I can’t imagine where I’d be or what I would be like if it weren’t for the mentors I’ve been lucky enough to have along the way. Mentorship in any discipline can be a huge advantages for the advancement of one’s skillset.
Whether you’re rock climbing, blogging, teaching, building, quilting, cooking, or nearly any other activity, having a mentor around to show you how to avoid f-ing up, and even more importantly, showing you how to respond when you do f up is an invaluable asset.
Being a mentee isn’t always easy, and not everyone has the ability. One attribute all mentees should strive to achieve is humility. It’s very hard to learn when one believes they have all the answers. I cannot imagine a worse thing for a mentor to hear than “oh I know” over and over again. In addition to staying humble, a mentee should strive to work with someone they respect. If there is respect in any relationship, it leads to acceptance, and hopefully an understanding that despite criticism, the intent is to serve one’s best interest. Having thick skin also doesn’t hurt. A good mentor will be coming with experience that goes beyond a mentee’s understanding. Someone who balks at every course correction just winds up making the path longer and harder than it needs to be.
Humility, respect, think skin.
Maybe there should be a mentee mentor, maybe there is?
In climbing, a mentor can teach you how to climb, and more vitally how to avoid dying. But a good mentor can offer so much more than that. There is a rich history that comes with climbing, one that has always tried to embrace the idea of working in harmony with nature. Traditionally climbers have supported one another and have been taught to encourage one another’s aspirations. The best of them will share beta, supplies, food, gear, and most importantly, stories. There is a strong sense community within climbing that one would be hard pressed to recognize while climbing alone in a gym.
Anyone can figure out how to climb. With YouTube tutorials and climbing websites, most anyone can figure out how to avoid serious injury. There are now classes and lectures that would-be climbers can enroll in daily. These of course are great tools, but with the advancement and ease with which climbers can now learn how to climb, the necessity of the mentor/mentee relationship is diminishing.
Like all disciplines that once relied on a Mentor/Mentee relationship there is a loss that is impossible to quantify once that relationship is deemed unnecessary.
Can we function without mentors? Of course. Can we flourish without mentors? I’m not so sure. “Back in my day” stories aren’t just stories. They’re pieces of personal history that connect us to the past. They connect us to each other.
I would not be the teacher I am today, nor the climber I am today, nor the person I am today if it weren’t for the mentors I’ve been lucky enough to have along the way.
If you’re new to rock climbing, blogging, teaching, building, quilting, cooking, or nearly any other activity, I urge you to find someone in that discipline who has been doing it longer than you, ask them about their mistakes, their experiences, and the way things were back in their day. They may be full of hot air, (I guess saying ‘full of hot air’ is a polite way of saying ‘full of shit’) some people are, but they may be filled with lessons that are pertinent to your goals. Lessons that can give you a leg up. Lessons that can change your life for the better.
It won’t always work out, but when it comes to Learning (with a capital L) the payoff will always be worth the risk!