Traditional educational systems very often kill the creativity that is so needed to succeed in a world that our children will inherit. It is so rare to find people who truly enjoy their work and also excel in it. These are people who are in their “element” every day. The Element is the spot where your talent and passion meet. It is something you are good at naturally, and you love doing it so much that you lose track of the time. The rewards do not matter anymore. The journey itself is the reward.
A mentor, a coach or a sponsor – which one do you need? What’s the difference between them? The mentor talks with you, a coach talks to you and a sponsor talks about you. Sheryl Sandberg speaks about the importance of sponsors in her book Lean In The Element written by Sir Ken Robinson tells us how to hit that sweet spot. It is about discovering what you are good at. The element is all about doing something for which you have a natural feel. It is something you can do better than anyone. It is something you are drawn to. When he interviewed singers like Bob Dylan or Paul McCartney or gymnasts like Bart Conner or the cartoonist Matt Groening (who created The Simpsons) he found they all had discovered what they had a knack for. Many of them spoke about finding a mentor who put them on the path.
Bart Conner could actually walk on his hands even as a kid. Then he taught himself how to climb stairs while still being on his hands. Is it any surprise that Bart became a gymnast who represented US in 1976, ’80 and ’84 Olympic. His wife is another gifted gymnast – Nadia Comaneci.
You cannot leave it chance and serendipitously find your element. A mentor can play a significant role in helping you discover this.
The mentors play four kinds of roles that help us discover our passion.
1.RECOGNITION: A mentor can identify skills that others have not noticed. When we discover the exact field, there is a more precise match with our abilities. The mentor can help us discover our talent not in running but specifically in basketball or sprinting. The art teacher who can discover that while the student is very good in painting, it is really drawing cartoons that the protege would excel in. Once that precise area is discovered, interest morphs into passion.
2.ENCOURAGEMENT: The mentor helps us believe that we can achieve what we believe to be out of our reach and impossible. Good mentors raise our sense of purpose and self-esteem.
3.FACILITATING: Mentors offer us specific tips and advice. These techniques pave the way for us and allow us to learn from our mistakes.
4.STRETCHING: Mentors push us past our limits. They prevent us from doing less with our lives than what we would if left unassisted. A true mentor reminds us never to be “average” with our pursuits.
If you don’t have a mentor, can you still find your element? Yes, you can but it is much easier if you have a wonderful mentor. Do you agree? Mentors open doors for us and get directly involved. They show us the next steps and encourage us.
Have you been a mentor and helped someone discover their element? Did someone help you discover your element? Share your story in the comments below.