The following is adapted from Step on The Mat.
People, a lot of times, don’t want help. Sometimes people see the word mentor and they think of it as someone who is telling you what to do. A mentor is not a weak thing. Each one of us has skills, but we all lack certain skills.
There is so much information out there—at the library, or on the internet. You can also pay a mentor for their time. It can be difficult to sort the good information from the bad.
A lot of people read Rich Dad Poor Dad, for example. It’s a very popular book. Some people read the book and collect information. It’s another thing to know how to apply that information and have expert guidance. Books are great, but they can’t take you all the way. They can’t support you.
No one is above having a mentor. Even I still have mentors, whether it’s for writing a book or even martial arts. I need to keep training, and I need to keep growing to be a good leader.
Even if you have skills, you should always want to be better, and that’s where mentors can help, because mentors challenge, push, and give feedback.
The way you find a mentor is simple: you ask.
That’s the biggest obstacle, because people don’t want to ask. They don’t want to ask and they don’t want to pay. People often have too much pride to ask, and don’t have the determination to pay. People often say, “I don’t have money for that,” but they need to look at where they are and where they really want to go. And if they’re not willing to pay for it, they shouldn’t complain. It’s rarely an issue of not being able to afford it. Usually, it’s about being willing to spend the money on a mentor instead of something else.
Do you want to grow or decay? If you’re fine with decaying, then don’t complain. But if you want to grow, then what do you need to do? You need a mentor. And you need to do what it takes to get one. You have to ask, and you probably will have to pay.
Tips for being mentored? Isn’t it the mentor’s job to do the mentoring? Well, yes, but it’s up to you to do the work. Here are some things to keep in mind as you seek out a mentor and once you find one.
When looking for a mentor, identify what you need. What kind of mentor are you looking for? Do you need help with your technique? Your attitude? Your competition mindset? Do you need someone who will push you? Someone who will ask a lot of questions?
Think about what you specifically need in a mentor, and find who best fits that.
Also keep in mind that any mentor you find may teach you lessons about various aspects of your life. Suppose I’m looking for a financial mentor. When I approach someone who I think would be good, I learn that he’s passionate about his wife, family, and friends. I might realize that I want more passion in my life. Just because he’s my financial mentor, that doesn’t mean I can’t learn other lessons from him.
A martial arts gym is different from a normal gym. In a normal gym, you have access to weights and machines, but nobody’s guiding you. When you go into a martial arts gym, you automatically have an instructor to guide you. In a way, your instructor is a mentor. They’ve walked the line you’re trying to walk. When another person walks the path before you, that’s called “sensei.”
If someone has walked the path before, they can show you how to walk the same path. By learning from their experience, you can become better than who you are. You can also become better than the person who taught you.
In today’s society, it’s easier to find a mentor than it used to be. Now, we have access to the internet. We all have phones. There are countless ways to do research. Chances are there is more than one martial arts school in your area, if that’s what you’re looking for. Check them out. Which ones seem like the best fit?
Not all mentors, however, will live in your community. But that doesn’t have to be a problem. With modern technology, you can easily FaceTime your mentors. You can also email back and forth and speak to them over the phone. Things today are different than how they were years ago. You don’t have to travel far to find a mentor anymore.
The one thing you should always do, of course, is talk to your parents for help in your search for a mentor. Unfortunately there are people out there willing to take advantage of people with the courage to ask for help, and having an adult’s guidance will help make sure you’re finding the right person.
Finding a mentor is only the first step. Once you find a mentor, you have to be willing to listen to them.
When a fighter wants to fight, they listen to their coach. If they don’t listen to their coach, they won’t be able to fight well.
Lessons are easy to learn when you listen to directions. The more you listen, the better you’ll become.
When you don’t listen to directions, lessons become much harder to learn. When you’re doing it all yourself and not listening to your mentor, you’re choosing to learn the hard way. Sometimes doing things the hard way is admirable, but if your mentor is showing you the best way, listen. A mentor has already made many mistakes themselves. Any good mentor wants to give you all the tools you need to achieve your goals.
Finding and learning from a mentor is often a tremendous help that can take you to the next level of your training. However, there will be challenges no matter what. Go about finding a mentor the correct way so you won’t add challenges you don’t need.
For more advice on martial arts, you can find Step on the Mat on Amazon.
Ninja Nguyen started his martial arts journey when he was four years old, growing up in a small fishing village in Vietnam. He continued to train in refugee camps, where martial arts served as his guiding light while he struggled to learn English in unfamiliar classrooms, preparing to come to America. Ninja originally worked in security for nightclubs before finally opening his own dojo and building the life he has today. A devoted husband and father of three, he is the owner of Xtreme Ninja Martial Arts Center in Boston, which currently trains more than 500 students.