Tuesday, March 22, 2016
Mentors...What Does It Mean?
I recently read about a well-known survival guy who said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that he had no mentors — he learned it all himself. Really? It would take a long life time to learn all the primitive survival skills on your own and how would one even know about them in the first place. We all have a teacher in some form. Even if you don’t agree with them, it sets your brain to thinking of another way, or an improvement to your mind.
Mentor: Someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced, often younger person. A trusted counselor or guide, tutor or coach.
For many, a mentor is from a book you read. Even if you were set off just by adding a nuance to what you read, that author was a mentor. Even the author of a magazine article that is BS and sets you off experimenting on your own is a Mentor.
If you are lucky enough to have a face to face instructor and can admit you learned even one thing, he/she is a mentor, even if they set your thinking process that perhaps sends you in a better direction.
A Mentor can be a friend who is not actively being a Mentor, but has a skill set they share with you in a conversation or just in the act of camping together and having campfire talks. I believe some think it is a weakness to admit they have learned from someone else. I also believe the person who is a Mentor can be younger than you. Anyone who teaches often times learns things from a student. If you’ve ever taught any class, you will have experienced this.
An old friend of mine once said to me why are you taking classes from that guy, he’s way younger than you? What does that mean? He had a set of skills that I did not have, that’s the bottom line.
I was very weak in plants and had tried out several books and instructors. Then I began taking some of Christopher Nyerges’s classes and it was apparent, almost instantly, I found the right Mentor. He is a natural born teacher who was articulate and knew his subject. One thing I liked was his attention to detail. And if he did not know something, he told you so. A know it all teacher is not a good thing. Being honest with himself and the student is a bonus for everyone. I’ve had a lot of Mentors, some more important than others, but learned from them all.
As one moves along in life, you look back and say, “wow how do I really know all this stuff?” It’s simple, you picked the brain of several mentors along the path. You practiced and soon have tucked a lot of info into your grubby brain. You now have experience and have provided your own nuance to the subject.
Some never learn anything new and get stuck in the sands of time never questioning your “way” of doing a certain skill. We have a habit of taking what some guru of survival says as gospel. Rigid thinking is your enemy and is hard to part with because you have convinced yourself that this is the right thinking. It took me quite a long time to use stainless steel knives. I still like the patina a carbon steel knife attains over the years of good honest work in the bush, but I now use stainless, not exclusively though. It was after Alan Halcon kept harping at me, that he gave me a Mora. Yes, he’s cheap, but after using it for some time I see things have changed with stainless steel. Shame on me for not being flexible sooner. A lesson in getting stuck in the sand. Lesson learned. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks
On a personal level, I have so many to thank the list could be a book. Look back and think of those mentors and give them a shout out, or send smoke to the directions because some do not walk beside us anymore. Make an effort to help those just beginning the path of owning the skills, they will never forget you.
Never stop learning none of us are know it all’s. Always be a student of the skills and of life.