I love Seth Godin’s blog (thanks, Jeff McKay for turning me on to it). His posts often whack me on the side of the head and inspire me to take action instead of hanging back in the shadows. And often I agree with him.
In today’s post, Seth talks about the difference between heroes and mentors. Heroes are public examples, “broadcasting their model for anyone who cares to look.” They are accessible to all (in a very impersonal way) and relatively inexpensive to access (again on that impersonal level – I imagine getting personal time with Warren Buffett might be a little pricey).
Mentors, Seth argues, “take a personal interest in you. It’s customized, rare, and expensive.” Seth’s conclusion? Most of us won’t be lucky enough to have a mentor, so we’ll have to stick with emulating heroes.
I agree that mentors are rare today – mostly because mentoring doesn’t really pay very well or scale very well. Our culture (unlike some other great cultures in our world’s history) doesn’t value mentors – we love heroes. We want to have lunch with the rock star, not the person who saw the rock star’s potential when she was an awkward teenager. We want to get the athlete’s autograph, not understand the craft of the coach who took polished the diamond in the rough.
But if your organization needs heroes, rock stars, or all-stars, here’s the news flash. You might be the differentiator. You might be the person who spots the potential and turns it into something (better yet, someone) remarkable. No one may hear of you, but you might be that mentor. And in the history of that organization – and that rock star – you might be a (quiet) hero. A mentor.
You’d be rare. Go ahead. I dare you.