Editor’s note: This is a guest post by A.J Rippo. Mr. Rippo is the author of Retribing. For a chance to win his book, see the details below.
Accomplished men are often heard attributing their success in part to the impact of mentors on their lives, and much has been written about the many benefits this special class of teacher can bestow. But the quest to find good mentors can be daunting, disheartening, and even dangerous. Here are four commonly encountered barriers to finding good mentors and suggestions for avoiding or overcoming them.
Lack of Motivation
No one finishes a marathon without a great deal of motivation, and unless you’re very lucky, the same holds true for finding mentors. Would you like to achieve success in your career faster? A professional mentor will help you. Are you interested in exploring the great mysteries of the universe and your purpose within it? A spiritual mentor will assist you. Do you want to sharpen and expand your mind beyond your academic education? An intellectual mentor will challenge you. Could you use some guidance in making big life decisions? An older mentor will offer valuable insight and help you to avoid costly and embarrassing mistakes. In order to squeeze the most out of your life, you will need to have mentors; to find them, you will need to stay motivated.
Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing
Perhaps we are most vulnerable when we seek to fulfill a need, and the younger we are, the easier prey we make for predators. There are three rules that everyone, especially children, should follow when recruiting mentors:
Before you seriously consider someone as a potential mentor, get the opinion of someone you trust. If you are a teenager or pre-teen, get permission from your parents, grandparents, aunts, or uncles. Although they are in the minority, some predators hold jobs as teachers, police officers, clergymen, and coaches. Do not seek out strangers in person or on the Internet.
Do not trust a mentor who asks you to keep secrets. Anyone who encourages you to keep secrets, especially regarding their mentorship, should not be trusted. Run away as fast as you can. (This does not apply to a mentor’s request that you respect his privacy if he shares personal stories to make a point, etc.)
Avoid gangs. Not having a mentor at all is better than having a bad one. While gang affiliation may seem to provide some of the many benefits of mentorship, it is ultimately a dead end at best.
The Horse That Doesn’t Drink
Listening is a skill, and its practice will improve all of your relationships. The more skilled you are at listening, the more you will hear. The more you hear, the more of your mentors’ wisdom you will have available to apply to your life. But, what if you don’t like what you hear?
To reap the benefits of being mentored, you must be ready to handle criticism and disapproval. A mentor’s job is not merely to offer praise for worthy efforts and achievements, but also to point out weaknesses and failures, and to offer insight on how to surmount them. If you have recruited good mentors, pay special attention to their criticisms and disapprovals as these often offer the best opportunities for personal growth. Good mentors challenge you to stretch from and leave your comfort zone. Remember the old saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” Don’t be the horse that doesn’t drink!
Dealing gracefully with rejection is a skill that every man needs to develop as it’s a natural part of a full, healthy life. We face rejection when we apply for jobs, when we ask women for dates, and also when we seek mentorship. Learning from these experiences helps us refine how we present ourselves during future opportunities and increases our chances for eventual success.
Like potential employers and dates, mentors differ greatly from one to another. Volunteers of organizations such as Big Brothers usually welcome direct requests for mentorship while busy professionals often run the other way. Tailor your approach for each prospective mentor. When seeking a businessman who keeps a busy schedule, consider whether you share any common interests such as a sport or charity organization; building a friendship in this context may lead to a better result. When you’re turned down, get over your reasonable disappointment and treat rejection as an opportunity for improvement.
The Retribing Giveaway
Want to learn more about overcoming these and other barriers to mentorship? Read RETRIBING: The Unpaved Road to Manhood, by A. J. Rippo, an inspiring tale of an ordinary boy stranded on the path to becoming a man.
Retribing is a story about a boy who wants to be a man but has no male role-models at home. In the hills near his school, he encounters a mysterious warrior chief (real or imagined) who shows him the way. The warrior chief’s feathers represent the fundamental building-block virtues of manhood (perseverance, responsibility, boldness, physical prowess, perspective, independence, etc.). The book is perfect for males of any age, and for the mothers, fathers, and mentors who raise them to be men.
To enter to win a copy of Retribing by A.J Rippo leave a comment about:
- A barrier you’ve encountered in finding a mentor, or
- A barrier you’ve encountered in learning from a mentor, or
- What has worked for you in successfully finding and learning from a mentor
Contest ends Sunday, August 30, 2009 at 11PM CST.
As usual, I’ll randomly pick two people from the entries.