he stereotype goes that men will never ask for directions, but I beg to differ. In fact, not only will I ask for directions when I’m lost, but if you’re willing lead me, I’ll follow you there. If the goal were to reach the destination, why would anyone do otherwise? And yet many of us struggle through life, ignoring the potential guides all around us.
At the start, we all learn by pretending to be our heroes.
Music mogul, Jay Z writes, "We were kids without fathers… so we found our fathers on wax and on the streets and in history. We got to pick and choose the ancestors who would inspire the world we were going to make for ourselves."
In "Steal Like An Artist", Austin Kleon advocates for selecting one thinker you really love – writer, artist, scientist, philosopher – and then learning everything you can about that person. When you’ve exhausted your research, select three people that thinker loved and do it all over again. Climb the tree as high as you can go, and embrace the emerging lineage. In time, Kleon promises, a branch of your own will appear.
Each semester, I ask my students the question: “If you could select anyone in the world to guide your life, who would it be, and what would you ask?” Now imagine that you can!
To make my point, I created the Dave’s Dream Mentor Challenge, and request my students give me the names of three influential – yet seemingly unreachable - people in their lives. My challenge is to connect them with one of the names on their list for an interview
It could be the University of Iowa football coach, Kirk Ferentz, or Doug Ulman, President and Chief Executive Officer of LIVESTRONG, or Lance Benson, a marathon athlete, who after being born without legs, competes using a skateboard and his arms.
While the conversations are always meaningful, the most rewarding thing to me has been watching a student’s idea of what’s possible shift. Once you get a backstage pass to life, sitting in the "lawn seats" is never the same!
Interestingly, the insights seem to deepen in relationship to the span of years between the mentor and student.
When Chaz'men Williams-Ali interviewed his mentor, 74-year-old opera singer Simon Estes, the conversation was more than a lecture on vocal technique and diction. The discussion was filled with glimpses into a time when African American opera singers had to travel to Europe to be heard. Estes told his story of being the grandson of a slave sold for $500, and the son of a father that could neither read nor write. With sadness he shared that he has sung in more opera houses than all the black men in the history of the art form combined. When Chaz asked Simon what distinguished a great singer from a good one, Simon answered without hesitation, “the great singers sing with their heart and soul, not just their mind.” Leaning forward, Simon asked, “Where is your brain located?” Chaz pointed to his head. “Where is your heart?” Chaz obediently lowered his hand to his chest. “And where is your voice?” Simon concluded. “It is located in between.”
Chaz'men Williams-Ali interviews his mentor, opera singer Simon Estes
"If I could select anyone in the world to learn from, whom would I pick, and what would I ask?"
Identify someone established in his/her career who you respect, and map their path to success. How closely did their initial plan after college match where they are now? What role did mentors, opportunity, and destiny play in getting them where they are today? If they could give you one piece of advice on how best to use your time in college, what would it be?
Seth Godin Biography – Seth is the author of 17 books that have been bestsellers around the world and have been translated into more than 35 languages. He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and most of all, changing everything. You might be familiar with his books Linchpin, Tribes, The Dip and Purple Cow.
In addition to his writing and speaking, Seth is founder of squidoo.com, a fast growing, easy to use website. His blog (which you can find by typing "seth" into Google) is one of the most popular in the world. Before his work as a writer and blogger, Godin was Vice President of Direct Marketing at Yahoo!, a job he got after selling them his pioneering 1990s online startup, Yoyodyne.
In 2013, Godin was inducted into the Direct Marketing Hall of Fame, one of three chosen for this honor.
Listen to my interview with Seth Godin