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Saturday Blueprint on Mentors

Saturday Blueprint on Mentors
Photo by Pawel Czerwinski / Unsplash

Hi 👋. Here is this week's Saturday Blueprint.

🤔 Quote I’m thinking about:

The mind is like a garden which can be cultivated or allowed to run wild. — James Allen

You are what you think, and when you strip all else away all you have is your mind. It is how you see, sense, feel and understand the world.

It IS your world.

So weed your mind garden of unhelpful thoughts. Reinforce and cultivate the good. Fertilise your mind with positivity and gratitude.

There is something tender and nurturing about this gardener metaphor - it doesn’t involve immediate and severe landscaping, but instead the slow and steady pruning and tending over the long run.

📕 As a Man Thinketh

This is a book by James Allen and published in 1903. I’m reading the version that has been amended into modern English so it is more readable. It’s a short book, but wow it’s a fantastic one. One of the best I’ve ever read in fact. You should read it too. Here’s one quote:

People do not attract what they want, but what they are. Our whims and daydreams may not come true, but who we are will always be manifest in our external lives. The content of our minds and hearts cannot remain hidden for long. Fate is not something outside you, beyond your control. You are your fate. Character is destiny.

I’m really taken by the concept that character is fate. It‘s empowering since it’s wholly under your own control. This is not a new idea, it was Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, who first said “character is fate” 2500 years ago. Everything, literally, starts and ends with your own mind. Your character is the outward projection of your mind, capturing your values, your dreams, your desires, your fears. You can choose to be grumpy, snide, condescending, or, you can choose to be happy, helpful, calm. How you see the world IS your world. So sunny side up folks, the glass is half full.

Or there is this quote:

The purpose of suffering is to teach, strengthen, and purify. Do not whine and pity yourself; learn and grow from your faults and failures. Search for the hidden justice that rules your life. Instead of kicking against circumstances, use them as stair-steps to greater heights, as challenges that reveal new powers within yourself.

I also find this to resonate at such a deep level for me. There’s a pattern here - that our perception of the trials and tribulations in life is what we need to lean into, to find the lesson, to grow. James Allen isn’t the only one to identify this pattern - Viktor Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning came to the conclusion, after being imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp no less, that suffering leads to meaning. Suffering leads to meaning - it seems preposterous, but the logic is that if there is any meaning at all in life then there also much be meaning in suffering. The meaning you get from overcoming a challenge or any kind of adversity is far greater than having something handed to you on a plate. Ryan Holiday in The Obstacle is the Way made a similar case - that the obstacle, the challenge, IS the way. If you see adversity as the stepping stone to something greater then it becomes the stepping stone to something greater. It all starts with perspective and perception. This then reduces the degrees of freedom of any problem to a single question: what is the positive I can take from this bad situation?

There are more threads of philosophy that this book spins for me. I’ll explore so of the other themes in the future.

🫁 Stress and breathing

Stress comes in all its many and various forms, and is an autonomous bodily response. But there is one thing you can do to control the autonomic - and that’s breathing.

On breathing and stress
Stress is simply the response to a stimulus. The stimulus is something external and can be anything - something someone says, the volume of emails you’ve got to deal with, the driver in front who cut you up. The bodily response is involuntary. It’s the job of the

❄️ On the cold

Of all the things I’ve experimented with for mental and physical health nothing, absolutely nothing, tops the cold. Here's an essay I wrote on the cold:

On the cold
A storyDeep breath in... then let it go. Fully in... letting go. I’m sat cross legged in the garden, the air temperature about 1 degree, in only shorts. All there is my breathing... in and out. In and out. My breath is misting in the cold night air. It’

🤝 Mentor mentee

I feel the need to define “what is a mentor?” in a flippant way:

a mentor is just someone who answers questions more than once

Ok, now I’ve got that out my system let’s talk about this topic. As I noted in Saturday Blueprint on Unlearning, learning and relearning is best done with a mentor. Why?

Because it’s the fastest method, that gains all the benefits of hindsight and hard-won lessons, with very little downside. It also means you can be gently guided and have an oracle to ask questions of on your journey.

Mentoring, outside of engineering and professional institutions, is sorely lacking these days. Do you have a mentor for strength training? For web design? For DIY? For gardening? I don’t.

I do have a business mentor now though - shout out to Fabian - who has built two successful businesses from scratch and is his own boss. I can’t tell how helpful it is bouncing ideas off someone who has been there, done that and got the T-shirt.

It’s not just having a source of answers - we’ve got Google or Reddit or Twitter for that. It’s the energy and motivation that can come from a good brainstorming session.

I can now perhaps describe mentor and mentee in a clearer way now. It‘s a synergy between two people who are at different ends of the same telescope. At just the point the mentor feels the need to share, to give, the mentee comes along to learn, to receive. It’s a virtuous circle where both gain.

So how about finding a mentor?

If you go looking for a mentor look for someone who is a few years ahead of where you are now, and close to where you want to be. A mentor who is 15 or 20 years ahead is too distant, and not relevant enough I would say.

And maybe a mentor can find you. If you put yourself out there and “work with the garage door open” then you may just find the person who has just gone through the exact problem you’re tackling.


It’s a pleasure writing to you. Have a great week. 😊

Nick

About the Saturday Blueprint

The Saturday Blueprint is a weekly newsletter every Saturday on health, vitality and philosophy by Nick Stevens.