1. noun – an experienced and trusted adviser.
synonym – adviser, guide, guru, counselor, consultant
2. verb – advise or train (someone, especially a younger colleague).
It was recently brought to my attention that portions of the Master Woodsman training/challenge, originally in David Wescott’s book, Camping in the Old Style, and subsequently this website, would at the very least, be extremely beneficial in having a mentor.
Looking at the definition, in it’s broadest sense, a mentor is an experienced teacher for you as an individual. What constitutes an experienced person will vary tremendously based on the experience of the student and desired goals. A good guide are many of the definitions outlined in Wescott’s book, a must have in my opinion.
Outside of an experienced family member to get that individual instruction, one would most likely have to attend a school, an immersion program, and/or become an apprentice or work directly under an experienced person, each one offering something deeper respectively. Unfortunately in today’s society, most can only attend a short course (if that) leaving the relationship of teacher/student at a superficial level.
To expect more takes a huge commitment on both the mentor and mentee’s part. To demonstrate this, below is a suggested agreement between mentor/mentee I received years ago and have tweaked for this article. The intent for this ‘guide’ is that it provides thought and acts to deepen current mentor/student relationships and inspire those yet to be formed.
When looking for true mentor/student relationship, I suggest:
- Both have to agree that they will learn from each other
- The mentor needs to understand the student’s purpose and goals on all levels:
— life and personal mission (your purpose)
— 3 to 5 year vision
— 1 to 2 year goals
— responsibilities and current focus, inside and outside of the outdoor discipline
— current projects and recent actions that tie into the above
- The student should agree to the following principals:
— will be unequivocally true to their word
— will not assume anything
— will not take anything personal
— will always do their best
— will practice deliberately toward the agreed purpose
The above is just one of many views on the mentor/student relationship. As outdoor living skills are a long-term commitment, so too should be mentorship. It should also delve beyond the skills themselves and into the wheel of life (example).
So how does one find a mentor?
As outlined in the suggested mentorship agreement, this is a very big deal. In that type of relationship, it is more about the who than the what. If you are just interested in the what (skills), go to the schools, read the books, practice.
If you are looking for true mentorship, you will have to find and work to get a who, and even then there are no guarantees. There is no such thing as an “official” mentor — and if there is a formula for finding one outside of integrity, hard work, persistence, commitment, and to a certain extent luck and timing, I am not aware of it.
In fact I would say in all likelihood, you won’t find a mentor, they will find you. Take note of what it would be like if a stranger asked you to be their mentor. That being said, a relationship will have to grow organically in advance of mentorship. Nonetheless, you will still be the one who has to ask. Good luck!