Mentoring Talent

That simple thing expected of mentees

Dear Mentee,

As Melbourne is getting warmer and the Japanese maple tree outside my office window is getting covered with fresh buds, I can smell the spring in the air.

As I thought of you, I felt grateful. Not because a few years ago, you asked me to be your mentor. Not because you have been promoted to a more senior role after a breakthrough year in your career. I felt grateful because I was given the opportunity to closely observe how you make commitments to yourself and go about honouring them every day.

A friend recently reminded me of these lines from Robert Frost:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

These lines beautifully capture the spirit of many successful individuals of our time – Thomas Edison, Muhammad Ali, J.K.Rowling to name a few. Until today, I am still inspired so much by how Bear Grylls managed to summit Mt Everest only 18 months after crushing three vertebrae in a freefall parachuting accident in Zambia in 1996, and all that mental anguish of being forced to exit from his beloved SAS Reserves. Mr. Grylls could not have done it without living up to Frost’s poetry.

Among the promises that we make, none of them are more important than those we make to ourselves. I have been amused, but not surprised, by how much your language has changed over just 12 months. As recent as last winter, you were still so eager in demanding that others recognise your talent and give you better opportunities. As you have learnt to listen more deeply and thus connecting more genuinely with people around you, you are now focusing your energy on what you can do to improve the situation, not on what you think others need to do. Everything you say now reflects that mentality. Much of the anger and frustration that came with the eagerness last few winters can barely be found today, replaced by a constant calm and balance. And all this started from a promise you made to yourself one morning last year. Have you noticed how some people around you have also become more calm and productive as you went through this inner change?

You yourself believe that words are windows into thoughts, similar to how actions are windows into words. If you have all the right plans, but do not take the necessary actions to experiment with ideas, and to bring your plans to life, then your words have turned hollow, and your thoughts – original and noble they might have been – have been wasted.

Thank you for spending time with me. You may have realised by now that with everything you have achieved, it is you who have put in the efforts and necessary changes. I have barely done anything to help you. In fact, this mentoring relationship is nothing but the process of you discovering yourself, of you looking at yourself in a mirror – through spending time with me and others, being prepared to be challenged, then making commitments to yourself and honouring them.

You have now taken on mentees yourself, and I know that you will be writing a similar letter to them in the near future.

Thank you for remembering the promises you make to yourself each morning.
And even a bigger thank you for honouring them!

I am sure you have also started to smell the spring in the air. Ahhh… what is spring but a hidden dimension of the human spirit that is bursting into open air, one that screams at the top of the lungs as dawn fills the twinkling sky: “Yesterday is long gone. Today is a brand new day, and I’m ready for it!”

Till next time,
Your privileged mentor