On Good Mentoring


“And that is something that most young people, and maybe all of us, want to be taught. What most people seek in life, especially when young, is not happiness but an intensity that reaches into the core. We want to be involved in some important pursuit that involves hardship and is worthy of hardship. The mentors who really lodge in the mind are the ones who were hard on us – or at least were hard on themselves and set the right example – not the ones who were easy on us. They are the ones who balanced unstinging love with high standards and relentless demands on behalf of something they took seriously. We think we want ease and comfort, and of course we do from time to time, but there is something inside us that longs for some calling that requires dedication and sacrifice.” –David Brooks, The Second Mountain.

This passage from David Brooks “vocation” section of The Second Mountain hit me in the chest. It took me back in time to my first performance appraisal as a young professional, being told I did a good job, and walking out of there disappointed that I wasn’t having the kind of demands put on me from my manager that I craved. As the years have gone by I have started to lead people myself, and have come to understand how hard it can be to hold every person to those high standards, so I have begun to look elsewhere. 

I try to surround myself with people who have high demands for themselves, and, through osmosis – have the same high demands put on me. I have found many many mentors through books and podcasts. Mentors like Tim Ferriss, Jocko Willink, and Seth Godin, to name a few. However, there is something a little different about having a mentor in person who balances the unstinging love with high standards and relentless demands. I still think back fondly on the times my track coach (Coach Urso) and football coach (Coach Nimphius) had the tough conversations with me, which showed me that they really did care. I think back on my conversations with managers who danced around a tough conversation as a neutral experience, devoid of commitment. 

Of course, the hard part is to look in the mirror and realize how many times I have danced around a tough conversation. It has been said that the opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. If I truly care about someone I will have the hard conversation with them and help them put relentless demands on behalf of something they take seriously. And then I will find someone else to do the same for me. 

coaching by Gilbert Bages from the Noun Project


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