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The Star Wars guide to mentorship

Long ago in a galaxy far far way many under 30 have no idea of the original trilogy spawned by the creative mind of George Lucas. Star Wars burst upon the scene in the late seventies and shifted multiple industries. From toys to foods, costumes to future royalties from video tapes, Star Wars turned our galaxy upside down. But it wasn’t until the release of The Empire Strikes Back that our world was introduced to the concept of Jedi training.

In May 1980 I was taken by my sister to see the second instalment of Star Wars; The Empire Strikes Back. With popcorn in hand I was frozen the entire time. The story line was fast and furious, but I found myself fascinated by this exiled Jedi master named Yoda. Choosing to live on the planet Dagobah, he enjoyed his life away from civilization. When the spirit of Obi Wan Kenobi encourages Luke, a broken hearted warrior to seek out this master and receive training, his world changes dramatically. Once there, Luke convinces the reluctant Yoda to school him and the mentorship magic begins. After Luke comes to Dagobah, Yoda initially withholds his true identity. He’s trying to get a sense of who Luke is as a person; Yoda understands that there’s a lot at risk in training Luke to be a Jedi, especially considering what happened with his father. And Yoda is not impressed — Luke is impatient and selfish. Yoda explains “Adventure, excitement. A Jedi craves not these things.” The Jedi master makes it clear that Luke must understand the significance and meaning of the journey he thinks he wants to make. It’s an important lesson for Luke and for audiences, because when Luke faces Vader at the film’s climax, we see the stakes involved in the life of a Jedi.
As I was sharing the wisdom of Jedi training recently to a few “twenty somethings”, it became evident that the generation after me wasn’t familiar with the movies’ cultural impact. And equally, they seemed uninterested in the concept of mentorship. I thought; Who better to reveal the hidden secrets and power of having a mentor than the master himself, Yoda?

Here are a few things Yoda and Luke can teach us about mentorship:

• First, you must seek out a mentor, not the other way around: Here’s the deal, mentorship costs! Not always in money, but in time, availability and travel. Obi let Luke know the training he sought was in a far-away planet called Dagobah. If you want the best, you will have to go where the best are. It amazes me how many feel that reaching out to someone via Social Media is seeking mentorship. That may be a start, but it is much more than that. We must move in the direction of our destiny and often that begins with going to find a mentor. Go where the magic takes place.
• Good mentorship gets under your skin: There’s a huge difference between a mentor and a buddy. To be honest, what some want IS NOT mentorship but affirmations. Real mentors will sort of tick you off because they are stretching your current comfort zone. Being challenged is not fun as its happening. But the results it yields will blow your mind. Everything worth having is located outside of your comfort zone and mentorship is the best way to access it.
• Judge a mentor’s results, not his or her appearance: Luke had a much better physical appearance than his teacher. On the surface he looked like he could run faster and produce more strength. But that in itself was part of the mentor’s lesson. In fact, in Return of The Jedi Yoda said, “When nine hundred years old you reach, look as good you will not.” In other words, I have been successfully living the life of a trained Jedi for a long time, and I still have the goods! Yoda is proof that mentorship is never about declaring your success, but having a proven track record.
• Motives are vitally important: “That is why you fail.” Opens a dialogue between the student and the teacher about motives. Whether fear, anger or greed, motives are at the foundation of all we engage in. What many miss is that it is also the reason we fail. Our pure motives vs. wrong motives are what moves the balances to our advantage. This is what led Yoda to be brutally honest with Luke, who breathlessly says, “I don’t believe it,” after his teacher raises an X-wing from the Dagobah swamp. It’s a definitive statement that comes from Yoda’s years and years of experience as a Jedi and a teacher, and it cuts through both to Luke and the audience.

It has been 34 years since I sat mesmerized by the sci-fi cinematography from Lucas and his team. What is so incredible is today it still has the power to hold audiences frozen. Many sequels have come along and painted more relevant pictures. But for classic movie goers, Star Wars is the standard bar none. The magic captured is nothing short of iconic. Luke’s potential as a Jedi and ultimately the savior of a whole galaxy was locked inside of him. Yoda, as his mentor had the key. Imagine how much success you’re leaving on the table because you haven’t tapped the resources of a mentor. We have countless lessons that can be gleaned and none more critical to our success than that of mentorship. We all would do well to remember this simple quote; “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, take a mentor!”

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