Mentors- are they required? 14-08-2018
Many successful people often talk about mentors they have had along the pathway. They speak highly of them, of the way they moulded the thinking, the pathways that were shown and guidance given to walk that pathway. This, they aver, helped them to walk the path themselves and reach where they have reached. Of course, there are so many other factors also contributing to the success. But you alone can and must walk the path. So, does the credit really go to you, then? Did your focus on the goal, your determination to succeed, your dedication to the process, your perseverance to achieve- were they the real reason for the success? It would be easy to think so because all of those are necessary to achieve success. Since these qualities (which are personal) are so lacking in many of us, there are such few success stories around.
So, where does it leave the friend, the philosopher, the guide, the mentor? All of them are instrumental. Life is a symphony. If even one player is off key in an orchestra, even a beautiful symphony can be marred. So, is it all about capability then? We often think that and the more capable we consider ourselves the more inclined we are to think that way. You somehow convince yourself that you are the one who did it. We never realise how many thousands of little things that happen along the way contributed to that success. One of the finest examples of this aspect is elucidated in the movie ‘It’s a wonderful life’ starring James Stewart and directed by Frank Capra. It is a must-watch (and repeatedly so too) for us all to know and appreciate the value of all the little things that happen in our lives. Nothing, ever, is insignificant. It is just that we forget about it in this long walk thru life.
But I would think, among all the other elements, if one is lucky enough to find a mentor in life, then that life is a better lived one, with a higher chance of succeeding at whatever it is that you wish to do. So who really is a mentor and why do I say lucky enough to find one? It is because mentors are all around us but we are perhaps not really looking for them and do not recognise them for what they are. For starters, our parents are out mentors. Unfortunately, many times, they are too emotionally involved with us for them to be dispassionate about many things in our lives. Therefore it is not often that a parent is quoted as being a mentor. Parents create the first level of mentorship.
It reminds me of the old fashioned valve radio that we used to have when I was a kid. Here is a picture of it. Back in those days when there was no digital, we had analogue radio that had medium wave (MW) and short wave (SW) which we had to tune into. As you can see from the picture, the waves were calibrated in full digits. So if a radio station was operating from 94.3 then all you could do was to take the needle to 94 and it would pick up the station. Notice the knob on the top right hand corner of the picture- it has two knobs actually. The bigger one is for the broad tuning- to 94 frequency- and when you tune in, you will start hearing the audio. But it will not be too clear. It is then that you move to the second knob called ‘Fine Tuning’ which you turn a few times and that moves the needle a bit more finely so that it can get closer to 94.3. As you kept turning the Fine Tuning knob, you would hear the audio quality improve until you reach a point where it is quite clear. You leave it there. But it wont stay there! After a while, the audio starts rasping or other disturbances appear, and then you have to fine tune again to get the audio quality back.
Your parents and your upbringing, your schooling, the kind of teachers you had there along with the life that you have lead until now, creates the main tuning to the radio station and you can pick up the signals. But it needs the hand of the Mentor to fine tune you into what you can really become. And just as the disturbances keep occurring to the audio quality of the signal, life also keeps intruding into your efforts at becoming what you are or wish to be, and the presence of the mentor will ensure that there is some fine tuning being done every time it is required. This is required until you can move from being Analogue to becoming Digital, so to speak!
Can we not achieve this by ourselves, you think? Maybe some of us can. But most are unable to do this effectively. As individuals, we are all at fault in overestimating our capabilities and underestimating our faults. This along with the amount of ego that rules your life will be the impediment preventing you from doing it by yourself. A mentor can help iron out those erroneous images that we carry about ourselves. A good movie to watch for understanding the role of a mentor is ‘The Peaceful Warrior’. It details in a very nice way how a mentor can help mould your thinking in far better ways than you can do it yourself.
I asked a question earlier, is it all about capability? To a good extent, capability is necessary. That is what creates the structure to do. But a mentor is not about capability. You and the mentor connect through Chemistry! Ramakant Acharekar never played test cricket or was a glorified cricketer. But his chemistry with Sachin Tendulkar produced one of the greatest cricketers of all time. So it is about Compatibility more than capability when it comes to finding mentors. You need to click with somebody who you look up to. That person need not be the greatest exponent of that area. He just has to know the subject in depth and be able to convey it to the student. A teacher of Science need not be a scientist. To teach you history and create a love for it, your high school teacher did not need to be an Archaeologist who goes off every six months to find ancient civilisations.
Likewise, a Trading Mentor need not have all successful trades or be permanently profitable in the markets. A good advisor need not be investing in all his picks. They just need to know their stuff well and be able to communicate it well too. And then, you have to click with them- in other words, you need to become compatible with your trading mentor or your trading advisor. Once there is compatibility then there is no questioning, there is no doubting, there is no second guessing. You develop the faith and keep the faith, knowing that the other person will not lead you astray. Even if you experience difficulties in achieving success, much is happening because you are lacking the capabilities or not making enough efforts. But the faith in the mentor and advisor should not waver for the sake of a few pieces of silver.
Trading and Advisory mentors are around you. All you need is to look. Every trader certainly needs one because trading is such a lonely road and one that you have to walk by yourself. If you are not turned properly, then the hunt for the right frequency will always be elusive. You will be searching in MW for a frequency that is actually available in SW! You only find something when you are really searching for it. That is why I also said that one is lucky to find a mentor. Because most people – traders in particular- mistake capability and perseverance as the two qualities most required for success. It doesn’t matter how long you persist- but if you are operating in the wrong way, the end result can never be right. It doesn’t matter how capable you are- but if your actions are not well directed, then it just takes so much longer for you to succeed, if at all.
Improve your life. Improve your trading success. Improve your thinking. A Mentor will help you achieve all these. Life with a mentor is considerably richer than life without one. So are mentors necessary ?