Rambles | Mentor
By Steve Faulkner - Wednesday, July 29, 2020
Since my recent interview with Jason Ladanye, in which he speaks openly about his relationship with mentor Darwin Ortiz, I've been reflecting about mentorship a great deal. This is also because it keeps coming up in nearly everything I read, watch and hear. Mentor-heavy books such as Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrige, and Mastery by Robert Greene (both recommended reading for anyone wanting to nail stuff), Stoic and Buddhist-based audiobooks and podcasts, and about thirty TED talks. This may be down to the Baader-Meinhof Effect or Frequency Illusion - a phenomenon in which the minute we're introduced to a subject, word or item, or that thing becomes salient to us, it seems to be everywhere.
I have always envied the Miyage-like stories I've heard over the years from people such as Jason. Where the mentor takes on an almost fatherly role to enable his or her student to flourish. Being harsh and directive, or nurturing and caring as the situation requires. Right back to the days of juggling three balls in Exeter high-street, trying to gather my first crowd in Covent Garden (and failing), and doing my first close-up gig, I've received inspiration and selfless help from others. But due to stubbornness, age (I started late) and probably alcohol, I never had anyone looking over my shoulder and rapping my knuckles every time I lost timing on my seconds. To be honest, I don't think anyone else had that, and if they did, there would probably be some legal implications, but the point is that many who achieve mastery, have done so with the help of a master. There is no question, a mentor can invaluable, and in an ideal world, we would all have one. But does this mean that without a mentor, we will never achieve mastery? And do those who have mentors always achieve excellence themselves?
We can look at this from another perspective, which I have seen play out a great deal. Where the 'mentor' lays out commandments based on dated ideas (often around dress code, trick choice and presentation), is thinking not of the selfless development of another, but of communicating their own expertise to justify their often undeserved status. This dangerous game can have a profound effect on the eager student who may not have any reason to question this 'wisdom'. When they do finally realise, and at age of eighteen, while performing dressed like their grandfather, they could have wasted a lot of time.
The right mentor can provide inspiration, accountability and wisdom, but they also need to understand that you are an individual, who will at some point need to express your own style and work within your personal values. I've been lucky enough to meet a few people who fit the criteria, but the number of conditions that needed to fall into place made the possibility of a close, long term and consistent relationship impossible. Location, their time, your time, their kids, your kids, work, age, health, energy, money all have to be considered. But luckily, there's good news.
I would still love this kind of relationship, and will always be on the lookout for it because the road to self-mastery can be a lonely and exhausting one. However, it can also be rewarding and satisfying, and paradoxically, during lockdown, I've become more inspired by others that I have in years. My mentors now flit into my life without knowing it. They write my books, they teach the masterclasses and they share their knowledge. But they don't do the work for me. Mentor or not, if you understand that the work comes from you and that you are solely responsible for your development, you can achieve way more than you think.
When our mentors are absent, we can self-lead, we just have to create the conditions for success (whatever that means to you).
We've already started with self-belief and understanding the learning process. Next, we'll look at some practical exercises to make space and energy in our lives for purposeful practice through mindset, proactivity, time management and goals.
Your first exercise is this:
It's a simple one and may require a single shift belief. It is the conscious belief that you are solely responsible for your development. If you have a wonderful mentor, then great, but a majority of your time will be alone, practising. Understand that the inspiration is the catalyst, it's the fire that lights the fuel. Don't blame others who hold you back, don't look to others to do the work for you. Listen to those only who listen to you, and take all of the advice with a pinch of salt. With your own work, you will gain clarity, over time, about where you want to take your magic. Listen to what moves you, what excites you and what you love to do. Go with your passion. This doesn't happen overnight. Don't rush. Just think about what you love and make a decision, at some point where you want to go. But understand that the choice is flexible. You can change your mind.
By consciously starting to consider this, and even better, journaling about it, because of the aforementioned Baader-Meinhof Effect (have a google) you'll notice things that will begin to fall in line with your interest.
This is the foundation. Next time I will be sharing exercises that were game-changers for me, enabling me to move forward and gain momentum by creating my own rules and motivation. But this level of proactivity takes practice and energy, and it's not always a comfortable or easy journey. So we have to start by creating the mental space. Next time, I'll show you how.
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