Sunday, February 21, 2016

Recognizing Sincerity

I'd heard in a documentary that Lucille Ball was mentored by Buster Keaton. Imagine those two comic titans hanging out in their youth, talking. Yet, as I scanned for mentor pairs online, I thought about the best mentors in my life, I realized mentors aren't really assigned in the real world. It doesn't work that way.
No one can assign a mentor.

We come to find mentors just by living. When we embrace something with all of our heart and energy, we come to find a respect for like-minded people--and we want to be around them. We want to learn from them.

I had some fun browsing a website dedicated to mentors, specifically a section highlighting mentor-mentee relationships : From here, I found a few relationships to dig into...

While nothing indicates that Elmore Leonard and Quentin Tarentino sat down over eggs and coffee and discussed writing, we do know that Tarentino read Leonard. At the very least, that is where their relationship began. Reading is one way of bringing ourselves by the side of someone whom we respect. All mentor relationships are not face-to-face. Relationships can develop an intimacy through reading. Want proof? Ask any poor soul who has ever written a poem to another.

For more tangible evidence, I found Zachary Colbert's The Books of Tarentino. In it, Tarentino said, “Elmore Leonard was a real mentor to me as far as writing is concerned. He helped me find my voice.”

In education, I like to think Nanci Atwell could not have become "Nanci Atwell" without mentors. The same must hold true for Penny Kittle, Kelly Gallagher, Ralph Fletcher...

I've read that Lucy Calkins was mentored by Donald Graves. And Graves had Don Murray. Murray had Graves. They were neighbors!

When we find our mentors, we contribute something to the relationship. It is not a host and parasite model. Sometimes what we bring is simply a hope or a seed of a goal to be something better than we are. Mentors must see something in a mentee. They must recognize something bigger than talent and effort. 

In Paul Bond's interview of Hollywood legend Jerry Lewis, we learn that while Spielberg considered Lewis a mentor, yet the great comic wasn't so sure, "[Speilberg was] in my class, but I doubt that [he] learned anything from me. [He was] well equipped at the time [he] came into the class."

Ultimately, I think what the mentor recognizes in others is sincerity. And the same is true, deep down, when we want to grow in a field. We gravitate to people who can help not because of what they know but because what is behind what they know--some call it passion. I am still going to stick with sincerity. Without it, whatever elements are already in place would never have been there to be noticed. We can all bring different talents and skills to the world--that isn't ever the real concern. 

The real concern is whether or not you are sincere.

I think a potential mentor can sniff out someone just in it for a paycheck.

I would be surprised if anyone sets out to be a mentor. Rather, I think people fall in love with their art, or science, or craft...and suddenly this other human being enters our life and we can't let them go. They bring something...pure...sincere...and full of hope. They may not bring answers. But they bring questions. Lots of them. And they remind us of ourselves because we too are full of questions.

And our questions only lead to more questions.

And questions lead to reading, conversation, writing, and experimentation. What the world recognizes as mentors and mentees, I want to recognize through another lens. We recognize the engagement, don't we? Not a mentor or a mentee. We recognize the sincerity--whether we agree with or understand it does not matter--it is the sincerity that helps us become colleagues.  Not the dumb luck that we work together in the same building or studio. With engagement and sincerity, we recognize something else as well--a friend.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the mention of our mentor pairings list. We've now created a searchable database of mentoring pairs. We still maintain the pairings by area, but visitors can now search the entire database.