The Mentor – We’re all in this Together
Welcome to the Love Your Story podcast. You are tuned in for episode 100, and today we are talking about the third story archetype (the third one I’ve tackled on the podcast) – the Mentor. Joseph Campbell, in his book The Hero of a Thousand Faces, claimed that the most popular stories over millennia and across cultures, share a specific formula- the hero’s journeHero’s hero’s Journey has a specific plot structure, but it also has a repeating cast of characters, known as character archetypes. Archetypes tell us the role a character plays in the story – for instance, the hero is one of the archetypes, the threshold guardian that talked about in episode 72 is another, and the Herald that we talked about in episode 93 is yet another example. The archetype we’re talking about today is the MENTOR. You’ll want to tune in today because nobody does this thing called LIFE on their own. We need each other. It’s why the MENTOR is such an important archetype in the story formula and in the stories of our lives. Today we’re going to start a discussion about those special people who show up at the cross roads for us, about the wise who give us sage advice, about the moments those mentors gift us with the perfect magic elixir we need in the moment, and about how we also play that most important role in the lives of the people in our story. Why is the Mentor such an important character? Because who hasn’t wished for a fairy godmother from time to time, or wanted their own Obi Wan Kenobi to show up and give them a light-saber, or when we are walking through the dark forests of our lives running from danger – who couldn’t do with the 7 dwarves showing up to give you shelter and safety as they did with Snow White? When you’re out on your scariest, out-of-your-comfort-zone stretches in life, like Dorthy in the Wizard of Oz, have you noticed how people show up along your path to give you clues, advice, and heart? Have you noticed that people show up to walk your path with you, like the Lion, the Tin Man or the Scarcrow? Stay tuned because it’s important to realize and acknowledge how much we need other people and how important it is for us to show up for them as well.
When I was 16 my parents and I got in a fight. The final shake out was a ultimatum – follow the rules or find someplace else to live. I moved out. I moved to Southern California with my aunt and uncle and therein started a type of mentor relationship with my Aunt Katie. When I moved to California I was frustrated at not being trusted and not being listened to at home. I was coming from a really good home with really strict rules, and the big fight in question happened because I tried to do my laundry on Sunday – and that was a no-no. I, as the hero in this story, was on a journey of growing up. I knew what I wanted, where I wanted to be, how I wanted to do things and I certainly didn’t need shackles and restrictions or other people’s ideas of how to do things. Heck I was 16 years old and had it figured out. No really. I did. So, when I moved to Orange County California and my aunt listened to me, treated me like an adult, wore cool clothes and did cool things I felt excited with new possibilities. She was wise and we would talk about real life. That was new. She gave good advice but didn’t push me. She gave me the gifts of shelter, food, ideas and respect that this little hero needed at this stage of her story. I went back home after spending a summer at the beach and working at the local theatre and I was further along my hero’s journey because a woman who would prove to be my mentor in many ways and for many years showed up at that crossroads.
Who are the mentors in your life? Can you think of them right off the bat? If not, here are a couple leading ideas…. The mentor character is the person who teaches, protects and gives the hero gifts along their path. Mentors often seem endowed with divine wisdom – they say the right thing at the right time. Think Merlin guiding King Arthur, or in my interview with the Kjars a couple weeks back they talked about Jodie Moore, their life coach podcaster telling them ‘not to hold back’ and those words being key in their decision to sell their home and travel the country. Who have been your teachers or trainers?
Another primary function of a mentor is as a donor or provider – one who temporarily provides the hero with some type of gift, a magic weapon, a clue, medicine, food, advice, a key. In the Hunger Games Hamich played the mentor role, bringing Katniss the silver pods that would parachute down with the gift she needed at the time. As is common with this aspect of story, the hero usually must do something to earn the gift – past a test, be kind along their path, in the case of the Hunger Games, Katniss had to convince the masses that she was in love with Peeta before Hamich would give her the medicines or healing balms she needed in the games. Can you recall the people along your life journey who suggest just the right book, or the right podcast. Maybe they bring you something you need very much but you didn’t even know you needed it.
Last week my neighbor came over to see what the big mess on my lawn was about. I told him the story about the contractor I had hired to seal my foundation cutting my main sprinkler lines, taking the money and refusing to finish the work thus leaving my lawn dying and the front of my house a mess. He looked at me and said “that’s what I do ya know…. I’ve worked with sprinkler systems for 25 years. Let me take a look at it.” He then proceeded to pull parts and pieces from his truck and an hour and a half later my main sprinkler line was in working order and I could try to revive my ailing lawn. He wouldn’t take any payment. Now, that’s a mentor. He came, he provided a gift I dearly needed, and he relieved an anxiety that had me totally held up on this part of my path.
Mentors also show up just at the right time – Cinderella’s fairy godmother showed up just in time to get her to the ball. A few week’s back in my interview with Mark Shurtleff he talked about a time things got bad enough, that he thought about ending it all, jumping into the subway train, but just at that moment a dear friend called and ended up saving his life. Thank God for the people listening to the promptings and intuitions to make a call, show up, and reach out.
One of the reasons I think this topic merits a discussion, is because those mentors who show up and give us insight, who gift us with just what we need in the moment, who help us overcome fear and anxiety in our places of struggle, these are the magic folks. These are our fairy godmothers and fairy godfathers. These are the people that deserve a thank you note, a hug, a dinner, an acknowledgement. If you’re behind in sharing your gratitude with the mentors in your life, let me launch your challenge for the week. Make a list of all the mentors you can remember who have inspired, gifted, guided and showed up for you, and let them know the difference they have made for you. Let them know how much they mean and meant. You can never give too much appreciation and no one deserves it more than those people who light our paths so we can move forward. Those people with the magic words.
Another role of the mentor is to motivate the hero along their path. Who motivates you? Who helps you overcome your fear of moving forward into whatever life adventure awaits? Has anyone had to kick you in the butt, throw you in the pool of life, push you a little to get you out of your fear space or your stubborn space, or your self-doubt space? That’s a mentor. Have you seen the movie Forever Strong? The rugby coach guiding the delinquent high schooler. Another great movie – if you haven’t seen it, I recommend it. It’s about a champion high school rugby team that succeeds because their coach is about guiding them by the highest principles, not only in the game, but also in their lives. The clean living, the commitment to team, the honesty in school and dealings with others creates a space of exceptional power. Highland Rugby’s 35-year varsity record (1976–2012) is 419 wins and 10 losses, including 19 USA Rugby national championships in the 26 years USA Rugby sponsored a national championship. This was possible because of a man who mentored day after day, year after year, guiding heroes into their highest selves.
Another role of the Mentor is to teach specific skills. In Greek Mythology the gods were often tutoring their favorites in wrestling, horsemanship, archery, weapons-handling, etc. Who has taught you?
What about a mentor as the protector. Think Dumbledore guiding Harry Potter. He was often Harry’s protector, removed as he was. Who in your life watches over you – actively or from a distance?
We all have a series of mentors in our stories. We learn from siblings from parents, from our friends, teacher, lovers, role-models, people we work with, neighbors, therapists, it could be anyone….in fact sometimes the mentor role is filled by someone who is young, or by someone who has made the big mistakes so others can learn what NOT to do from them.
We also fill the role as mentors in other’s live as we do what we do… parent, teach, love, and listen to the spirit or intuition – whatever you call it – that guides you to be in the right place at the right time for someone else. Do you want to be the one at the cross roads handing out the magic elixir just when it’s needed most? Do you want to share wisdom, teach, guide? Do you want to protect, donate, walk with someone down their yellow brick road? Guess what? You already do! But, there’s no harm in paying closer attention to your intuition, to the spirit that prompts you to do something unexpected. There’s great good in looking for ways to lift and protect each other. I think that most of the time we have no idea who we will touch or how we will make an impact. It just comes down to caring, listening, using your gifts and talents, and then things just come together. There is something about the magic of our life stories, and maybe the orchestration of angels, that somehow the right things, ideas, books, people and magic elixir finds its way to us.
Thanks for being the mentors you are in your world. Thanks for being here today, and don’t forget the challenge to show appreciation to your mentors this week.
Loveyourstorypodcast.com has all the podcast episodes as well as story tools to help you create your best life story – the on-line course: the 5 steps to reframing your past stories that hold you back, as well as the 21-Day LIFE Connection challenge that gives you a new tool for creating connection and possibility in your life story ever day for 3 weeks. You can find them all on the website.
Thanks for being here, we’ll see you next week for the next episode of the Love Your Story podcast.