Learning from someone does not mean to look like them
On October the 27th it will be “national mentor day” in the US.
This date made me think about all the mentors I met in my life: some of them just dropped in as school teachers, someone else was chosen as a business mentor.
About my teenage life, I will always remember my teacher of French, who was more than a teacher. He was a real mentor. The difference between a teacher and a mentor seems obvious, but it is not that clear, especially when someone has both positions.
A teacher gives some information. A good teacher is also able to give you some sort of method, or he can guide you to create your method. A mentor is something more; he stands by you, and he guides you to follow the path he already covered.
My teacher was a good teacher for French, but he was also a great mentor for life. He guided us to find our own ethics, to discover our values, and stick to them. I will always be grateful for his lesson about freedom. Starting from a lesson about ancient Greece Philosophy, he guided us to shape the idea that freedom is rational self-determination. This lesson is still a lighthouse that makes me find my way in dark times.
When I grew up and I had a working life, at a certain point in my career, I decided that I needed a business mentor. As mentors, they had to be entrepreneurs and they had to face the same problems I was facing at that time.
I found two people: a businessman who gave me a great method for planning any new project. He taught me just to focus on the target and then split every single step you need to climb up to the final goal. Please, feel free to steal this suggestion: in each step, you have to find which is the single goal that is making you get nearer to your final target, and you have to find both the tools or resources you need and the barriers you have to remove. Repeat up to the target.
Besides, I found a businesswoman who made me find my self-confidence and never give up. I am pleased to say she is a good friend of mine.
So, I was lucky enough to find good mentors who enlightened my road to find my personal idea of freedom and to shape my business style.
Despite I am so grateful to all of them, I realized some days ago that I do not want to look like them. I am really grateful for the teachings and the suggestions I got from them; I am grateful for the vision of life and business I shaped in my mind. But I do not want to look like them. I do not want to have my teacher’s fussiness, and I do not want my mentors’ lifestyle.
But that’s good. Learning from a mentor means finding your own way to define your method, your values, and your idea of yourself. Setting your mind is not like learning a movement or a new skill. It is not like learning to ride a bicycle, which is a process that requires a sort of mirror neurons system. Following a mentor means to pave your way and then travel along with it on your legs.
Following a mentor is similar to getting a parent’s education, you can learn from them your all-important lessons, but you are yourself, with your vision and your personality. And that’s the most important teaching I got from all of my mentors.