Accidental Mentoring

The worst way to get a mentor is to go find one.
The best way is to see the one that’s already there.

Jeff Goins

When we look for mentoring in a single person, it’s like going to library wanting knowledge and looking for a single book of answers.

You looking for a mentor? A better mentor? You need one!
Why? What do you need?

Answers to the secrets of life. It doesn’t work that way.

You need to surround yourself with and seek truth tellers versus cheerleaders.

We are not looking for a mentor but for mentoring. And mentoring is available all around us. Up and down the food chain. Superiors, colleagues, and subordinates.

I’ve been privileged to engage in meaningful and deep conversations with many, many people over my lifetime. Conversations about careers, happiness, success, beauty, truth and what is the meaning of life? In my early years, I would listen to people for a few minutes, and I would know that the answer to their question was obvious. I was fix-it guy. Later I realized that my anxiousness to fix things was one of my biggest problems. I did not understand fully the context, the condition of the the human being who was listening to me. Sometimes my advice, my fixing advice, worked and people were grateful for my help, but that was mostly luck. I am an accidental mentor.

Who are you accidentally mentoring? 

As in parenting, you learn quickly, it’s the potential of the child you have to discover. Not imposing your vicarious view of their future. That potential is in there. It’s incredible. It’s amazing. But it needs to be understood and allowed to emerge. That potential I’ve seen in every human being I’ve ever met, when I am fully present and listening empathically. Sometimes just a glimpse or a glint of it. Other times it comes erupting forth in pyrotechnic glory. It’s what’s clear to me today, before fixing things is understanding the depth and breadth of that iceberg inside them. Not to be distracted by the small shiny polished part which shows. But look for the large looming, extraordinary untapped resource that lies beneath the surface.

I’ve been trying to take a different approach to my blogs, my posts and my random distribution of thoughts, to be less preachy (still so hard😊), less fix it oriented. Some people just want the answers, but as my mentoring has taught me—purpose, passion, meaning, are self-defined and unique to the person. You can’t hand it to them or give them a code.  Because each of us is the reference library. The answer is within each of us.

Where do your thoughts come from? You think them? Think again. 😊 Your thoughts come from your awareness, your past, your DNA, some mystical combination. They come from your true self. Buried beneath layers of noise, chatter, mindless injections from the world around us. Dominated by self-criticism and self-sabotage. If you’ve read how Emily Dickinson produced her 1800 poems. Or any of the great writers/thinkers/inventors/artists? They describe themselves as receptacles. Things come to them, they emerge, they appear. Where do they come from? Their genius their incredible intelligence? Yes. Their hard work matters. But it is their openness to hearing the true thoughts that come up in the magical Slide Master, that’s your brain. Images and thoughts come up amongst the distracting and your internal polygraph must be engaged to sort, ignore and accept. You need a clear mind and heart to be the receptacle. 

And we do need help in seeing, interpreting what we are learning about ourselves.

Mentors are all around us. Who makes you feel confident, inspired, focused, and is willing to share their experience? –Anna Letitia Cook

Some people have called me their “mentor” and I am always honored and embarrassed by that. I have  participated in mentoring programs, designed mentoring programs and managed mentoring programs. The overwhelming research confirmed by my experiences showed me that the mentor is the chief beneficiary of all mentoring. So, when someone thanks you for being a “mentor” and you have been the primary and possibly the larger beneficiary–It’s strange. One of the reasons why I encourage people to be a mentor is not to be charitable or to provide some community service. It is for their benefit. Mentoring is a lifestyle. Mentoring is a way of living–to be mentored and to mentor others is something we should all be doing all the time. I actively engage in mentoring-the action; my kids and some friends would like me to stop. 😊 So I resist being a mentor-as if I am appointed to a position endowed with an answer key to life.  Everyone has to understand that they can mentor themselves. We need help. Find people who you trust, who may be a role model for the life and career you seek. Yes meet people, pursue conversations, find inspiration, ideas, thoughts, catalytic moments that will spark the kindling to build a flame within you. Mentors don’t wear a special costume or a uniform. Mentors don’t look older or wiser necessarily– mentors are everywhere. They’re disguised. When your mind is open, and your heart is open, and you are living and mentoring lifestyle you will be mentored by people and things that will always surprise you.

Don’t ask people to be your mentor. Become mentorable. Develop questions about what you want and who you are? Ask for advice. Be open to feedback. That’s where mentoring lives. 

But don’t think that finding a mentor is the missing ingredient in your special life recipe.

I love this example of Tim Duncan and David Robinson, two of the NBA’s greatest players.
Duncan was helped by his predecessor and teammate, David Robinson. How did they help each other? How did one mentor the other? Duncan, answered these questions when he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame:
People always ask, ‘What did he tell you? What did he show you?’ I don’t remember one thing we sat down and talked about specifically. But what he did was he was a consummate pro, he was an incredible father, he was an incredible person, and he showed me how to be a good teammate, a great person to the community, all those things. Not by sitting there and telling me how to do it, but by being that.

Who are you watching? Who is watching you?

Open your eyes, your heart and your mind—you are surrounded by mentoring.

Thanks for reading. John

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