Find a Mentor!
By John McMenamin
The goal of any do-it-yourselfer, maker, homesteader, or artist is achieving independence or self-sufficiency through the skills we possess. Do-it-yourselfers gain skills so they can fix things without calling and paying for a professional. Homesteaders learn how to grow food and generate power so they can be off-grid and independent from big agriculture. Artists develop material and technical know-how so they can uniquely express their aesthetic vision. In all these examples it is the acquisition of skills that enable us to develop personal, creative, or financial independence and freedom. But what is the best way to gain these skills?
|Welding a sculpture.|
To acquire new skills we have to surround ourselves with people who will teach us and put ourselves in situations where we are bound to grow. The first step towards doing this is asking for help! Figure out who the experts are in your field of interest and reach out. Set up a meeting with them, shoot them an email, or see if they are presenting in your area. It is amazing how generous people are with their time when you reach out in a courteous, concise manner. Another way to find mentors is to search out places where experienced teachers might congregate. Visit your local makerspace, technical college, or hardware store. Insert yourself into communities where you are likely to find mentors. Be sure to talk to people and keep your eyes and ears peeled for opportunities. Remember, mentors can be any age!
|Mentor Paul at work.|
The mentor-mentee relationship can be a rewarding experience built on the joy of sharing knowledge and learning together. Build this relationship on a solid foundation! Here are five tips for sustaining a good working relationship with your mentor.
5 tips for a successful mentorship!
- Close your mouth and open your ears! Careful and patient listening skills are vital to being a good mentee. You’ll probably get to hear some cool stories too!
- Be humble. Remember, hubris always leads to embarrassment.
- Be respectful of the teacher’s experience and knowledge - regardless of their age.
- Be open to learning lessons that aren’t directly related to the skill you are pursuing. A thoughtful and observant mentee will build his character and work ethic based on the example of the teacher.
- Pay it forward! Be sure to use your skills and become a mentor to someone else.
Thus far I’ve urged readers to find a mentor, offered tips for finding one, and given advice for sustaining a strong relationship. Below I’d like to offer my own story as an example of how I found mentors, learned desired skills, and discuss some of the lessons I learned. Think of this as my “mentor timeline.”
Education: Bachelor of Arts: Painting and Drawing
Goal: Learn hands-on skills so I can earn money and be self-sufficient as a car-owner, future home-owner, and human.
Fall 2014 - Spring 2015
Valvoline Instant Oil Change
I wanted to learn more about cars and how to change oil, so I got a job at Valvoline with zero experience. As a national company, Valvoline had the resources and training system to teach me basic car maintenance. Through their online training course, I learned about different parts of the car and what they do. I also learned a lot from the guys in the shop. They taught me how to work efficiently and how to perform various auto maintenance services. In five months I serviced around 930 vehicles. It was a grueling, fast-paced job with a steep learning curve, but I learned my way around a car and gained a massive amount of respect for anyone who works in the service or retail industry.
Spring 2015 - Spring 2016
Franconia Sculpture Park
Through a series of serendipitous circumstances, I was invited to be an artist-in-residence at Franconia Sculpture Park outside of Minneapolis, MN. Over the course of a year, I lived at the Park for four months and built a 17’ steel sculpture. Mind you, I had never made a sculpture before and had never worked with metal. But the collaborative and creative community at the Sculpture Park nurtured me. I asked wood sculptors to take me into the woodshop and show me how to use the table saw. My friend Kelly gave me an hour-long demo on angle grinders, and in return, I taught a class on changing oil. This is also where I met my mentor Paul, who took me under his wing. When teaching me how to stick weld, he showed me the basics and then said, “get to practicing!” It was this combination of giving me initial guidance followed with a hands-off approach that gave me the confidence to experiment and learn on my own.
Summer 2015 - Fall 2016
Fine Art Preparator
|Erecting mentor Jim's massive sculpture.|
Fall 2016 - Current
|Learning my way around a forklift.|
2017 and Onward
I still have a lot I want to learn! Luckily I have built up a community of mentors who teach me things every day, and I always keep my ears open for new opportunities to learn.
Our thirst for self-sufficiency drives us to seek out knowledge and gain new skills. How we do this is what makes our stories unique. While the path we take varies from one person to the next, what seems to be a similarity across the board is we need others to pour time and knowledge into us. This person is who you are looking for, the mentor. I have been fortunate to have the opportunity of working with many influential mentors in my life; I can only hope that I too will have an equal impact on others, as a mentor, in the future. My suggestion is this, don’t waste time, find a mentor.
September 28, 2017
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John's website- http://www.johnmcmenamin.com/
Franconia Sculpture Park- http://www.franconia.org/
My Personal & Affiliate Links
My Ebooks- http://www.thehomesteadcraftsman.com/p/blog-page_77.html
Woodworking Plans- http://www.thehomesteadcraftsman.com/p/plans.html
Free Audible Trial (free audio books)- http://amzn.to/2wYWHCD
Good Mentor Book- Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robery Kiyosaki- http://amzn.to/2wZRme6
Homemade Home Youtube Channel- https://goo.gl/4WhFWM
Real Estate Investing Video Series- https://goo.gl/37kQmC