“It takes a wise man to learn from his mistakes, but an even wiser man to learn from others.” – Zen Proverb
Each and every one of us is born into this world with a blank slate. We may have acquired innate abilities and instinctive urges that were passed down to us by our genetic pool. The internal gifts that are sourced from our natural predispositions will remain dormant until we recognize and nurture them.
Many people have the misconception that all the greats of our world were born talented and that they followed a solitary road towards success, tenuously collecting accolades along the way. 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 all supported by pivotal figures who were catalysts in their journey towards success.
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 today will tell you that they are influenced in some way by Michael’s legacy. More specifically, they are inspired by his superior artistry, pioneering forays in the entertainment world and the originality of his iconic style.
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 precocious talent but they also admired his curiosity, humility and insatiable hunger to learn more about music and the mechanics of staging a great performance.
Michael’s father, Joe Jackson, was his first mentor before he joined Motown, where he was immersed in an effervescent environment that was brimming with energy. He was in the company of legendary virtuosos such as Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, and the founder of Motown, Berry Gordy. Like a sponge, he absorbed their magic and also punctiliously studied his idols – James Brown and Fred Astaire.
Later on, after deciding to leave The Jacksons and start working on his solo albums, Off the Wall and Thriller, 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, of course, went on to break records as the highest selling album of all time, launching Michael towards stratospheric success.
Michael Jackson had the basic ingredients of a musical genius but he also had the typical qualities of a true maestro such as persistence, an openness to learn, creative prowess and the determination to perfect his craft. He was also fortunate to have experienced mentors around him during his younger years, who willingly took him under their wings to cultivate his natural adroitness.
Our home and school environments are not always conducive towards the recognition and growth of our inner genius. Sometimes people are lucky to have a conscious parent or teacher who sees their potential and gives them the tools to tap into it. But most of us did not have this form of guidance and it is therefore our responsibility to recognize our capabilities and seek role models who can guide us.
Our role models are meant to be a source of stimulation to instigate our own thought process and creativity. They are epitomes of success because they have overcome the struggles that we’re dealing with and can, therefore, provide us with a roadmap of what to expect on the path that lies ahead of us.
We may have a different mentor for each area of our life such as career, life and health. We could hire a paid expert to show us the way or receive free advice in an informal mentoring relationship with a wise family member or an accomplished boss in our workplace. Either way, we should strive to seek people with whom we feel a strong sense of rapport and who are capable of bringing out the best in us.
If you are someone who still believes that you can go it alone, here are some additional reasons why you should consider getting a mentor to jumpstart your efforts towards realizing your dreams:
- 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.
- You will 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 more on how we can add our own unique twist.
- 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.
- 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, potholes or deviations that you could potentially face. In this way, you can avoid the pain, trauma or stress, which often results from these setbacks. Even if you can’t avoid the challenges, you will be better equipped at dealing with them by having a mentor by your side. Remember that being forewarned is being forearmed!
- You will 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 along with moral encouragement to bolster our progress. Under their stewardship, you will undoubtedly unearth your impressive strengths and efficacy as an individual.
If you’ve ever been to an authentic Chinese or Japanese restaurant, you may have had the pleasure of sampling one of their sublime flowering teas – a drink in which dried flower blooms are steeped in hot water. I believe that we are a lot like those dried flowers – we are tightly bound initially but when exposed to the warm presence of a mentor, we blossom into the beautiful flower we were meant to be.
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: Who have been your bigger role models and mentors? How have they influenced your life? Do you believe in the importance of having mentors your life?
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