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The Most Valuable Skill a Mentor Can Teach You

A few months back, Drake (@drake) tweeted: The first million is the hardest. Moments later, T.Boone Pickens (@boonepickens) replied with: The first billion is a helluva lot harder. To which draked responded: @boonepickens just stunted on me heavy.

This recent event reminds me of a classic quote: “A mentor is someone whose hindsight can become your foresight.”

I’m fortunate to have many mentors in my life. Through the years, 1 insight about mentorship stands out above all the rest. Surprisingly, very few people talk about it. Before we dive in, please know that I’m assuming the following sentence is true for you:

There is this problem or fear or challenge or concern or simply, you want to make sure you’re doing “it” right.

If I’m completely off the mark, this article is probably a waste of your time. But if these examples sound familiar, please keep reading. Speaking from experience, I can relate to ALL of these challenges.

  • During times of stress, anxiety or fear, I’ve fantasized about “quick fix solutions”.
  • If only I had ____________, then everything would be ok. Sometimes ________ is money. Sometimes, its camera gear and sometimes its some non-existent fairy-like person who can magically answer all of my questions. Maybe you can relate.

We imagine this person tackling the challenges that overwhelm us. Or maybe they’ll teach us some jedi-like words of persuasion to book more clients. In reality, these are fantasies that most people have about mentors. In reality, mentors are often very frustrating to work with. Don’t believe me, just look at what Luke Skywalker had to put up with:

Mentors are not very good cheerleaders. If you think the problem is a tiny cut, they point out the gaping wound. If your idea is bulletproof, they introduce the flamethrowers. The secret of great mentors is they are highly resourceful. Life has taught them to use their minds in remarkable ways. The result, they come up with solutions most of us would never dream of. But oftentimes their vision can only truly be executed by them. So the focus of most mentors is to help us “see” our own visions more clearly. Achieving this result requires tremendous patience both for the mentor and the student.

Mentors usually suck at hand-holding, coddling or praise. So if you are seeking this type of relationship, find a cheerleader. But if you’re willing to endure the open-ended riddles, mind- bending challenges and soul-searching questions, check out these next steps.

May the force be with you.


About the Author

Parris WittinghamA born New Yorker, Parris Whittingham is inspired by the soulfulness, wisdom and love of his mother and grandmother.

He leads a passionate team of storytellers & craftspeople to boldly explore remarkable love stories. Follow his musings on twitter. Explore the TEDxTalk.

Bio photo by Jessica Lehrman

The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!
The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!