“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” – Plutarch
Mentors are a dime a dozen. Just go to YouTube or WordPress and type in “life coach”, “inspiration”, or “philosophy”. You will find a plethora of people who are more than happy to tell you exactly what you should do to be more successful, happier, or more popular.
But good mentors? They are much harder to find. In my own life, I have had only a handful of what I would call “good” mentors.
Let’s hold off getting into the meat of what the differentiating factors are that cause the contrast between a self-appointed celebrity guru who wants to fill your brain with their own brand of bullshit (hint: if they call themselves a celebrity, run), and those who truly understand mentorship.
There are two main types of mentors – direct and indirect.
Direct mentors are individuals who are providing feedback to you. They know who you are, and they are somehow invested in your journey of self-development as an adviser. These people have walked a similar road to the one that you are on, and they can draw from their experiences to offer perspectives to you that may assist you in your personal growth.
As I am sure is the case with a lot of people, my parents are direct mentors for me. I am in my 20’s, but I still bounce ideas off of them if I am making a decision in an area that they have experience in. Often, they can offer a suggestion or a perspective that I haven’t even considered, simply because they have been in the same scenario.
The other type is indirect mentors. Dora the Explorer is an indirect mentor to small children. Sure, there is no personalized feedback for the child, but good ol’ Dora can still offer useful perspectives. And some valuable Spanish lessons, of course.
The mistake that a lot of people make, particularly with indirect mentors, is that they try to emulate them. They idolize them, idealize them, and try to be exactly like them. That’s why music artists and movie stars are considered to be “role models” and the ones who don’t express themselves in a way that parents would want their teens to behave are vilified. Eminem springs to mind, but there are others.
But the problem isn’t with the behaviour of the individual that has been idolized – it is that they are being idolized in the first place!
They are just living their life. They aren’t asking for people to copy them. If they were direct mentors, and they could somehow give personalized advice to the people who copy them, their advice would probably look different to the life that they are themselves living. But people are inherently lazy, and when something isn’t tailored to suit them by a direct mentor, they move to an all-or-nothing approach – either totally imitate or totally dismiss!
But you don’t have to try to become someone else – you can acknowledge the good bits that you see in them, integrate them into your own life, and leave the bad.
One of the first things that should be taught at school is that you can never be anyone else. And that if you try to be just like someone else, the closest that you will get is being an inauthentic, uncanny imitation.
And that is about the most self-violent thing that a person can do – deny their own expression in an attempt to be someone else. You will only ever be a second-rate version of that person, like a dodgy “Deats by Bre” $20 pair of bootlegged headphones (yes, I have seen those before), when you could be the full expression of who you are, while still using some of the tools and perspectives that other can offer to you.
It is also unfair on the person being idolized. You are taking a snapshot of what that person is like, their persona that they present to the world, and trying to copy that! So you aren’t even trying to emulate the person – you are trying to copy their mask!
Then if that person takes off the mask and expresses themselves fully, or puts on a different mask, their followers, the ones who are idolizing them, feel cheated. They get angry that the person isn’t the way they were before. But it is their own fault for trying to copy a facade!
So, why bother having indirect mentors if it is damaging to idolize them? Easy – learn from them, but don’t idoloize them. Appreciate the gifts that they give, but remove the expectation that they will always be that way. Don’t put them in a box of your own perception.
I remember my first YouTube mentor was a fitness / life coach. He had a lot of great perspectives to offer and the things he was talking about were hugely beneficial to me at the time. But I haven’t watched his videos for years.
Why? Because mentorship isn’t a static arrangement. I learned a lot from this guy, but I graduated. The ideas that he was teaching were valid, and I hold a lot of them to this day, but if I kept watching his videos, I wouldn’t have been receiving fresh inspiration – I would have stopped growing, become stagnant, and probably started to become an imitation of him.
So keeping the perspectives that he had offered, I clicked on a recommended video in the sidebar of his video for another YouTube fitness / life coach, and have been following his videos since 2012. He was a lot more esoteric and shared much deeper ideologies.
I am feeling myself begin the graduation process from the ideology of my newer indirect mentor. As I have learned from him and begun to embody some of the more beneficial things that he has to offer over the past four years, my own perception has expanded to a point where I can see the flaws within his own message.
He has taken a new direction, and it isn’t in the same way as I am going, and so I am no longer actively following his material.
But I don’t resent him. I don’t feel like the time that I was watching his videos has been a waste of time. On the contrary, I have learned a lot from him, and the stories that he has shared have greatly enriched my life.
And do you know what happened to me a couple of months ago?
I discovered a new mentor through the recommendation of my YouTube mentor! I started reading the works of Osho, and haven’t been able to stop! Does that mean that he will be my mentor forever?
And that’s fine. Mentors help you along on your journey, but they can’t carry you to the destination.
All three of them have had valid parts to play in my own personal development. If it wasn’t for the first one, I would not have grasped the messages that the second was trying to share with me. Had it not been for my second mentor, I would probably find Osho’s perspectives too hard to understand.
But none of my mentors are better than the other – they just have different things to offer people who are at different stages of their own journey and are equally as needed in the world.
Let’s say you are mentor-shopping. What sorts of things should you look for, and what sorts of things are red flags? Like I always say, I can only share my experience, but the one thing that I use to filter the spam of potential mentors is this – are they insisting that their way is the only way?
If they are telling you that you need to eat Paleo to be healthy, if they are telling you that you need to do cross-fit to build strength, they are not really mentors – they are salesmen. They have taken on a religion (either Paleotarian or Crossfitarian), and like all religions, their way is the only way to salvation.
And of course, the one-way method is bullshit. That’s the way that worked for them. That’s not to say that it is the only method to achieve the goal. In fact, your circumstances are probably quite different to theirs, so their method is unlikely to be the best approach for you.
These types of mentors will narrow your perspectives, not expand them.
In my own experience, the most important thing is that they live what they are sharing, and that they are only sharing their ideas – not preaching a gospel.
There is a visceral connection that needs to be made – does what this person is saying resonate deeply with you? Rather than teaching you things, are they helping you to come to your own realizations? Above all, these are the people who have proven to be most helpful in my own journey.
Watch as well how they speak of themselves. Are they humble, and in full realization that they are simply the hollow reed through which consciousness is flowing? Or do they profess to be at the pinnacle of understanding and discredit those who are at a different point of a similar journey as heretics – a threat to their kingdom (market share)?
Ignore the teachers, profiteers and tyrants! Ignore anyone who preaches “thou shalt”.
Ignore me as well if my posts don’t resonate with you. I won’t take it personally!
Simply embrace those who stir awakening within you, whoever they are.
To prosperity through unity.