For a log time I have been looking for a mentor, someone to lead me, teach me, show me the ins and outs. Someone to help me grow in several areas of my personal and –mostly- professional life.
My ideal mentor would be a person older than me, who have “seen it all”, have answers to every question and a huge expertise in every possible area. And of course will be glad to provide me with knowledge information and support at any time for any length.
I never found a mentor. At least not the way I thought I would. And the problem was not that I was looking for a superhuman, for someone that does not exist. No, the problem was somewhere else.
I have been called a mentor myself quite a few times. I seem to have the ability to help people learn and grow, define a path to follow and help overcome obstacles. Most of the time I didn’t realise that I was mentoring them, but then again, this may have been a good thing.
In the recent years and during my “last” efforts to find a mentor I realised some things all my mentees had in common. Eager to learn, respectful, willing to experiment, to try out, trustful and not being afraid to ask questions, to even “look stupid” or to be in a starting position. And this last one was one of the main obstacles which prevented me from finding a mentor: I have always been afraid to be a beginner. For what reason ever, most of the time I acquired knowledge on my own, with no one around to see me learning from scratch (except official schooling of course). So most of the time when I connected to a teacher I would already know the basics, or figure it out on the fly.
In order to find a mentor you need to be able to become an apprentice. This is the way it works. And a good apprentice must be willing to be a beginner, clueless, “stupid” (in a good way). I could never do that. Regardless all the curiosity, trust and respect, eagerness to learn, the willingness to experiment and a few other attributes I bring with, I always had trouble to be the beginner, the clueless.
Of course I have been clueless (more often that I’d like to admit) and I still am sometimes. Of course I always started somewhere with a little or no knowledge at all. But I always did my best to hide it.
However the same way I have mentored people with out always realising that I am doing so, I too had mentors in my life, without me (or them) realising this. When I looked back I found out that certain persons guided me in their own way, taught me or pointed me to directions that changed my life. Some of them younger than me, some older, all had an influence in who I am and some continue to have.
I can’t say my first mentor was my dad, just because this is a different relationship. But he for sure became a mentor to me after I moved to Germany. After a couple of years being abroad we connected in a different, deeper way. I started asking questions and getting his opinion on many topics. But more than that he mentored by simply being himself. I learned a lot from the way he did things, looked at things, the actions he took, and the actions he did not take. It was like we have entered the last phase of a mentoring relationship immediately and skipped the previous ones. I still seek guidance form him after he passed away in 2001 and … I do receive some every now and then.
One of my first mentors is my long time friend George Bakolas. I met George when I was 15 and was immediately his fan. George being a very talented person, very passionate about what he does and with a seemingly easiness to do everything he would think of (and do it well) impressed me a lot. He would have an opinion, an educated one and would not hold it back. He would stand up and take position against every “authority” if needed. He would never be afraid to experiment and present his art. What ever his art would be at the time. And most important: he would never care about critics, or at least he acted as if he wouldn’t
I followed him for many years during our teens and learned things that would take me several decades to implement in my own life and artistry.
Stefanos Tsatalbassis was the first music teacher I ever took seriously. I met Stefano when I was 16 when I took the bus out of the city on my own to just go for a vacation. He opened for me the doors of classical music laying the foundations for me to really learn and understand it. Also was the only person I ever wrote letters to, opening my mind an my heart without being afraid to sound “stupid”. He listened when I need him to listen, and talked when I needed him to say something. I learned many things from Stefano but mostly how to teach, how to make my knowledge approachable for the ones who want to learn. Stefano is very often called simply “Teacher” and I am proud to be one of his students.
My wife Tina became also one of my mentors. Years after we met, got married and had our children, she opened my mind and most important my eyes for the nature around us. I wasn’t very close to nature.
I could not “get” the “concept” of going for a walk in the forest. Wasted time, I thought. I could understand of walking through the forest to get somewhere to do something “meaningful” (most obviously have food, or go to the park with the kids to see the boars and the deer etc.), but getting out of house, walk in between the trees and get back again? Why do that? “Let’s keep nature safe, stay away from it”
Yet, not long ago, it suddenly “clicked” I started really seeing what she was showing me during the walks (on which I went along because she liked walking), developing an interest, feeling the forest and the trees in a much different way. And oh boy, what a magical world appeared suddenly in front of my eyes. Little miracles all over the place, in every hour of the day, in every season of the year.
Joerg Regener was another one of my “secret” mentors. A big, warm-hearted “bear” and –another – super talented person. Joerg has the “biggest” heart I have ever met on a human. It’s so big that if it could it would beat for the whole world, and it seems to me that some times it tries to do just that.
He is one of the persons who trusted me from the very beginning we met, gave me opportunities, took risks for me and taught me to communicate better and become a better listener. From our discussions, regardless how deep or not, I learned a lot about humans, about feelings, about the soul and the mind. I learned a lot about me, and my weaknesses and strengths. And finally through him, I learned a lot of what I want and what I am willing to do for it
Another mentor was Adrienne Osborn. A very positive person and very active singer, teacher and athlete. She has the ability to dream big and follow these dreams, without getting lost. She can find the positive in almost every situation or experience. One of our many discussions that stuck with me and influenced my artistic life a lot was around the topic: “A creative person leaves Seattle with the goal to go to New York to become a musician. On the way she goes through several stops and cities, (i.e. San Francisco, LA, Denver, Austin etc etc) wandering around, learning and growing, sometimes turning back etc etc. At some point she arrives at Nashville where after a couple of attempts to move on, stays and lives creating a musician career for the rest of her life. She never got to New York except as a tourist and a couple of concerts. Did she made her dream come true or not?”
One could write whole books around this topic. For now it is sufficient to say that simply thinking, talking and answering this for myself, changed my life, for the better.
When I “gave up” on finding a mentor it wasn’t because I was disappointed. It wasn’t even because I would not be a good apprentice. It is because I still implement and work on what I have learned so far. It also is because I have found a way for me, to learn from the people around me, the people I respect, I love, I admire. I learn from people who call me a mentor (reverse mentoring in “scientific speech”) and from people that share their experiences and thoughts openly either in person or via social media. I do filter a lot, because not everything that’s out there resonates with me, or is the right thing for me to learn. With the years I developed the ability to sort out which is which (mostly).
I also started learning more and more from the negative people around me. What not to do, or how not to do things. I’m not getting annoyed by them as often as I used to, anymore. I try to understand in what situation they are in when the act negatively and how do I react when I’m in a similar situation. So that I can avoid, if possible, being a negative person.
One day I hope to be able to be “mentored” from the nature itself. I know a few people who learn from the nature and I wish one day to be able to do that as well. Till then, I am thankful for everyone around me who shares, listens, communicates and helps me to grow and evolve.
Did you ever had a mentor? Someone who you trusted and helped you along the way, the first steps of something new? . Or did you search, and never found one. Have you been a mentor to someone?
I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment, or send me an email.