Successful people have mentors. That’s the answer. Why successful people continue to have mentors is another question. The answer is that no matter how successful we are or how much influence we have, there is always room for improvement. Throughout our lives, we always have the capacity to grow, learn and evolve. Our mentors are the ones who allow us to see what’s possible as we take note of their success and how they achieved it. With that said, it comes as no surprise a large part of our success can be attributed to our mentors and the people we admire. These people influence our direction in life and the way we view it. Your mentors are people who you aspire to be like. People who exhibit the qualities that you seek to attain. Ideally, you would know these people personally and make them a part of your social sphere, but even if such a person has not shown up in your life, you can still identify people you admire from afar. I’ve mentioned in a few posts my admiration for Dave Chappelle as a successful comedian and all around grounded person.
I missed the Dave Chappelle show era and only recently discovered him a few years ago. At first he was this mysterious comedian rumored to have lost his mind and hid for 10 years while he recovered, but the more I learned about him the more I was intrigued. From what I could gather, he quit the Dave Chappelle show abruptly and was presumed a failure until one day he rose from the ashes and took back his throne as one of the most dynamic and cutting edge comedians of our time. Whether you like his content or not, it’s hard to ignore his authenticity and dedication towards developing his craft. What I’ve admired most about him was his willingness to push the envelope and take risks. He is fearless in his pursuit of social commentary and the art of comedy. Without realizing it, he became my mentor.
That is just the beginning. Even more recently, I watched his interview on the Dave Letterman Netflix series, “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.” I learned he’d left the Dave Chappelle show in an act of defiance as the show became less social commentary and more about perpetuating stereotypes. The essence of the show and his intent in making it had been replaced with what he described as ill intentions— so he walked away. Having not watched the show personally, my understanding is that it was a huge success. It was a breakthrough production for Dave Chappelle and his team. I can only imagine how much courage and self-awareness it took to make that move. Ten points for Dave. In my life and in my life’s work, I aspire to be fearless and grounded in my morals and ethics as my mentor has modeled for me.
Of course, the person that you look to as a mentor does not have to be a public figure; you can admire and look up to people in your own life. For example, I look up to many of my friends because they are motivated, independent, introspective, kind, genuine. They have qualities that I wish to increase in myself or . I also admire my mom for being hard working, extremely resourceful, wise, caring and brave, amongst other things. In short, I surround myself with people I admire, allowing myself to pick out an array of qualities that I wish to cultivate within myself. At the same time, it is important to be intentional about your mentors— people who you can go to when you need advice, inspiration and guidance. I have set people in my life who I look to for advice and when that comes up short, I look to people in the public sphere for inspiration.
How to find a mentor.
- Join a mentorship program. Sometimes these can be part of your workplace or you can find different non-profits or community programs that offer these types of mentorship programs.
- Spend more time with older, wiser people in your life (people you admire). If someone comes to mind, reach out to that person. Say hello and spark up a conversation. Invite them for a coffee every so often and let them know that you admire them!
- Reconnect with a teacher/professor or counselor that has helped guide you in the past. Remember that one teacher who always believed in you? I bet they still do! Reach out to them and re-build that relationship.
- Study someone you admire from afar (as I did with Dave Chappelle). If there is no-one in your present or past that you can think of, you can always study successful, admirable public figures, whether that’s Opera or Dave or Beyonce. Pick someone who truly resonates with you and ask yourself why? Why do you admire this person and what has this person done that you aspire to do?
Do you have other ways of getting mentors? I’d love to know.