Mentoring is a brain to pick,
an ear to listen,
and a push in the right direction.
— John Crosby
One of the powerful themes that I liked so much in Power of One is the huge impact that one person can have on another. In the book, the main character Peekay is treated to a wide array of characters that shape his life. There’s the welter weight boxer that influences him to become a boxer, the aged doctor that teaches him about the world, and many more. Each one adds their personal insights and experience.
I don’t think mentors get enough credit in this day and age. Americans tend to give a lot of credit to the individual who accomplished something – whether it be breaking a world record, inventing a new device, or suggesting a new theory in a scientific field. You often don’t hear about the teacher that inspired a young child with thoughts of what could be possible, a tolerant father who dutifully responded to the endless “but why does this work…” of their child, or the boss that told his newest employee to get back up and try again, even though he failed the first time.
The increased usage of the internet as a mentor has only made this worse.
The world wide web has led to a vast information repository that virtually anyone can tap into. However, this information is formed a lot like an oil slick. In some cases, the information is microscopically deep, but very widespread. There is no depth to the information that is presented on the world wide web. Wikipedia is a great example of this. It has a lot of information, sure, and makes it laughably easy to get a basic grasp on pretty much any subject. But then the four-paragraph page is over. Where do you go to get more?
The power of the mentor, though, is that their knowledge is deep. Incredibly, vastly deep. They may not have the same surface area that the world wide web does, but a mentor can fill in gaps that you never knew existed. As the quote says, a mentor can provide something that a computer screen, or a book, or a magazine, cannot.
Whether you know it or not, you are surrounded by possible mentors. If you’re studying physics, you may not have Einstein at your elbow leading you along the way, but I bet there is someone out there that has gone through a lot of what you have. If you’re in Accounting, or Information Systems, like I am, there are professors, professionals, and fellow students that are always willing to share their experiences with you.
Don’t toss this aside just because you can do a Google search and find the tidbit of information you were looking for. What about the ten other questions that you forgot to ask? Who will give you the answers to those? Reach out to the mentors around you and listen to what they have to say. You don’t have to do exactly what they say and you may not agree with their viewpoints, but I can guarantee that your own view of the world will be expanded.
Oddly enough, the power of mentors can be seen readily in today’s businesses and organizations. Successful organizations realize the power of having a mentor-mentee relationship. They help pass on information and experiences that are valuable. And not like “oh hey that was cool” valuable, but actually translating to dollars and cents valuable. It’s one of those things that you can’t measure with a scale, but the success of companies that foster these relationships speaks for itself.