Six Valuable Points I Learned From My Mentor
It was a hot summer night, and I was dressed up in what I can say was the most ridiculous outfit I ever put on: a suit, a tie, a clean-cut shave, and a fake smile. After a long day of slaving away at my job with a corporate giant, a social event in the evening for work was the cherry on top of the misery cream. That night, however, would change everything about me- it was the night I met my mentor.
You meet a lot of people that teach you lessons about things in life, and it's plausible to say that you can learn something new from every person that ever crosses your path. So what gives a mentor that title? What sets them apart from the pack?
A mentor will go way out of their way to not only to pass along wisdom and tutelage, but also to sculpt you into the best possible version of yourself. The night that I met my Master Splinter, I looked sharp, confident and energetic- dare I say maybe even "happy to be there"? I wasn't, and my mind was a vagabond lost in space-time searching for soil to root. My creative juices were long gone with doodles on college tables. I was doing all right career-wise, but I couldn't recognize the person in anymore, and I felt like a monkey in a penguin suit. I had only two forms of self-expression: the professional voice and the lashing-out voice. My perception of the world was square, and my connection with a bigger picture was only joke material.
That is where my mentor came in, but she didn't teach me lessons about life or any of that poetic Internet blabber, she taught me how to learn. The oft-repeated (and somewhat clichéd) adage, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime," is true. Here's how I was taught how to fish by my mentor in six simple points:
1. Choose your conditions
Each plant needs the right soil conditions to blossom. This also applies to us, running around in corporate offices chasing our paper dreams. We'll never succeed in an environment not suitable to what we inherently are as people. A fish will never climb a tree, just like a monkey will never swim around the deep ocean floor. So I did myself a favor, and got myself new soil. When my position ceased to be rewarding and challenging, I looked elsewhere, and my new stomping grounds gave me inspiration and room to grow.
2. Once rooted, start creating
We live in a consumerist culture that is handed everything (including information) on a silver platter. The lesson I learned here was to treat creation like lust (I still didn't know what love was), and work instinctually on creating what reflects me, on whatever canvas that life and work presented. Whether it be a tweet, an article, a melody or even a napkin at a bar, just keep constantly creating with lust-like drive and abandon.
3. Be the center
I'm not the people in my life; I'm me. Blame tech advancement for connecting us to 1000 times our natural socializing capacity, inevitably leading us to cross paths with so many humans we care about (and many that we don't). This can over-consume our emotions, and leave our productive energy tapped dry. What my mentor taught me was to create a mind map centered on me -because I'm the center of my life- in which I map all of my human connections dividing them into circles of priorities. Focus your energy on whomever you can and should, and address the rest with the appropriate energy that you can afford for their particular position in your universe. This sounds philosophical, but it's really quite practical. Contrary to popular belief, the human brain is a very limited machine, so we have to optimize its energy consumption for maximum performance.
4. Convey ideas
Express yourself, but do so productively. Self-expression is an art, and we tend to overuse that luxury for ego-boosting purposes. We all feel better imposing our opinions on others. We all feel better when we tweet our meal or a political statement. We all love to win arguments, but as I stated before, we're limited in the amount of energy we can expend. My mentor pinpointed the obvious fact that energy spent on winning a useless argument could have been channeled into doing something with a higher purpose, reflecting my true self instead of myself in defiance. Once we base our self-expression on productive purposes, things will fall like a jigsaw puzzle, right into place.
5. Perspective is everything
There is always a bigger picture... and there are also smaller pictures. We are made of cells that are made of molecules that are made of atoms that are made of particles and so on. Everything is a branch of a branch of branch. Determine your position on the tree of life, the professional tree, the family tree, whatever tree you feel like climbing, and contemplate the bigger picture, because that's where we're headed. Learn from the smaller picture, because that's the ground we're standing on- a lesson that I personally found fascinating. When we observe the bigger picture, we can see how we're all connected, and how every little action we take has a ripple effect on everything and everyone around us. Here's where I can apply my previous lessons: if you express yourself productively through the proper channels, good things happen. Cause and effect spreads out over a huge network of connections, making the good stuff that you produce find their way back to you in different and beneficial forms.
6. Connect with the collective mind
The most important lesson of all can be summed up in one tiny observation of nature: A single ant seems to walk in arbitrary directions, and ostensibly understands nothing of its surroundings. If we observe a colony of ants, it's a perfectly tuned hierarchical machine where every ant plays a definitive role that helps keep the machine rolling with tight group maintenance, achieving what seems impossible for a single ant. We can achieve anything with the power of a synergetic collective mind. This lesson applies to every aspect of life, professional, social and even as a species in general; think as a collective for we're limited as individuals.
By opening my eyes on these six points of focus, my mentor didn't need to teach me lessons anymore. Whenever I am I'm in doubt or lost or at a crossroads in life, I go over these points helping to balance all aspects of my life and career. It's worth mentioning that my mentor was a yogi, and these points map to the points of balance or chakras of the kundalini energy, which might have been pure coincidence or an act of deliberate wisdom, but does it really matter? I am now who I want to be when I grow up. That achievement is not measured by money or business cards or LinkedIn connections- it is measured with perception, mindfulness and consciousness.