Raising Your SMV with the Help of Mentors
If you wish that you had a mentor, someone to help you become a better man or women than this post is for you.
No one exists in a vacuum. We live as part of a greater organism that we call society. We are shaped and molded by others, even at times against our will. By choose who influences us we gain positive power over our lives.
Those who we allow into our lives will change us, for better or for worse. They teach us things that we can not learn in books or with self study. We learn of other ways of being and acting. They look into us and see who we truly are.
Some relationships are especially meaningful and beneficial. A mentor is someone who can impart great wisdom to us. Someone who can help us see things we cannot see on our own.
Regular interaction with wise and mature people polishes our personality and grinds down our rough edges. It makes us complete in a way that no other experience can.
Marcus Aurelius, a second century emperor of Rome credits many aspects of his personality and habits to association with a whole list of mentors (Meditations Book 1). In this post we will have a look at what we can learn from Aurelius’s example. I highly recommend that you buy a copy or download a digital version so that you can follow along.
Aurelius had many mentors
Aurelius had many mentors. Certainly none of them were perfect however he chose to learn valuable lesson from each one. Each mentor had a specific set of excellencies to pass on the Aurelius. He didn't look to judge them as deficient, to find their flaws, but rather to learn what good he could from them.
“From Rusticus I received the impression that my character required improvement and discipline...” (Rusticus was 20 years older than Aurelius and one of his most important tutors.)
Aurelius had mentors who would point out his defects. He also choose to value to their corrections. That doesn't mean they always saw eye-to-eye as Aurelius later says “I was often out of humor with Rusticus”. Despite their differences the two men respected each other and remained friends.
Junius Rusticus was a Stoic philosopher. He taught Aurelius how to think and helped him to develop good intellectual manners, he was an intellectual mentor. Aurelius goes on the list the things Rusticus taught him; “and from him I learned not to be lead astray to sophistic emulation, nor to writing on speculative matters, nor to delivering little hortatory orations, nor to showing myself off as a man who practices much discipline… and to write my letters with simplicity, and with respect to those who have offended me by words, or done me wrong, to be easily disposed to be pacified and reconciled, as soon as they have shown a readiness to be reconciled; and to read carefully, and not to be satisfied with a superficial understanding of a book…”
“From my mother I learned piety and beneficence, and abstinence, not only from evil deeds, but even from evil thoughts; and further, simplicity in my way of living, far removed from the habits of the rich.”
His mother taught him an altogether different type of lessons. She taught him to regulate his desires and to be comfortable living simply despite the families great fortune. This emotional mentoring contrasts well with the intelectual training provided by Rusticus.
“From Diognetus, not to busy myself with trifling things, and not to give credit to what is said by miracle-workers and jugglers about incantations and the driving away of daemons and such things; and not to breed quails for fighting, nor to give myself up passionately to such things; and to endure freedom of speech; and to have become intimate with philosophy…”
Diognetus, a painting master influenced Aurelius to live as a philosopher and to reject the petty distractions and superstitions that lured in lesser men.
“From my great-grandfather, not to have frequented public schools, and to have had good teachers at home, and to know that on such things a man should spend liberally.“
“From Apollonius I learned freedom of will and undeviating steadiness of purpose; and to look to nothing else, not even for a moment, except to reason…”
“From Sextus, a benevolent disposition, and the example of a family governed in a fatherly manner…”
“From my brother Severus, to love my kin, and to love truth, and to love justice…”
“From Maximus I learned self-government, and not to be led aside by anything…”
As we can see, Aurelius learned many things from many different mentors. Likewise, we must not be satisfied with a single mentor or a single source of guidance. Where one mentor is strong another is weak. Imitate the strengths of others and learn from their weaknesses.
In addition, our mentors do not have to be superior to us in everything, only in the areas in which we are seeking their guidance.
Mentors, wise guidance and healthy influences are truly valuable. A man who has good advisors is a rich man indeed. Unfortunately, today we often live atomized, stranded in a sea of troubles relying on pseudo-mentors in the form of social media personalities or self help books.
There is no substitute for making connections with real people. People who have experience and good habits to share.
How can you find a mentor?
It can take a lot of work to find a great mentor however proceeding methodically will reduce the challenge and increase your chances of success.
Choose an area you would like to be mentored in
First you should establish your objectives. Perhaps you have a question that is troubling you, or you need guidance to make some personal change. Maybe you would like to improve in your career or be a better parent.
For each area take a sheet of paper are write at the top a title such as “fitness mentor” or “career mentor”, etc.
Imagine your ideal mentor
You will need to know what to look for in a mentor. An ideal mentor has the following characteristics:
Expertise and even wisdom in an area of life that you wish to improve in.
The right mental frame to pass on his wisdom (patience, teaching ability).
Willingness to lead.
Write down under each of the titles we mentioned before some notes about what you are looking for in a mentor.
Begin the search by reaching out
First, start by brainstorming names of the people you already know that may have information in the area that you wish to get mentored on. Write a list, cross out anyone who you don't believe has the right qualifications to mentor you. Write their names down on sticky notes and place them on the appropriate sheet.
Reach out to these people. Don't be afraid to reach out to people you don't know very well or even to strangers who you may only know by reputation. As you do so or as you eliminate potential mentors remove their sticky note.
Start a reciprocal relationship
There is an art to mentoring and an art to being mentored. Both require effort and investment, however you are the one who is looking for help, so take the initiative to offer something in exchange for the process.
Be as specific in your offering as possible. Offer to do something useful or to take the potential mentor to a meal to discuss your issue. Be creative and empathetic, respect that their time is valuable, probably more valuable than your time, so offer them something that has real value.
Make sure to follow through on your offer to your mentor.
Listen respectfully to your mentor
A mentor must lead. To benefit from being mentored the mentee must be willing to follow. Listen respectfully, be curious, ask to go deeper into the subject of your mutual interest. Do your own homework and don't waste time on superficial things.
Speak well of your mentor. Let them know how much their support has meant to you. Honour their wisdom, avoid fighting with them and when you must disagree do so with deep respect.
Eventually you may outgrow your mentor. You might become stronger, or earn more, or surpass them in many ways. Even so, remember them from time to time and let them know how much you value their help.
Mentor vs Coach
Should you get a mentor or a coach?
Generally a mentor is a friend or colleague, someone who helps us as a part of a larger relationship. A coach on the other hand is a professional that we hire to help us excel in a specific area of life. While their roles may overlap at times, they perform different functions.
Ideally you will have several mentors to give you a broad perspective and engage a coach to help you set and achieve specific goals.
Read through the first book of Marcus Aurelius Meditations and imagine all the benefits that you could gain by having a network of solid and mature mentors. Use that motivation to go out and start seeking for the help you need to live the life you are want.