“It takes a wise man to learn from his mistakes, but an even wiser man to learn from others.” – Zen Proverb
We’re all born into this world like a blank canvas. We may have acquired physical traits and proclivities from our genetic pool.
Many people have the misconception that all the greats of our world developed their natural talent by following a solitary road to success.
Yet if we take a closer look at anyone who has mastered their craft, be it in the fields of art, commerce or philanthropy, we’ll see that they were supported by pivotal figures who were catalysts in their growth process.
This truth struck me in a big way after reading the biography of, arguably, one of the best performers of all time – Michael Jackson. Most contemporary artists will tell you that they’re influenced in some way by Michael’s superior artistry, pioneering spirit and originality.
What’s interesting to note is that Michael Jackson was himself influenced by a broad array of artists who were popular when he was a young boy. The people who knew him during his youth were not only in awe of his raw talent but they also admired his curiosity and insatiable hunger to learn from the greats, such as his idol James Brown.
Michael’s father, Joe Jackson, was his first mentor before he joined Motown, Once he signed a record deal with Motown, he found himself in the company of legendary virtuosos such as Smokey Robinson and Diana Ross. Like a sponge, he absorbed their advice and studied their artistry.
Later on, after deciding to leave The Jacksons and start working on his solo albums, he was introduced to veteran music producer Quincy Jones, who was instrumental in fine tuning Michael’s skills and encouraging him to develop his own musical style. Thriller, one of the albums they collaborated on, went on to break records as the highest selling album of all time.
Michael Jackson had the basic ingredients of a musical genius but he also had the typical qualities of a true maestro such as an openness to learn and the a relentless drive to perfect his craft. He was also fortunate to have experienced mentors around him during his formative years, who willingly took him under their wings.
Our role models and mentors are meant to be a source of stimulation to instigate our thought process and creativity. They can provide us with a road map of what to expect on the path that lies ahead of us, which is why it’s so important to seek them out.
If you are someone who’s skeptical about the importance of mentors, here are additional reasons why they can jump-start your growth:
1. Success leaves clues: By definition, mentors are individuals who have gained strong credibility by establishing a steady track record of success in an area of your interest. This implies that they have developed strategies and internal attitudes that fetch results. When you consult a mentor, you’ll essentially learn their “secret sauce” and formula for success, which can be applied in your own life. This wisdom will give you a winning edge over competitors trying to accomplish the same feat.
2. You’ll save time: When it comes to success, time is of the essence. The journey towards the realization of our goals is not a linear path and may potentially require a lot of trial and error. By consulting a mentor and studying our role models, we’ll realize that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are certain timeless strategies and tips that we can use as templates for our own personal plans. This will not only save us time but allow us to focus on how we can add our own unique twist.
3. It induces humility: When we work with a learned and experienced person, the gaps in our knowledge will become more conspicuous to us and make us realize that we still have a lot to learn. Being a know-it-all will block our progress and growth but when we agree to liaise with professionals who know their stuff, our ego will have to take a backseat and our minds should become pliable and open. To become a good learner, humility is an absolute necessity.
4. You’ll bypass avoidable obstacles and challenges: Facing challenges and obstacles when chasing our goals is inevitable. However, there are common roadblocks that can be anticipated and which we can be prepared for in advance. Your mentor can alert you of any bumps and deviations that you could potentially face. In this way, you can avoid the inconvenience and stress, which often results from these setbacks. Even if you can’t avoid the challenges, you’ll be better equipped at dealing with them by having a mentor by your side. Remember that being forewarned is being forearmed!
5. You’ll be challenged to grow: A mentor is someone who believes in us and sees our latent potential. They will encourage our growth by motivating us to push our boundaries and move beyond our comfort zone. Like a compassionate personal trainer who wants us to be in the best shape possible, they are not afraid to use to tough love to bolster our progress. Under their stewardship, you will undoubtedly unearth strengths that you never knew you had and you’ll continue to raise the bar.
While dining in a Chinese restaurant, you may have had the pleasure of sampling a flowering tea – a drink in which a dried flower bloom is steeped in hot water. I believe that we’re a lot like those dried flowers – we blossom into a beautiful flower when exposed to the warm presence of a mentor.
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: Who have been your bigger role models and mentors? How have they influenced your life?
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