“Always two there are, no more, no less. A master and an apprentice.”
Dreams are incredible things. Today, colonizing Mars, ending hunger, autonomous flight, or even curing disease with nanotechnology can be imagined, while the future will reveal so many other dreams and ideas that are currently inconceivable. Those who formulate the dream are not always prepared to achieve it without help. In fact, to realize a grand vision, the pursuit of knowledge, skill development and mastery are required. We learn best by incorporating the experience of others.
“You want to know the difference between a master and a beginner? The Master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.”
Like Luke Skywalker hoping to harness the power of the Force, or Rocky Balboa, a poor uneducated small-time boxer dreaming of being the World Heavyweight Champion, those who dream are not always able to achieve without a guide, coach, or a mentor. Their success depended on the guidance from the wise sage. Someone who walked the path, witnessed the landscape, understood the responsibility, and knew their role in elevating their student. They can add a spark at the right time, inject energy where it is needed, illuminate the dark, or collapse time by straightening the path. Yoda saw the possibilities in Luke and Mickey the same in Rocky. They committed to share their wisdom generously as guides to unvarnished dreamers in their quest for greatness.
A great mentor relationship is a lot like the role of a stage two rocket booster. The dreamer alone can generate the power to launch themselves into the sky against the gravitational pull of the earth, but inevitably they need a second push to get the spacecraft to orbital velocity and achieve weightlessness. Once in open space, anything is possible. The mentor not only helps define the flight path, keeping the trajectory on track and smooth, but adds the energy needed at the right time to boost the ship from the grip of the familiar and into the realm of possibility.
Why is it so important to have a guide?
“To go fast, go alone. To go far, go together.”
– African Proverb
The journey of an entrepreneur is a long one. Having a guide along the way helps confirm direction while offering support when things get tough. Wisdom and the commitment to share it generously is a hallmark of the greatest mentors. Some of the most successful business people, politicians, influencers and thought leaders understood the value of such a relationship.
Oprah Winfrey is arguably one of the most successful, famous, influential billionaire philanthropists. It was always clear she would not be held back by anyone. More times than not, she has made incredibly astute decisions that have positively impacted others and shaped her brand and legacy as an icon. While it might seem that her path was an original one, it was influenced by others she respected, most notably, American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou.
"She was there for me always, guiding me through some of the most important years of my life," Winfrey wrote.2
Mentorship is not just a product of modern entrepreneurism, nor is it the domain of feel-good movie content. The importance of a guide in elevating others extends back in time to ancient Greece in 400 BC. Socrates committed to the pursuit of wisdom and sharing it by teaching philosophy. Among his students was Plato. The Socratic method of teaching that leads people to self-realization through guidance and inquisition allowed Plato to learn, essentially, by questioning everything and seeking answers. Plato emerged as a great thinker, who in turn shared his wisdom and the teachings of Socrates through mentoring. One of his students, Aristotle challenged Plato’s style of teaching ideas as absolutes while adding his own belief in objectivity and observance which were important early foundations of the scientific method.
Aristotle, in turn, was engaged by King Philip II of Macedon to teach his son, Alexander. From his early teens, upon the death of his father, he was anointed king. Aristotle continued as his guide; the charismatic Alexander emerged as a genius in diplomacy. In his thirties Alexander the Great conquered and rule most of the known world.2
“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.”
28 May 2014 ABC news article by Lessley Messer, “Oprah Winfrey Remembers Her Mentor Maya Angelou”
Kalman Julius Andrassy, MA, MPA, DPA. “Gifted Aristotelian Mentoring”