I was sustained by one piece of inestimable good fortune. I had for a friend a man of immense and patient wisdom and a gentle but unyielding fortitude.
I think that if I was not destroyed at this time by the sense of hopelessness which these gigantic labors has awakened in me, it was largely because of the courage and patience of this man.
I did not give in because he would not let me give in.”
~ Thomas Wolfe
Surviving a Minefield
Seeing their main unit surrounded by a superior enemy force of heavily armed and concealed troops, the sergeant saw an opening in the enemy’s line through which he and his patrol could make an escape. The sergeant signals his men to follow, and they start running through the opening in the enemy’s line avoiding the probable fate of those they left behind – capture or death. As they get further and further away from the battlefield, the volume of fire from the guns, mortars and tanks gradually fades.
The patrol entered an open field which they began to cross until it was interrupted by a deafening explosion. A small crater was present where a soldier once stood. “Mine field!” shouts the sergeant. The remaining men stop, frozen in their boots. The sergeant then bellows, “Retrace your steps back to the edge of the field!” The men respond as obediently as possible carefully retracing their steps.
Once back at the edge of the field. The sergeant shouts for one of his corporals – an expert in locating mines. The corporal pulls out his bayonet and drops to his belly. He begins a slow crawl into the field delicately probing the dirt in front and on either side to see if it hits metal indicating a mine is present.
After finding a mine, he marks the spot with a stick with a white cloth. He then diverts his path and continues probing for mines. After the corporal has gone a few yards, the sergeant instructs the remainder of the men to follow the route the corporal was creating. Each soldier understands the critical importance of following the man before him if he is to make it through the field alive.
In more friendly environments, runners, speed skaters, race car drivers and cyclists frequently perform what is called “drafting.” When you move at high speed, you produce a wake of air behind you. If you get behind the fast moving object, the wake pushes you forward. Scientists observed when you draft you exert 29 to 36 percent less effort than the person you are following.
The same is true in life. Typically, we have a healthy amount of fear and anxiety when we attempt something we have never done before. If you know you are following someone who had successfully gone before you and created a wake to follow, you will approach your challenge with more motivation, confidence and energy.
Benefits of Mentoring
Here are three benefits of having a coach or mentor.
- Clarity. You’ll gain clarity because frequently you’re too close to a situation to see it clearly. Having a coach or mentor sharing their insights about your situation will give you an outside perspective on how to improve. If you are motivated to make improvements, you’ll place a lot of value on that person’s perspective.
- Accountability. You’ll have accountability. Without accountability, we usually end up with a lot of excuses as to why things don’t get done. It’s practically impossible if not difficult to be accountable to yourself. Having someone to whom you’re accountable helps you stay on track with those non-urgent but important actions which lead to personal and professional growth.
- Tailored. Coaching or mentoring is custom tailored to you. You can attend workshops and read books, but the content will be presented for a general audience and not specifically to you. In coaching and mentoring relationships, everything is customized to meet your individual needs. You’ll have to become vulnerable to some degree and acknowledge your weaknesses, but a good mentor or coach is looking for ways you can capitalize on your strengths while compensating for your weaknesses. That just can’t happen in a workshop the same way it can during a one-on-one.
We all have room to grow – get a mentor who can help you for your personal and professional development. Make sure whoever you select as a mentor/coach is qualified for the job. For example, if you’re a stepdad get a mentor who’s a stepdad or at least has been one. Be confident that whoever you work with has your best interests at heart. Investing in yourself always brings worthwhile returns.