The hero’s story often begins in obscurity. For Luke Skywalker, it begins on the desert planet of Tatooine. For Frodo Baggins, it begins in the all-but-forgotten realm of the Shire, and for Diana Prince (Wonder Woman), it is the remote island of Themyscira.
And these heroes stay shrouded in obscurity if not for a Bold Mentor who possessed the two things that heroes need, experience and perspective. These mentors saw that there was evil in the world that could not be defeated without the hero, draws them out, trains them, and commissions them
According to the mythologist Joseph Campbel, the Hero’s Journey includes wide variety of components, but I wanted to focus on the relationship between the Hero and the Mentor, from the perspective of the Mentor. I wanted to see what kind of a relationship produces heroes.
Because it’s not just a story… It’s rooted into our being somehow. These legends resonate with us because, deep down, we hope they are true.
Influencers VS. Mentors
· Passive & Impersonal
· Share general knowledge aimed at Anyone, Everyone, or Nobody at all.
· Invests little
· Risks little
· Reaps Almost Nothing
· Active & Personal
· Shares specific information aimed at only one or two at a time.
· Invests Much
· Risks Much
· Reaps Generously
When you decide to be a mentor, you probably wont have to look very long or hard to find potential candidates. Heroes, like we said before can be found in obscurity, but in all honesty, obscurity often looks like the street you live on, or a friend of a friend, or maybe just where you work.
It’s not about being significantly older than the hero, it’s about having experiences which form perspectives that could encourage them.
But if you look around, and you simply cannot find anyone to mentor, then consider joining forces with an organization that has already made inroads into populations rich with heroes. Organizations like:
- Boys and Girls Clubs of America
- After-School programs
- Local Schools
- Area Foster Care Networks
Many of these organizations already have a program designed to train you, and pair you with a person who could use your experience and perspective to achieve new heights.
Be Honest and Authentic
When you are Honest about your faults and limitations you open the door for your hero to be just as honest and open about theirs.
- Paint an Honest Self-Portrait
- The real you they get to know over time should look strikingly similar to the first image you paint for them.
- Share past success and failures in context because it displays your progress
Trust your hero with the truth!
Regardless of how bleak and distasteful it is, be the person who refuses to sugarcoat the conversation.
- Young people have been fed a distorted Image of Reality through Social Media. their world has been Filtered, Cropped, and PhotoShopped to the point that it hardly resembles reality.
- Some may even ask questions they already have the answer to, just to see if you can be trusted
When a subject comes up that you know nothing about, admit it.
- It’s okay that you don’t know about the latest artist, song, game, app, or selfie filter.
- It’s good for your Hero to be the expert at something.
Use Shared Experience to Inspire Them.
Your vulnerability here opens the door for them to get excited
- Is it something they love or is it an injustice in the world?
Teach them invest in whatever inspires them.
- Empower your hero to take bold risks.
- Be there to help them process, and plan for another attempt.
Be ready to let go!
- Either help them launch, or;
- Connect them with a new mentor – one who can take them even further!
So why is it that we don’t see this happening more?
- We’re so busy that we don’t have time for anyone else.
- Socioeconomic, Racial, Ethnic, or Age Biases
I have seen far too many potential heroes dismissed because of a label. Because people have already determined that ‘this kid’ is a Self-Centered, Helpless, Takers who will never amount to anything.
And if left in isolation, regardless of the demographic, this could be true of anyone.
But its just like Alan Turing says in the movie The Imitation Game,
Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine. – Alan Turing
Trust grows best when you are willing to be vulnerable.
Mentorship often includes a process of introspection on the part of both parties involved. However, if this becomes more of a gripe session, or a time where either the mentor or the hero is overly criticized for past failures, or current struggles, then we must refocus ourselves on the primary theme of mentoring. It’s about progress, not perfection. When sharing past mistakes, the tendency of many people is to highlight their own depraved mind. Many times, this is a subconscious attempt to garner favor from one’s audience by exaggerating your vice to a ridiculous degree. However, if we are honest, accurate, and precise with our recollection of past mistakes, we are far more likely to be able to illustrate our progress. This helps your mentee/hero relate to your journey.
Growth is about progress, not perfection!
That’s a really easy thing to say, but it’s a hard theme to live out every day. I once heard a pastor speak about the concept of our choices leading us to perfection, as if it was some kind of attainable goal, but that is a falsehood of epic proportions. It’s not possible to become perfect if you aren’t already perfect. And it’s impossible to become perfect if you are already perfect.
The concept of perfection is our enemy because it supposes that there is something that I can do to achieve it. There isn’t. We’ve got to get that out of our heads!
Nowhere else is this more important than in the mentor relationship. The person who is leading out in the relationship has to understand that it is often their failures that teach the best lessons, and the one learning has to grow from their own missteps. So exposing our shortcomings is a critical part of the growth process for mentors and heroes.
However, we must caution ourselves against self-deprecation.
I try to help the young men I mentor learn from my mistakes. I try to provide them with enough context that they understand why I made the decisions I made without attempting to excuse the behavior altogether. And I’ll be honest with you, this is a really hard thing to do. Your stories have to make sense. They have to have a relatable setting for your mentee. Your motivation has to be understandable. But most of all, your failure must have consequences.
You want to display exactly what your decisions cost, and to understand how difficult it was to walk through the mess you made. You aren’t trying to convince them that you were the worst person on the planet, you want to show them that every decision we make in life has a real, and measurable cost. Your goal is to help them recognize how broken you were, and how healed you are now.