The Importance of Mentors

One of the most important pieces of advice I ever received - and one that has shaped who I am and how I navigate the world - was this:

Surround yourself with a group of trusted mentors, people who inspire you, advise you, and excite you.

Now, I can be a pretty rigid thinker. When I first heard this I immediately created a vision in my head of who these mentors were and how they'd assist me. Firstly, I imagined them all as songwriters or highly accomplished musicians. Secondly, I imagined that they'd all have sage advice about my career (and just my career) and that everything they had to tell me would give me an instant level up.

When you define your expectations before you even start something you're already blocking out an almost infinite number of possibilities and new directions - which is exactly what happened to me. Yes, I learned a lot from the people I was surrounding myself with, but what I began to realise is that what I really needed (and ultimately wanted) was deep life advice, viewpoints from people who have been through life and learned hard lessons, people I could turn to in the heat of crisis and find solace.

I was so caught up in putting career first that I forgot to make sure that the foundation I was building my life upon was a solid one. Career without life is ultimately hollow. I learned this firsthand by observing the people I admired the most in life, learning about their habits, their values, and their ultimate goals, seeing that they managed to have both a successful career and a fulfilling family life (which media would have us believe is nigh on impossible). Once I realised that my mentors didn't necessarily have to be musicians my world opened up.

What I learned on top of this was the most important thing of all - and the most obvious when I look back. Although having mentors is a huge help, you have to act on what they tell you. Mentors don't just magically fix everything, open every door, and clear every path. It can happen that you will happen upon someone who will open big doors for you, but you need to be ready to put in the work to walk through them. Again, it sounds obvious now, but my younger self spent way too long looking for a fix-all solution.

In short, mentors are some of your your best allies, but you need to be ready and willing to act on their advice. What they have to tell you is just a fraction of a mentor's power - it's what happens when you act on it that brings out the real magic.

Robert GilliesComment