Lance T. Miller watching his Mentor: Ed Beard Jr. draw and explain anatomical structure of the skull. (2011) What is Mentorship?  Let&#...

The Magic of Mentorship

Lance T. Miller watching his Mentor: Ed Beard Jr. draw and explain anatomical structure of the skull. (2011)

What is Mentorship? 
Let's start here. A lot of folks don't fully understand what mentorship entails. Simply put, A mentor is someone who has more experience or knowledge on a given topic than a less knowledgeable or less experienced individual. Age can be a factor, but it's not always an older mentor / younger apprentice model. For instance, one of my spiritual mentors when I lived in Nashville was around 8 years younger than me, but was certainly more well versed in a lot of the topics we broached together on my search for a more informed spiritual life. I work with people from many different industries and backgrounds and the number one thing I offer each person to consider enriching their lives and professional careers is Mentorship. The mentor / apprentice model of learning is something of a commodity but you find it more and more as you climb the ladder to success.

Interestingly enough: this isn't a new concept. It's been around since at least the time of the Greeks! Though it was predominantly engaged in specifically to pass a trade skill along to the next generation it eventually began being dismissed as more structured education models developed until it was all but a rare happenstance to be mentored by a "True Master" of a craft or trade. Eventually, mentorship started cropping back up around the 70's as a viable structure by which the older, more experienced artisans and trades people, trained specifically younger and less experienced people.

So what qualifies me to write about Mentorship?
My qualifications lie in the fact that I am engaged on both sides of the mentorship aspect, meaning I have people who mentor me, and I in turn mentor others.  Now it should be noted that I have about 6 mentors that speak into my life on anything from spirituality, to business, to art, magic (illusions) and even personal relationships. At the same time I also mentor about 6-10 people at a given time in anything from art, to business, to magic, and even personal relationships. See what happens there? This is known as a trickle effect. For each person who has reached a stage of being able to mentor, there are those that are still looking to begin the first stages of being mentored and sharing in the accumulated wealth of knowledge from those that are leading the way. In that way, (while I am not at the top of the ladder) I am able to introduce others to this awesome concept.

What can I expect from a Mentor?
 OK. Here's the thing, there's no hard and fast systematic approach to mentorship. Some of it can be hands on ("Here, let me show you how to do that."), some of it is a soft approach ("You know, if you read "The Four Hour Work Week" I'll bet you'll gain some insight into how you can begin to move yourself away from your day job and into something freelance.") and some of it is hypothetical, exploratory approach ("What if you tried doing....?"). The cool thing is, it's always a give and take relationship. You may not be aware of it, but you will also be giving something back to your mentor. For some it's the validation that they are sharing trusted techniques that will continue long after they are gone, and for others it's the joy of knowing their students will help spread a life long legacy that will change the way people live their lives. The primary thing here is to remember that they are people too!

The Magic!
Here's the gold nugget. When you enter into a mentor / apprentice relationship, you will grow! You will learn to appreciate things you'd taken for granted, you will learn the basics of your chosen path that you have skipped over or ignored in arrogance or misunderstanding. You will gain a friend and an ally in your personal growth, someone who cares deeply about helping you succeed because they see your potential to learn and succeed. You will discover pain unlike any other when you feel the sting of disappointment at missing a goal or a task that you scheduled or screw up a process that you've drilled on hundreds of times, but you'll find rapture in that approving nod or that voice telling you that you're getting the hang of something you once thought impossible to accomplish and seeing the fruit of your labors start to develop before your very eyes. Your brain will start to connect the dots with your desire to accomplish something and the skill sets and knowledge required to do so and you will absolutely receive motivation unlike you've ever felt compelled toward in the past. You will begin reaching for the stars and seeing them coalesce in your fingertips.

If you do not have a mentor yet, I highly recommend you start looking for at least one. Try to identify the best possible people who you believe can have the greatest impact on you and whom you greatly respect and admire for those qualities you wish to improve in yourself. Here's a hint:

Not all mentors will speak to every part of your personal life or career path. Some will only guide
you in one aspect where you might find others that influence multiple aspects of both.

Next week, we'll discuss how to find a mentor and some ways to start a mentor relationship on the right foot.

Lance T. Miller is a professional artist and designer in several mass product development fields. He consults with artists to lead them toward their goals in life and works with some of the top agencies in the Board Game Industry as well as the Magic Industry and his own line of consumer products.