emerson has a quote that sums this up well, “every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him.” Learn from the best out there and pick up all the useful information you can from any source. Be on the hunt because, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”