The Importance of Mentorship

In order to achieve mastery in a given field, it is important to have mentors whose mastery you would wish to emulate. Forming a connection with someone who has already achieved the same goals as you can vastly increase your chances of succeeding. Not only do they show you how they made it possible for themselves, but they could also see the potential in you to do the same and tease out what you might have to do in order to improve.

The Eternal Student

One of the best ways to approach life is to act as if you are a student from now until eternity, constantly learning and constantly growing. While it is important to celebrate victories and milestones as they come, you cannot allow yourself to get too attached to those small instances of joy. They can feel really good in the moment, as they should, but a sense of pride and enjoy are fleeting, much like most things in life. It’s all temporary and not meant to last.

If you veer off too much into being proud of your accomplishment, you can risk stifling your growth because you will have become so arrogant as to think you know it all now because of this one peak among the valleys. Know that you can always be reaching one peak higher than the last so long as you draw breath. And all the other valleys that come in between are nothing but stepping stones toward that next peak.

Having a mentor guide you through your journey can help you measure whether or not the challenges you come across in your given field are worth conquering or if they are nothing but dead weight. Operating from your frame of reference you will only be seeing the forest for the trees and a good mentor will be able to see where you are at from the bird’s eye view above the said forest.

If you remain open minded about seeing each challenge as an opportunity to learn something new about the world and yourself, then you are already ahead of most people who do nothing but complain about life not giving them what they want. Important things in life must be earned through our own sheer hard work and determination. Almost nothing gets handed to us for free, and even if you do receive something for free, it’s not really free–but that’s a topic for another day.

If you also have a mentor while having this mentality then you can accelerate your growth if you are willing to take their feedback and criticisms of your ever growing mode of being. Mistakes will happen and you have to accept that. If we already knew exactly what to do and how, there would be no point in even experiencing life because then you would be operating from a place of absolute perfection that it’s not even human.

It does not matter how driven or ambitious you are, anything worth achieving requires a lot of hard work and determination, and none of that comes easy. And so a good mentor will constantly remind you that while you may make mistakes along the way, they can reassure you that it is all part of the process and in fact, they are important for the process because that sting of failure can often be a strong motivator to not make the same or similar mistakes down the line.

Choosing Your Mentors

A mentor can be anybody you look up to. Maybe you’re a bodybuilder and need a personal trainer to be your mentor. Maybe you’re an artist and need a professional artist to be your mentor. Or maybe you’re a writer and need a writing coach to be your mentor.

A mentor should be someone who you can talk to on a regular basis and share your progress with and have the express purpose of getting open and honest feedback on how you can improve yourself. They need to be well accomplished in a way that you wish to be and need to be willing to show you the ropes rather than see you as a burden to their own growth, in which case they might not be mentor material because they have yet to establish themselves in their field.

However, if for whatever reason you cannot find a mentor you can talk to in person or even online, there is also the concept of virtual mentors. These can range from a plethora of rich and famous people who may or may not even be in the same field of expertise you are wishing to excel at. For instance, as a writer, you can still look up to an actor not so much in content of what they do since it’s different from your work, but the content will be very much the same: a creative person who is constantly taking on new projects and exploring different sides of their self expression.

If you go the virtual mentor route, pay close attention to interviews involving these people and learn from how they compose and explain themselves when they are asked questions regarding their professions. The real questions, though, not the celebrity fluff like what their favorite flower is or if they like Christmas. Real questions that could be asked of an accomplished writer such as Stephen King that could be along the lines of, “how are you able to consistently write 1000 words a day?”

The first thing to note is that he has a very reasonable daily goal. Two thousand words a day might sound like a lot to some people–it certainly would have when I was still starting out as a writer–but it is definitely manageable with enough practice. Then the second thing is that it’s an almost daily accomplishment for him which can tip you to the fact that there has to be some kind of routine he goes through before he gets himself to sit down and write those 2000 words a day. And lastly, how he handles himself in the zone of writing those 1000 words is important to note as well.

What Stephen King does before he sits down to the write for the day is have a glass of water or tea around the same time every morning, about 8:00am-8:30 and ensures that his papers and desk are set in the right order as he sits in the same seat each day. This ritualistic approach to his writing primes his brain to remember that when he takes these certain actions that they will inevitably lead toward writing those 2000 words he sets out to write each day. And he does not allow himself to stop until all is said and done which happens between 11:30am-1:30pm before he is free to go about his day any way he pleases afterward.

Now while you might not take the exact approach as Stephen King would, as a writer it is important to establish daily rituals that get you into the mood for writing as consistently as possible. The content of Stephen King’s routine are not important, at least not for you. The context is more important. The context of someone who has reached a certain level of mastery in his given field who has an established routine that makes it almost certain that he accomplishes what he sets out to do for the day.

The advantage of having a mentor you can actually talk to, though, is that they can provide you with even more insight about their routines in a way that just reading a book about them would not suffice. Because then you can ask more nuanced questions about what happens if certain aspects of the routine are disrupted or somehow not possible, or what they would do if they still cannot engage in their practice despite having done their seemingly surefire routine. And if they are generous and humble enough, they could share how they deal with their own self doubt and how they squash it in favor of higher pursuits.

Humanizing Your Mentors

As great as mentors can be in showing you what is possible in a given field, we must also remember that they are still human and are prone to mistakes themselves. The point of having a mentor may be to emulate what they do in order to succeed, but that does not mean you need to follow their advice and examples to a tee.

While it is great to choose a mentor who is much further along than you are and is in a position to help you out immensely, you cannot fall under the trap of thinking that they are the paragons of success. If it is not enough for you to listen to them share about their past challenges and how they overcame them, you need to be hyperaware of the challenges they may still be facing in the present all the while lending you a hand with your endeavors.

So do not idealize or idolize your mentors. They may be ahead of you in your current field, but remember that they too may be lacking or struggles in other areas of life so not all of their advice and guidance may be valid. You will have to be very discerning in deciding whether or not to follow what they say. For all you know what works for them may not actually work for you, but a good mentor will always be adamant about letting you know that there is a multiplicity of paths that can lead you to your destination, not just theirs.

This doesn’t mean that mentors are completely useless in the end. It just means that you are better off with mentors than you are without, but you cannot depend on them to show you all the ropes. A lot of those other ropes they cannot show you are the ones you need to discover and explore on your own, using all that you have learned from your mentors in order to orient toward the right direction.

Do you have any mentors in your life?

What difference have they made in your life?

Let me know in the comments below!

Gamifying Life

A few weeks ago I wrote about living out motivational montages in real time and how important it is to sharpen skills on a daily, if not, consistent basis. The core argument was learning to push yourself to do the work, brick by boring brick, instead of expecting instant results like movie montages portray progress.

For some of you it may be enough to accept this reality and practice your skills daily whether you like it or not. For the others who may have an aversion to boredom, like myself, you might need an extra push in order to thrive in the grind. So today I present to you the concept of Gamifying Life.

What Are Games?

Sounds like a weird question to pose because the basic answer is pretty obvious. Games are things you play either alone or with other people to have fun. But if you’re familiar with Your Write to Live by now, you know we I don’t know due basic answers here.

I’ve stressed the importance of gamers knowing themselves in order to get the best out of not only the games we play, but also the everlasting benefits games can have on our lives. And it’s all those thought patterns and modes of behavior we develop when gaming we can take into our real lives and live by the same principles.

To take a deeper look at games, they are fun and engaging activities with a certain set of rules to play by and multiples goals to achieve in the context of a set of parameters. Achieving goals in a game requires you act out a set of several actions, a lot of which require varying levels of skill in order to enact.

For instance, the goal in basketball is to shoot the ball into the hoop to score points, and the team with the most points at the end of the game wins. But before you can successfully shoot a ball into the hoop there are a variety of actions you can take before you can even attempt a shot:

  • Playing within the bounds of the court.
  • Continuously dribbling the ball.
  • Passing the ball to teammates.
  • Blocking other players from getting the ball passed to them.
  • Knocking the ball out of an opponent’s hands
  • Positioning yourself on the court based on your given role.
  • And so on and so forth.

Shooting the ball into the hoop is the main goal, but there are smaller goals you need to achieve in order to achieve the main goal. If you want to break it down further, you also have to take in account how a basketball player is capable of skillfully performing any of these actions, and that’s obviously through practice.

But then even practicing becomes a game itself because leading up to drills and practice games is the game a basketball player has to play off the court. They need to keep in shape so they have to watch their diets and workout to improve their strength and stamina.

And these things get tracked numerically because numbers reveal the results of our actions. Just as it is on the court when the team with the most points win, thus validating the collective games each individual team member has “won” before playing the main game.

At the broadest perspective, games are a set of goals we need to achieve in order to build toward a bigger goal. Some smaller goals aren’t always necessary, but they can play a big part in increasing our chances at achieving the bigger goals. At the perceived end of the game a numerical value and/or some other criteria measures how well participants have played the game.

Keeping Score in Order to Score

Life becomes infinitely more fun to live when you approach it as if it’s a game. And in a way, life really is the ultimate game because of all the mini-games you need to play in order to make the most out of it. One way to do that is by taking stock, especially when you’re stuck. What we measure grows, so if you’re keeping track of your progress in whatever you choose to do, you can always compare your scores across time.

So if you’re a writer like me, one goal you can set for yourself is to write a certain amount of words a day. This could be 500-1000 or even more depending on how ambitious you would like to go about it. On top of that you can also create side objectives such as outlining and researching for your story that increases its chances of landing with the reader. Learning from writing guides and from a writing coach can also help you increase your chances of improving your work.

If publishing a novel is your goal then writing it is the game you need to play to achieve that goal. Depending on how much work you’ve put into your novel you could sell about half or a full million copies in the first week of its release. If you sold a somehow really good first and only draft to a publisher, maybe you could sell about 100,000 copies on your first week of release. You could maybe even triple it to 300,000 if you took the time to revise that draft and sell a polished up one, 500,000 if you had a skilled editor help you with that.

(Throw in a writing coach to help you get a better understanding of your ideas and help you express them in the most intriguing and meaningful way possible, and maybe you’d even sale that 1,000,000 copies upon the first week of your novel’s release. 😉

While all this extra work isn’t a guarantee you could sell your novel in those great numbers, they can definitely increase your chances at doing so. Life itself is a game of chance and you can pull the odds in your favor the more you sharpen your skills and measure your progress toward your goals.

Playing, Progress, and Presence (Oh My!)

A lot of our lives are measured through our level of productivity. If you’re not being productive, you’re wasting your time, a lot of people seem to think. But I’ve argued before that life should be more about presence, not productivity. Productivity for a lot of people implies all else is a waste of time and you have no value if you’re not being productive.

We often measure ourselves and others by how much we do as opposed to looking inward and focusing on how present we can be. And so what happens when you play games? You’re immersed in the moment and attentive to all the details surrounding you. You’re focused on timing your movements with the moment to get the perfect shot. You’re having fun and get into what we call “the zone.”

So if we approach life and writing like a series of games we need to play, we’ll have a much better time at engaging with our passion rather than seeing all the “boring” aspects of it as tedious things that we need to get out of the way. It’s all part of the process and contributes to your progress when you approach it from a level of presence over productivity.

How to Comfortably Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

The adage of “getting out of your comfort” zone is far too common in self-help and personal development circles, for better or for worse. It is for the better because there is no denying that life does begin at the end of the comfort zone. However, it can also be for the worse when the practice is advertised as intentionally getting yourself in the danger zone.

As I’ve posited in Movie Montage Motivation, growth comes from a constant daily grind toward mastery. It takes time to learn and train in something you’re interested in, it doesn’t all happen in the matter of three minutes to the tune of Eye of the Tiger. In fact, it probably takes listening to Survivor’s entire discography several times over before you can deservedly run to the top of the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s stairs and throw your hands up in triumph.

And if you pay close attention to Rocky’s facial expressions during that monumental montage, you could read the clear discomfort in his disposition that speaks volumes of how hard it actually is to get out your comfort zone. In today’s Meaningful Monday post, here are three things you can do get out of your comfort zone comfortably with little to no impact other than surprising yourself with what you could accomplish if you just applied yourself properly:

  1. Being clear about your motivations.
  2. Taking tiny steps.
  3. Committing past the resistance.

He Who Has a ‘Why’ to Live Can Bear Almost Any ‘How’ – Nietzsche

If you have a specific interest you want to become familiar with and master, it is important to evaluate what it would mean to you commit to it, as well as why you’re engaging with it in the first place. What is motivating you to learn about something beyond mere fascination with it? Maybe it’s learning about real estate investing, learning how to paint, or even in my case, learning how to play a certain genre of video game.

Whatever your motivation is, be clear as to why you want to gain some mastery in something and you will inevitably gravitate towards the methods in which you can achieve the aforementioned mastery. Or at the very least, something close to mastery; a level you’re comfortable with reaching and staying in, with the option to grow further down the line if you so choose.

Take for example my recent fascination with First Person Shooters, a genre of video game that I used to detest throughout my life. I’d seldom play them here and there and overall preferred games in third person because it is easier to see what my character is doing, as well as measuring the distance between my attacks and the positioning of my opponents.

One FPS I really want to “git gud” at is Overwatch because I am enamored by the lore, the character design, and overall gameplay. Despite my aversion to FPS games, I did play it for a while last year and got somewhat decent at it while using a Steam Controller to play it, but often felt stumped with how bad my aim was. So inevitably I figured that maybe I should switch over to playing with keyboard and mouse to have better control over my aim.

At first it felt like I sacrificed my movement skills from the Steam Controller for the sake of a very tiny improvement in my aim, but I’ve been at it for weeks now, along with playing a whole slew of other FPS games and have been in love since. I cannot believe that after all these years I have missed out on such a great genre because I wasn’t good enough at them to enjoy them, let alone garner any interest in them to begin with.

But you might be asking at this point, what is my why, and what is the how I’ve come to because of my motivations?

The simple answer is that I want to get good at FPS games so I can enjoy them better. After all, constantly getting rekt can get tiring fast, and it is gratifying to be able to avoid attacks and concoct strategies to outsmart either the AI in single player games or the human opponents in online competitive games. The deeper answer, I suppose, is wanting to be able to contribute to my team and help them achieve victory.

So how do I get good? Constant practice and playing, as well as some self reflection as to how I use the abilities of my chosen character in conjunction with the abilities of my teammates, and learning the beautiful balance between calling certain shots and letting others lead the team when they have better ideas than me. Couple that with video tutorials geared toward specific characters and how to use them effectively, as well as other general tips that can be universalized across FPS games.

Now hopefully I haven’t lost any sophisticated folks who are too good for video games–because I’ll admit this wasn’t the most meaningful example possible–but the principle is to take stock of why you want something and figure out how to get it. Sometimes you’ll stumble around blindly and trip over yourself, other times you’ll learn from cold hard experience. While this is fine for the most part, we do live in an age where there are resources for just about any interest out there with people who are more than happy to help others expand their awareness and proficiency, so seek those out as well.

Aim High, but Don’t Break Your Neck

The next thing you need to consider is how reasonable your goals are. You want to aim high enough so that there would be a noticeable difference between you right now and the you you will become as a result of your practice and dedication. But you also don’t want to aim too high that your intended goal is constantly out of reach and only serves to discourage you from ever moving forward.

This is the importance of taking it slow and taking small steps toward your goals, especially when you’re just starting out. It’s already hard enough stepping out of your comfort zone so why make things even harder for yourself, right?

What helps you digest big goals is to cut them up into tinier bite sized portions. Think about your favorite meal and what it takes to eat it. Let’s say you like burgers. While you could stuff your entire mouth with a burger, I wouldn’t recommend it. Big juicy burgers take several tiny (or a few giant 😉 bites to finish. It’s the same thing with achieving a goal.

I would even argue that you shouldn’t see the end result as your goal, rather treat that tiny chunk of the goal as the most important thing in your life. You know that cliché; life’s all about the journey and not the destination. So maybe instead of constantly looking toward who you would be as a master at something, maybe approach every tiny step toward that mastery as if it’s the most important thing and only thing in the world.

Movie Montage Motivation

Training montages are a staple for underdog movies like Rocky, which features one of the most epic montages of all time. It’s so epic that I presume it’s the film that popularized training montages in the first place. When Eye of the Tiger queues up and we see Rocky training for his title bout against Apollo Creed, we can’t help but feel hyped up for him because of all the hard work he’s putting into preparation.

Today’s post is all about those long grueling hours of preparation that we put into a moment of time that has a much shorter duration than the actual training itself. And that’s the interesting part about training montages in movies. They condense a huge passage of time into just a couple minutes for however long the hype up song will play for, but when it comes to the main event, that scene is what gets drawn out and dramatized.

Unfortunately, real life works the opposite. UFC fighters can train for months on end only to be KO’d under a minute in the first round. Or even if they do go the distance in a championship match, the 25 minutes they spend fighting in the octagon still does not compare to the endless of hours, weeks, and months of training.

In a montage, all that quick cutting between training activities is super exciting, but if you watch all that in real time without the hype up music backing it up, you would probably get bored real fast. After all, no one has time to spend months in the movie theater watching Rocky jog around Philadelphia for an hour and then go punch a speedbag and some frozen meat, and get punched himself, for several more hours.

So while montages may gloss over all that extensive training time for the sake of retaining viewer retention, you as a person working toward a goal, must actually retain your motivation toward training in whatever field you’re attempting to master. It’s not as fun and exciting as having all your training time summed up in 3 minutes to a hype track, but that’s what makes it even more important.

Real life training is long, hard, and messy.

Motivation can only last so long before resistance and discipline begin to rear their ugly heads. When natural motivation begins to wane, the doubts start pouring in, making you think twice about whether or not you’re on the right track. You hit plateaus in your capacity to learn and retain new things, you mess up on things you thought you’ve mastered, and worst of all, you might even experience imposter syndrome where you can’t even believe you can achieve such great things.

In these times of struggle it is important to take stock when you get stuck. My examples so far have been bleak, considering how Rocky actually ends, along with what I said about a UFC fighter getting KO’d in the first round. To turn things around, I want to posit that even if you “lose” despite of all your training, it really does come down to that cliché where life is all about the journey, not the destination.

Even if you try and fail, at least you’ve developed the discipline to strive for what you want. And while a lot of hard work and persistence may not amount to much in the end result, at least in the final analysis you’ve put your best foot forward and built your life brick by boring brick.

Everybody wants to get on stage and sing their song, but not many people out there are willing to take music lessons, lug their gear around, and commit to endless hours of rehearsals and soundchecks. By dedicating yourself to your craft every day, you are already ahead of the curve. Better yet, removing the unproductive concept of comparing ourselves to others, we are already becoming better than our past selves when we make the decision to develop our skills.

On the brighter side, while I can’t guarantee you succeed in achieving your goals if you dedicate yourself everyday, I can at least say that you are increasing your chances of success tenfold by simply putting the work in. In fact, I’d even argue that the end goal should not be the goal. Rather, the goal should be whatever you have ahead of you for that day in particular.

So say you’re a writer like me and you want to write and publish a novel. It’s a daunting task to say the least, but the thing about goals is that they comprise of a subset of mini goals that lead toward it. While the end goal is to have a novel published, the daily goal could and should be something along the lines of 500-2000 words a day, or whatever amount you’re most comfortable with.

Make the montage, the training, the goal itself. Approach it with all the enthusiasm you can at the beginning, but don’t let the initial loss of motivation stop you because then that’s when you’re being tested as to how well you can adapt these activities into routine habits that you just do as part of your daily life.

Simply put; success is a lifestyle, not an end goal.