A critical part of my ongoing journey as a musician is having the help of my mentor. Great mentors are rare - which makes them hard to find - but it's important you do so if you want to master a skill. You may be the type of person who believes you can learn or do anything on your own. I can be one of these people sometimes, but I'm wrong (to a degree). I think for the most part I can and should learn as much as possible on my own. However, there are times when I need some guidance. Sometimes I think I know what I'm doing but I'm actually making stupid mistakes. This is when my mentor steps in. As the student, it can be frustrating when I'm told to do something that doesn't make sense, but it's important to trust the process.
When you hear the word wisdom, who is the first person that comes to mind? Because for me, it's Yoda. Definitely Yoda. We all know his quote, "Do, or do not. There is no try." But what about his line right before that? "You must unlearn what you have learned."
Often when learning a new subject, we can come across the wrong information. (Depending on the subject, the false information may even seek us out.) We live in a crazy twisted world, it can be lonely learning something new. This is why we need the guidance of a mentor - someone that's been in your shoes. They need to be wise enough to steer you away from false knowledge, and, quite often they need to un-teach you.
You know it when you see it. A person with good character walks and talks a certain way. They're humble despite their having ample knowledge. They're gentle despite their having guts. A person with good character treats others better than they deserve to be treated. They seek truth, they're open, and their honest.
The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don't tell you what to see.- Alexandra K. Trenfor
That's a mentor. Someone that's patient with you. They watch from the sidelines for a while, but when you fail, they're right there to get you back on your feet. They don't handfeed you information - they help you figure it out on your own.
If your mentor isn't passionate about what they're teaching, they're probably not very knowledgeable on the subject. Find someone that's passionate, someone that's struggled with it, someone that's sacrificed a lot to get where they are. That's the kind of person you want to learn from because that same passion is going to rub off on you. But not only do they need to be passionate about the subject, they need to be passionate about you. Typically, the skills you share in common will create a natural, mutual bond - that's crucial. They need to see potential in you and you need to prove them right. You're going to hit rough times in your journey - their passion is going to keep you motivated. And when you're motivated, their excitement is going to increase. Do you see the cycle? It's important to let that energy radiate off of each other.
You as the student need to have these three qualities as well. You need to do everything you can to make sure your mentor isn’t wasting their time. Immerse yourself in the subject, come up with good questions, and be respectful. But most importantly you need to be open. There was a time I was greatly troubled in my musical journey, I felt alone and insignificant. It became so bad that I stopped playing for a long time (about six months). If I wasn’t open and honest with my mentor, I can’t imagine what I would be feeling like today. If I didn’t have my mentor there to encourage me, I would be a different person living a very different life, I guarantee it.
Don't let pride ruin your journey. Find a mentor to carry you when you can't carry yourself.