Chapter III Absorb the Master’s Power: The Mentor Dynamic
Though it is rare luck to actually find a successful writer to mentor you, agents and publishers can be a huge help. Similarly, Greene says, if your circumstances limit your contacts, books can serve as temporary mentors. In such a case you will want to convert such books and writers into living mentors as much as possible. You personalize their voice, interact with the material, taking notes or writing in the margins. You analyse what they write and try to make it come alive – the spirit and not just the letter of their work.
To reach mastery requires some toughness and a constant connection to reality. As an apprentice, it can be hard for us to challenge ourselves on our own in the proper way, and to get a clear sense of our own weaknesses. Developing discipline through challenging situations and perhaps suffering along the way are no longer values that are promoted in our culture. People are increasingly reluctant to tell each other the truth about themselves – their weaknesses, their inadequacies, flaws in their work. This is abusive in the long run. It makes it hard for people to gauge where they are or to develop self-discipline. It makes them unsuited for the rigors of the journey to mastery. It weakens people’s will.
Strategies for deepening the mentor dynamic
1. Choose the mentor according to your needs and inclinations
2. Gaze deep into the mentor’s mirror
3. Transfigure their ideas
4. Create a back-and-forth dynamic
Thomas Alva Edison had no schools or teachers in his life. He turned to books, particularly anything he could find on science. In every city he spent time in, he frequented the public library. when he found Michael Faraday's two-volume Experimental Researches in Electricity, he followed all the experiments laid out in it and absorbed Faraday’s philosophical approach to science. Faraday became his role model.
Through books, experiments and practical experience at various jobs, Edison gave himself a rigorous education that lasted about 10 years. What made this successful was his relentless desire to learn through whatever crossed his path, as well as his self-discipline. He had developed the habit of overcoming his lack of an organized education by sheer determination and persistence.
If you are forced into this path, you must follow Edison’s example by developing extreme self-reliance. You become your own teacher and mentor. You push yourself to learn from every possible source. You read more books than those who have a formal education, developing this into a lifelong habit. As much as possible, you try to apply your knowledge in some form of experiment or practice. You find for yourself second degree mentors in the form of public figures who can serve as role models. Reading and reflecting on their experiences, you can gain some guidance.