On choosing mentors and teachers

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Finding mentors and teachers today is both easier and harder than ever. It is easier because the digital age permits us nearly unlimited access to information and people. Paradoxically, it is also much harder for this very reason – finding the correct teacher is incredibly difficult amidst much noise.

11 years on the path

One of the most important aspects of finding mentors and teachers is knowing what you need. Often, this can conflict with what we want. We may want cheery motivation and gentle support, but what we really need is a solid boot in the butt to get us moving. Or, we may think we needs to go through a hard-core boot camp or “man up”, but what we really need is to take it slowly so as to reacclimatize ourselves to difficult working circumstances and adversity, whether at the gym or at work. I’ve been in both situations!

How do you know the difference between what you want and what you need? Chances are, you know the difference deep down inside, if you are truly honest with yourself. It is the nagging voice in your head that says, you really should do this. You really ought to do that. It is the voice that says, this isn’t the healthiest or smartest choice, or the voice that says, that’s not going to be comfortable, let’s just put that off until tomorrow. The hard part is accepting the honesty you have inside yourself.

Once you know what you need, look for mentors or teachers who are living the results you want to achieve. It’s that simple (but not easy). Look at their lives and see what results they’re getting. If their life looks like what you want your life to look like, then ask to study with them. Be sure, however, to look at the big picture! Someone may be an incredible martial artist but the rest of their life may be a disaster. Someone may be a phenomenal marketer but they may have a miserable family life. Do unrelated things matter, if they’re achieving the goals you want? Absolutely, because their perspective on life will tend to infiltrate yours, and so will their bad habits. Look at the big picture and make your choices from that.

Choose your teachers wisely!

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One response to “On choosing mentors and teachers”

  1. Chris, this is a HUGE topic and a discussion that does need to be had. I 100% agree that it’s easy to find a coach/mentor/teacher, it’s also incredibly hard to find the right teacher. there are a lot of people who’ve been calling themselves coaches, and they’re really people who know a lot, are between jobs and needs some cash. So, “hey, I can charge people to learn my time-management and goal-setting methods.” Bad idea.

    But here’s where I disagree with you. In one sense, we do need to get a clear sense of what we need, but not from a motivational perspective. It depends on the moment when we need a kick in the butt or gentle support. All of us need that at some time. A good coach/mentor can read that. They can do real damage

    A person needs to know what they need in terms of what they’re trying to accomplish. I think it’s critical to find someone who’s already done what you’re trying to do. I’ve learned this lesson more than once.

    A successful business person cannot mentor the person who’s leading a nonprofit, if that business person hasn’t had nonprofit experience. the interplay of donors, fundraising, volunteers, Federal nonprofit law, and the Board of Directors makes for a unique storm.

    Chris, I think you’re speaking to the chemistry between the mentor and mentee. And we don’t always know what that’s going to be going in. That’s why some agreements are for 1 quarter. If it’s not working, they can agree to call it quits.

    I think we’d agree however, that a coach/mentor/teacher is important. They can keep us from re-creating too many wheels. They can help keep us inspired. They’re the source of knowledge when our well-intentioned friends are unwittingly giving terrible advice.

    Thanks for bring up this subject.

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