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As a continuation of last week’s post, I thought it would be fun to look at some of my favorite fictional mentors from popular movies. Don’t be fooled, there’s a lot we can learn from the mentors we find in fiction. They tell us about what we love and admire in those that we look up to, as well as what traits we should seek to develop in ourselves as leaders. Here goes the list:
#7 – Uncle Ben, Spiderman
Even though it seems like Uncle Ben was a seemingly minor character in the Spiderman story, he plays a crucial role in Spiderman’s character development. You might best know him for his memorable statement to a young Peter Parker: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Uncle Ben teaches us that great mentors always have a way of teaching unchanging truths in forgettable ways.
#6- Mr. Miyagi, Karate Kid
In the Classic Karate Kid movie, Daniel LaRusso learned how to wax on and wax off before he ever learned to throw a punch. Mr. Miyagi shows us that sometimes the best lessons are ones we learn before we even know we’ve learned them. Great mentors have a knack for teaching in the most untraditional ways.
#5- Morpheus, The Matrix Trilogy
The best mentors see things in us that we don’t even see in ourselves. That is what Morpheus was for Neo. When everyone –including Neo–thought that he was just an ordinary person, Morpheus believed that Neo was the One. It’s great to have leaders in our lives who see in us what we are too scared to see in ourselves.
#4- Professor X, The X-men (Film series)
Charles Xavier always had a way of bringing out the best in his students. He believed that everyone he worked with had the potential to do what was right, even people who were outright bad. Good mentors challenge us to see our potential to accomplish great things even when we see only opportunity to do mediocre things.
#3- Obi-Wan Kenobi & Yoda, Star Wars Series
Obi-Wan and Yoda played very integral roles in training up young Luke Skywalker at different points in his life. While Luke certainly would’ve liked to have them around for longer, they remind us of the seasonal nature of mentors. Great mentors don’t have to mentor you for a lifetime to have a lifelong impact.
#2- Morgan Freeman (in pretty much any movie)
While this one is a little bit tongue-in-cheek, it’s pretty clear that Freeman plays a lot of “mentor-type” roles in his movies. From Shawshank, to Batman, to even The Lego Movie, his characters always tend to have a lot of wisdom to dispense. He reminds us that great mentors are wise counselors, whose voice of wisdom always comes at the most opportune occasions.
#1- Gandalf, The Lord of The Rings & Hobbit Trilogies
Any character that is the driving force behind 6 Peter Jackson films deserves to be first on a whole bunch of lists. Seriously though, Gandalf challenged everyone from hobbits to humans to risk their lives for a cause greater than their own. Great mentors challenge us to take great risks, in hopes of one day experiencing great rewards. A key take away is that Gandalf not only challenged his mentees to take the risk, he was with them every step of the way!
There is a lot to be gained by both sides of a mentor/mentee relationship. For the mentee, he/she gains wisdom, insight, motivation and accountability. The mentor on the other hand, gains personal satisfaction from helping someone else, validation in who they are (it’s a huge boost to your self-esteem when someone you value asks you to be their mentor), and the privilege to synthesize their life experiences into life lessons they can pass on to others.
Mentor/mentee relationships are very valuable and its wise to have more than one mentor. But what should you ask yourself before you ask someone to be your mentor? Here are a few simple but important questions:
1. Is my prospective mentor the person that I want to be in 10-20 years?
Don’t ask someone to be your mentor if you don’t feel like where they are today is where you want to be tomorrow. If they don’t represent your aspirational values or goals, don’t pursue. Otherwise you are looking to establish a lame-duck mentor that won’t add value to you, and worst they won’t gain any personal satisfaction from mentoring you. Your wasting both you’re time.
2. Does my prospective mentor love/value me?
Asking someone to be your mentor is a pretty deep question. Just as you wouldn’t pull out a ring on the first date, asking someone to be your mentor without establishing a personal relationship is dangerous! Ask to meet for coffee a few times, see if there is chemistry or value to be added and satisfaction to be gained. If not, drop it. Asking someone you don’t know, or—more importantly—doesn’t know/value you, to be your mentor is asking for an empty mentor/mentee relationship.
3. Will I be proactive in this relationship?
Don’t pursue a mentor, if you’re not willing to put in the work. In all of my mentoring relationships where I am the mentee, I text/call and setup the coffee appointments and set the agenda in the meetings. I rarely ask my mentors to prepare an agenda or talking points, rather I come prepared with questions ready to delve into their wisdom. I’ve seen this played out on the flip side. One of my mentees did this for me recently, by sending a list of questions he had for me before our meeting as a way for me to better prepare without the stress of having to come up with content on my own. His hard work and forethought made it very easy for me as a mentor to serve him better.
Here’s one question you shouldn’t ask:
Does he/she really have time for me?
Let your prospective mentor decide if he/she has time for you. Sometimes we are too quick to answer for them, thinking there is no way someone this awesome has enough time for me. Chances are, if they value you or see potential in the mentor/mentee relationship, they will make time for you.
Have you ever had that gnawing, uncomfortable feeling in your gut whenever you hear criticism directed at you? Want to know how to overcome it?
First,you must know that criticism is valuable. In fact, it is far too valuable for you to wait on the sideline till you receive it. You must invite it!
1) Ask for Criticism
If you ever had to do it, you know that giving criticism isn’t fun. So, whenever you ask someone for criticism, chances are it will catch the other person off guard and make them genuinely want to help by giving their perspective. If you don’t ask for criticism, you will still get it—just not framed as nice and not timed as well. Open the door to criticism, rather than having it slammed open on your face. Don’t wait to take criticism, seek it out.
2) Get Divorced
Sometimes we marry ourselves to our own ideas and take critiques as personal jabs. If a friend or coworker challenges your ideas or execution, he/she is not calling your wife ugly, they are simply talking about a project/decision that is entirely separate from you. So, divorce yourself from your project. It makes taking criticism way easier.
3) Be Your Toughest Critique
If you evaluate your work at the highest level on a personal level, critiques from others will come as confirmations of your own suspicions rather than complete surprises. I had a professor in college who would always say, ‘you gotta cut your baby.’ Essentially, you have to be willing to scrutinize your own work to the point that it hurts like your ‘cutting your own baby’. (I know…that’s a pretty morbid illustration…but the truth hurts!)
So, now I no longer take criticism, I invite it. My challenge for you is to do the same!
First off, I grew up cheering for the Mavs and now I #ThunderUp. The Spurs were and seem to always be a rival. You don’t cheer for rivals. So, as a Mavs/Thunder fan, I hate the Spurs (I know, ‘hate’ is a strong word…I mean ‘strongly dislike’).
But, as a leader, here’s why I love them:
1) They value Team over Talent
If you were doing a fantasy draft today and you had your pick of any top 5 players for your starting line up, chances are there might not be a single Spur on your team. They aren’t the most talented, but they are not a team built merely on talent. They are a team built on playing TEAM basketball. Team always beats Talent.
2) They Think Pass First
There is always a tendency in leadership to overly, almost predictably, rely on a single great player or small group of standout performers. Great teams multiply great players by making great passes. Though the Spurs have some amazing shooters, time and time again, they pass up contested shots for open looks. Great teams value the pass and rely on the team rather than a single player to win the game or carry the load.
3) They Flop Convincingly
4) They Do the LITTLE Things Well
When you do the little things well, the big things get easier. When your Nickname is ‘The Big Fundamental,’ its likely your team is going to embody some of the same motivations. One of my mentors, @briancromer, taught me that projects will always have unknown variables, the goal is to have ‘excellence in the little you CAN control.’
You probably won’t see me cheering at any Spurs games, but deep down in my heart I honor teams that play with such great values. So, congrats San Antonio on your Championship and your truly great Team!
[I preached this sermon, “Waiting,” at NORTHchurch on May 26th, 2013.]
Here are the sermon notes:
13 Within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your position, and you will put Pharaoh’s cup in his hand, just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer. 14 But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison.
Genesis 40:20-21, 23
20 Now the third day was Pharaoh’s birthday, and he gave a feast for all his officials. He lifted up the heads of the chief cupbearer and the chief baker in the presence of his officials: 21 He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, so that he once again put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand
23 The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.
When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream…
1. When you’re waiting, be working
“Faith Is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.
2. When you’re waiting, know that God is working
God works things together for your good the most when you see it the least.
When what you don’t know scares you, rest in what you do know: God is on your side.
3. Waiting can be painful, but waiting is how God builds you.
Isaiah 40:31 (KJV)
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.