I am not a self-made man.
Every time I give a speech at a business conference, or speak to college students, or do a Reddit AMA, someone says it.
“Governor/Governator/Arnold/Arnie/Schwarzie/Schnitzel (depending on where I am), as a self-made man, what’s your blueprint for success?”
They’re always shocked when I thank them for the compliment but say, “I am not a self-made man. I got a lot of help.”
It is true that I grew up in Austria without plumbing. It is true that I moved to America alone with just a gym bag. And it is true that I worked as a bricklayer and invested in real estate to become a millionaire before I ever swung the sword in Conan the Barbarian.
But it is not true that I am self-made. Like everyone, to get to where I am, I stood on the shoulders of giants. My life was built on a foundation of parents, coaches, and teachers; of kind souls who lent couches or gym back rooms where I could sleep; of mentors who shared wisdom and advice; of idols who motivated me from the pages of magazines (and, as my life grew, from personal interaction).
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Foreword to “Tools of Titans”
A life mentor is often it is an older person and someone who’s been there, done that. They’ve got the life experience, they’ve walked the journey and they’ve reflected on it.
Generally you have a relationship with them already and there is already a genuine reciprocity and trust.
Even though there’s normally a generational age gap, it doesn’t matter, they really do enjoy spending time with you anyway. There isn’t a dynamic of power there, it’s not as if they’ve got all the wisdom, you go with like an empty cup and they’re filling up your cup, it’s got that genuine mentor reciprocal sharing of an energy, of a need.
This isn’t a mentoring program at work where someone sets up a professional mentor, we’re talking about someone you’ve come across in your journey that you respect, find authentic and you believe in each other. Your mentor is comfortable in their own skin, they want the very best for you, they’re not threatened by you in any way, they just want you to be happy and to succeed in your life.
A life mentor is willing to share things like their own vulnerability and flaws and the stories of their challenges, the warts and all things that they’ve been through. When you see that, you know you’ve got a true mentor because they’re not pretending that they are in any way perfect.
There will be times, good and bad when your gut just says, “hey, I want to go and just share time with my mentor”. In crisis and in uncertainty, they have your back and they are just there to support you and guide you in the best possible way.
The time is, it’s generally informal, it might be over a beer or a coffee or a dinner or whatever, it doesn’t matter, sometimes just a phone call.
A true mentor is not a warm cuddle every time. They will hard questions and that is good, you kind of want them to and they’ll do it in a really gentle, but a very firm way.
They help you find your own wisdom. They know that if you work it out yourself, even if you’ve got a battle to work it out, the lesson is kept, like they taught you to fish.
There’s this deeper authenticity and what they do is they help you to understand that you can be the architect of your life or the architect of the situation, because one of the things, when you’ll find yourself in the crisis, even in good times is you can feel like you’ve got no choice, you’ll be in a tough situation. What a mentor, a life mentor does is help you understand that you have that power within you, you’ve always, always got a choice.
They set the bar high, there’s something in the actual relationship where they not only believe in you, they believe in the very best, best you. Sometimes they will draw a line in the sand and say no. And you know that they are right.
That’s right. And one of the things that you might find is they might really, really sting you, every now and then with love and care, but the toughest feedback is the feedback you get from the person you respect the most.
Because they know you so well, they will actually surprise you occasionally, there will be that left field comment you did not see coming but you know they believe in you, they just want the best from you.
They really want you to be very congruent, comfortable in your own skin, don’t take the easy road, take the right road, do it now, do it properly. They will say, hey, you’re running off, you’re going too fast, you’re avoiding, you’re blaming and you know what? There’s a guy in the middle of all this, who’s a great person and if you just slowed down and if you listened, he’d be even greater.
And one of the tests, could almost say of the litmus test of the life mentor, is there’s a great freedom about it. You don’t owe them and they do not owe anything to you. There’s a sense of, we’re in this, we actually respect one another, we are doing it because we really kind of want to.
These things are normally informal, there’s not a monthly, two hours on a Monday morning over a coffee at Bob’s Café. They last for a long time and you see them in turmoil and in joy, the good times and the bad.
Don’t go running out and say, I have to rush off and get myself a life mentor now. You will know, you will have a gut feeling of when you’re wanting this person in your life, how you’re wanting them to be within your life and then, who.
You might have a different life mentor in sort of different aspects of your life so one might help with your family, two might be a little bit more career oriented. You have different mentors for different parts of your life and different chapters or stages in your life. You might even find along the way you outgrow them.
Don’t go forcing it. When the person’s meant to be within your life, you will find them.
There are a couple of pitfalls with mentors and the very first one is this following blindly.
They might give you some advice but remember they don’t understand all the complexity of where you’ve come from, so you’ve got to translate that for you and what’s right for you.
The point is you have to take some action to pay it back a bit, like there’s no point in meeting a mentor and they say, hey you should go and do this and then you do nothing. Do something that is congruent and right for you.
The second pitfall is that you don’t put the other up on to a pedestal. At the core is recognising they do have their own feet of clay, they are flawed, they might be a flawed genius, but they still have their own challenges, and it’s through the sharing of that, that it’s important. So one of those big pitfalls is, you assume that they’re perfect, then you get in this relationship and maybe you find out something that tells you they’re not and then you’re disappointed.
Simply start small. Don’t ask them to be your life mentor. That’ll probably scare them off a little! Just ask if you can go for a coffee or a beer or come over for dinner. Say youd like to ask them a few questions, generally people are going to agree to that, particularly the kind of life mentor you are trying to look for.
In the film Good Will Hunting, there’s a relationship between Matt Damon, Matt Damon’s character and the actual Robin Williams character. The beautiful thing at the end of that is, Robin Williams lets him go. It’s not about clinging to the particular thing, he engages with him, he walks with him, he lets him go. Damon goes freer, stronger, he’s grown into the person he wants to be and they both accept and they celebrate the particular friendship that they’ve had.
So if you’re going into a situation where you’re going to be the mentor, it’s really important to remember your authenticity, being truly, truly interested in that individual and helping them be the very best version of themselves. Don’t be always soft, be firm and help them grow.
And sometimes grow means you’ve got to take a few blows and look hard within yourself and that’s the perfect role for a life mentor.
When you find someone’s looking up to you as their particular life mentor, just trust who you are and what you have been doing. You’ve obviously been walking in that real authentic way trust yourself, accept them, just be you.
Being a life mentor or having a life mentor is a very special thing. It’s a real honour and a privilege if you become a life mentor of someone and also, it’s just such a special thing when you’ve got someone there that you can go to. You don’t always have to have it but every now and then in your life, it is something that can just be super valuable for men.
It’s a beautiful, beautiful privileged, privileged space and when you’ve got someone within your life who, you just look at them and you know they believe in you and they are going to walk with you. Then you fly.
Pricey and Grego