A mentor, defined as “an experienced and trusted adviser,” is a term generally used as a way to describe people who offer guidance and wisdom to those in need, aiming to help them avoid mistakes and misfortune, and find success in life.
Commonly a relationship between a teacher, grandparent, or simply a person who has lived a life that you are envious of, and someone who is often younger and less experienced, mentorships usually exist in a two-way relationship in which knowledge is offered out of goodwill. Mentees are often responsible for asking pressing questions, to which mentors answer, with knowledge from their past experiences and education.
Up until this point, I have never considered myself to have ever had a mentor in the traditional sense of the word. I have received small portions of wisdom and advice as the years have progressed from various people, but at no point have I truly looked upon one person and thought, ‘I owe everything I have learned to you.’
This had never concerned me too much in the past, as I have always had a drive for knowledge that kept me satisfied. But what if it was easier to learn the lessons in advance, rather than through trial and error?
A few weeks ago, the adage, ‘you are the sum of the five people that you spend the most time with’ came across my mind. This thought occurred as I was evaluating who I actually spend time with during my days. My roommates? Colleagues? Friends?
None of these filled me with confidence. Bar a few outliers, most of these people are not necessarily fulfilling their potential, and therefore, have not had vastly positive impacts on my life. I have very few people pushing me to be better, to develop good habits, and to grow into an exceptional human being.
Looking back on history, it seems as though each successful outlier had a true mentor, or teacher, that molded them into the person capable of achieving great things.
One of the most fitting examples of this is the relationship between Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Alexander the Great. Socrates mentored Plato, who then taught Aristotle, who in turn tutored Alexander the Great. If it wasn't for this succession of great men, who in turn chose to pass along their wisdom, we would likely be without modern philosophy and the Western world would be very different.
The thing is, in ancient times, personal interactions were one of the only few ways in which one person could truly learn from another. Books existed, but weren't as widely available to the masses, recorded audio was none existent, and word of mouth could only spread an idea so far let alone be trustworthy.
However, things have changed, and we no longer suffer these restrictions. Why is it then, that we only consider a mentor to be someone who we meet with, or have a direct personal conversation with?
It was this question that led me to realize that I was extremely wrong with my idea of a mentor, and can consider myself to have been mentored by a large number of exceptional people.
The world has an abundance of information, in the form of books, audio, and video that can be accessed from nearly everywhere on earth in the blink of an eye. These resources can be full of wisdom, facts, and most importantly, answers to your most pressing questions.
I can honestly say that I know more about, and have been taught more, from select people who I have never met, than those that I have interacted with nearly every day for many years.
It’s time we stop making excuses and make the most of what we are given in this day and age.
Email that author whose books you love, follow that comedian on twitter whose interviews you’ve watched 50 times, and most importantly, pick up that book and appreciate the vast amounts of information being presented to you at your convenience.