You As Yoda

Lucasfilm, LucasArts & ILM

“Learning is finding out that you already know. Doing is demonstrating that you know it. Teaching is reminding others that they know just as well as you. You are all learners, doers, and teachers.” ~ Richard Bach

In The Empire Strikes Back,Β Luke Skywalker discovers that he needs help on his journey to become a Jedi Knight. He recognizes that he cannot achieve his true potential without some guidance and training. He needs someone to provide direction and practical knowledge so he can acquire the understanding and skill to use The Force, the energy in the universe, wisely and effectively.

Yoda, who Luke meets on an isolated planet in the galaxy, initially appears to be an unlikely guide for such a momentous journey. Yet Yoda puts up with Luke’s initial insolence and arrogance, takes him under his pointed ears and manages to bring out the Knight that is within him. Yoda demonstrates, as the mentor to mentors, how to give support to a promising individual, how to offer challenges that permit one to learn and grow, and how to provide vision so that the “mentee” gains confidence and, eventually, independence.

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Have you ever been a Yoda to someone? Or perhaps, thought about being a Yoda? There are many ways to support someone who is exploring and willing to discover their true potential: there are teachers, trainers, coaches, guides, and obviously, mentors. These roles are not mutually exclusive.

So what makes a mentor unique? A mentor is an individual willing to become part of a supportive and diverse community of learners, open to sharing experiences, vulnerability, and expertise. A mentor is a person who models the need to continue learning as a life-long adventure. S/he is a person who has learned through success as well as challenge. A mentor realizes that respect is always an earned commodity. And a mentor accepts others in humanity.

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I have been blessed to have had several mentors; individuals who were as honored to support my growth (and at times arrogance), just as I was privileged to receive their tutelage. I’ve also been on the giving side of this relationship. As a mentor, I get to model the professional values and behaviors to those with and for whom I serve. It’s a win-win proposition.

There are many ways to be an effective mentor. If contributing in this capacity is something you might be good at and interested in, here are three ways to consider serving:

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  1. Guide and Counsel. You can serve as a confidant, sounding-board, or personal adviser to your mentee, especially as the relationship grows deeper over time. You may help your mentee understand conflict or explore ways to deal with problems.
  2. Share rather than teach. Mentoring is not about overtly teaching someone everything they need to know. It’s more about building relationships. Sharing from your heart bypasses any resistance and helps a mentee forge their own direction. This ensures they gain the right knowledge within the appropriate context of life lessons like persistence, self-awareness, and diligence
  3. Follow-up. If you’re going to start the process, make sure to be consistent and follow-up. Make arrangements to meet for coffee, phone calls, etc., every couple of months or at a frequency that works for both schedules. Mentoring only works if you do!

59 thoughts on “You As Yoda

  1. Another great post. I used to coach youth soccer teams back in Canada. I soon discovered it wasn’t simply about teaching them soccer skills; but life skills as well. These were 14 and 15 year olds. I probably learned more from them than they from me.

      • No I am not- I was a mentor for her for 2 years and then she left high school. I then started volunteering in a residence for adults with developmental disabilities- acting as a craft facilitator & helping one man(age 50) to improve his very basic reading skills. Another way of helping.

      • Beautiful! Thank you for your past work as a mentor and for how you are choosing to actively now help in a (likely?) under served arena. Yours is a kind and appreciated contribution. And here’s to curiosity. πŸ™‚

  2. Hi Eric,

    Wonderful advice and guidance from you. Teaching, coaching or mentoring is a truly rewarding experience and there is nothing quite like engaging with another and helping them through a process. I look forward to your next insightful post.

    Rich

    • Thanks, Linda. Are you presently? And the oft curious Eric would enjoy your sharing why it’s one of your favorite activities. Perhaps reading a ‘real life’ testimony might enlighten and inspire others to share such an experience. πŸ™‚

      • I am not currently , but have done so both formally and informally on a few occasions.I I do have a story or 2 to tell. If you would like me to do a guest post on your blog, I would be honored.

        Curiosity is awesome πŸ™‚

  3. So funny you should write about this as my husband and I were just talking about this very thing yesterday. He was a boy from a working class environment, no college ambitions, no real direction in his life. But he had the good fortune of meeting an older (probably 45!) man who took him under his wing and counseled him about the value of education which my guy took to heart. And that has made such a difference in his life. The impact we have on one another cannot be underestimated, can it?

    • I still mentor, Barbara, and I’m a tad beyond 45. πŸ™‚ As Linda mentioned in her above comment, I find contributing to others growth and development very fulfilling. Glad the guy who took your now husband under his wings, had the kindness and ‘willing to help’ spirit. I know, in part, this is one of several reasons why I choose to give to others in this manner. Thanks for sharing this relevant, personal experience.

    • I know one of the reasons I chose to part ways with what I call ‘organized’ religion was due to the “preaching.” That simply does not rest well with me and has helped to shape my view and approach as an active mentor. Appreciate your highlighting this, WW.

  4. I think we are sometimes blessed with Yodas in which we are unaware until much after the fact. Other times we serve as Yoda without our knowledge, and what a wonderful feeling to have someone tell you years later what a difference you made in their life. It’s a good thing to lead by example even if you think no one is watching.

    • Yes we are, Suzi. A friend once referred to them as ‘Silent Sponsors.’ They’re there, unknowingly, yet their presence is felt and appreciated. Some times, and to your comment, well after the fact. Your last sentence well aligns with what character is, and we often see it in quality mentors.

  5. Many times we don’t really realise how many mentors just cross our paths and leave an indelible impression of their personalities, without saying anything, just with their way of working, communicating or looking. ‘Share rather than teach’ leaves the real mark.

  6. Learning is a great thing. Even when I try to resist and desist, I will somehow end up doing what was originally suggested by the teacher.

    Blogging was one of these things. It was suggested by a friend but I claimed that I didn’t really need a blogspace.

    One week later, without any further persuasion, I had my first blog post.

    I cannot place enough importance on listening in order for this equation to work. Be prepared to open your eyes, ears and heart to ideas and suggestions which may seem initially unnecessary. And as a mentor, be prepared to listen carefully to your mentee so can make the best impact on that person’s life.

    There is nothing worse than being a bad listener when trying to help others.

    Great sharing!

    • I agree. More often than we likely recognize, our learning materializes via a sort of protracted osmosis. It takes time to seep in; an unaware time passing. I appreciate your acknowledging “listening” as integral to so many life aspects, including successful mentoring. Your feedback is a good addition to what others have highlighted and shared. Thank you.

  7. I enjoy talking with people about their beliefs in themselves, or rather, the lack of it (though not in any formal manner as a mentor!). There’s a scene in Star Wars that makes this point quite clear.

    After Luke is instructed to raise his space ship from the swamp, and failing miserably, Yoda goes ahead and lifts it free.

    Luke’s response:

    “I don’t believe it!” he exclaims.

    Yoda’s response:

    “And that is why you failed.”

    It’s a joy to show people that, so long as they believe in themselves, they can do anything in the world. When they realize this, truly feel it deep down, their eyes light up.

    Great post, Eric.

    • Doubt. The bane of many. Yet when people, to your comment Michael, realize and buy into self-belief, things unfold and favorable outcomes become visible for all to see.

      So simple and so powerful. Thanks for augmenting the Jedi thread. πŸ™‚

  8. That opening quote, is that from Illusions?

    Illusions was probably the most impactful book I’d ever read up to about my early twenties. Richard Bach and Yoda. That works for me. πŸ˜‰

  9. We had a speaker at our divsion’s annual town hall..which the central theme was Batman and Yoda….both characters are good, but puzzling/mysterious to others. Others didn’t understand what Yoda’s role was, what he did, etc.

    After the dynamic speech, employees went around joking, we’re all yodas! Better communication, better listening and appreciating each other’s gifts.

    • When people realize their true potential, yes, many can become Yoda’s. Though they may want to keep in mind that Yoda was the mentor to mentors — another notch above. Whatever the case, serving another/others as a mentor is unselfish and thoughtful, and as referenced in the post, a win-win proposition.

      Thank you for adding to this virtual thread, Jean.

  10. Eric what a nice idea, I would enjoy being a Yoda if I could speak the Yoda talk. Seriously they come in all shapes and forms in my children’s lives and the ones who share an idea usually reach people better that the ones who teach or worse preach to kids. Great post.

    • Does Rosetta Stone not have a “Learn Yoda” program? πŸ™‚

      They do come in all shapes and sizes and to an earlier comment, their contribution is often invisible until much later when we realize who they were and how they helped us. Further, another comment highlighted the fact that often, when in the presence of younger one — we end learning from them. Role reversal is alive and has its benefits. Thanks for kindly commenting, Kath.

    • Indeed, mentors are invaluable components to relationships. And there aren’t a lot of qualifications or rules to become a good one. If you are a person of integrity and genuinely want to help, guide and counsel another, you’d likely be welcomed with open arms!

  11. Great post, Eric!
    You’ve stated some crucial pointers there – relationship building and follow up. My boss at the last job is the best example I can think of in terms of mentorship, he got only ‘sufficiently’ involved yet was never distant in approach regarding any issues we were faced while working there.
    I wish I could be even a fraction of what Yoda was to Luke Skywalker, as I aspire to become a teacher, that is if I ever make it there.
    Hope you are doing well! Take care. πŸ™‚

    • And what will prevent you from ‘making it there?’ πŸ™‚

      Keep in mind that Yoda was a Mentor Extraordinaire… a mentor to mentors. None of us needs to be what Yoda was to Luke. We have much to offer someone who can/will gain value from a mentoring relationship. Be the boss from your last job!

      Thanks for adding your personal perspectives!

  12. Your metaphorical approaches are empowering, Eric. Have I ever been a Yoda? “Guiding and counsel” resonates, as I think of a discussion, about a week ago with a young buck who said to me that he feels like he is wasting his time and his life, where he is at. I was thankful for the opportunity to offer a few sentences to him to encourage the boy about being where he is supposed be in the present, and to listen to his gut. This is a great post, Eric. T

    • Curious, Tim, was this a quick bit of advice or sharing some grounding feedback with someone in a longer-term mentoring relationship? If he responded well to your counsel, might you have an opportunity to create a mentor/mentee possibility?

      Thanks for acknowledging the post.

  13. I’ve been a silent Yoda all my career. I don’t need to be seen by supervisor with the aspect of mentoring. It’s a personal satisfaction for me. When I pick (awful, i know) someone to help with their career, I’m persistent and determined with them. I constantly remind them what they need to do to help them advance.

    • As long as our “constantly reminding them” is couched as sharing and not telling. This distinction is lost on many.

      I suspect you make a good mentor, Rommel, and keep in mind that Yoda’s can be equally effective when openly communicating or in a less visible (silent?) mode. πŸ™‚ Are you currently mentoring anyone?

  14. I love that quote! And I fully agree with you that mentoring is a good way to give back from the wealth of experience we’ve gained. I’ve been privileged to receive wonderful mentoring and done mentoring myself quite a lot over the years. I’ve always felt I’m on the receiving end. Learning a lot from my mentees.

    • Indeed, thumbs-up on the quote! To your comment, therein is an unanticipated blessing of mentoring — we often learn as much from mentee as they do from us. Such a great win-win arrangement. Adding your personal experience here is appreciated, Tiny.

  15. I look back through my childhood and my younger years and I have to say that I did have my Yodas in my life. They helped shape who I am now. I hope in some way, I have been a Yoda to some people. What you said about sharing and relationships, more than the actual teaching of lifeskills, rings true. Without them, we’re no different than an instruction manual. The personalization is what give these pearls meaning and depth. It’s what makes them endure and last through or lifetime. Thank you, Eric.

    • You are welcome and well shared, Mary-Ann. I like your “instruction manual” reference. It truly is about developing meaningful relationships and the “personalization” that add depth. Here’s to opportunities for us to continue to serve as mentors, be it in an official or informal capacity. There’s certainly enough opportunity in today’s chaotic world to keep mentors engaged.

  16. Sharing is perhaps the epitome of what a great teacher does…I really like the way you say this and the importance of trying to become a great teacher to others. Having children around (kids, nieces/nephews, students) is the perfect place to teach ~ but so it meeting someone and sharing stories and pieces of life between each other. A great gift ~ and something you do so well with us all (your faithful readers!). Cheers…

    • Having been subjected to many people telling me or preaching at/to me for much of my life, I’ve consciously shifted my focus toward the value and benefit in sharing, listening and engaging with others. Those who insist on overbearing communication methods can now be readily and comfortably ‘redirected.’ πŸ™‚

      To your view, absolutely to meeting and sharing stories and pieces of life. Can interactions and connections be any more grounding? Thanks for your kind acknowledgment of the blog; it’s genuinely appreciated.

      • Well, of course, I don’t know all the ins and outs, but your approach (on the posts I’ve read so far) just seems so positive and so very much there-is-a-way-to-view-this-that-makes-sense-and-that-I-can-do that your writing comes off very inspiring and makes things (to me anyway) seem so much more attainable! Perhaps you’re just the voice I need to be hearing right now at this point in my life, anyway, am going to follow you because I like hearing your uplifting views on things and your pragmatic thoughts on how to deal with situations we encounter.

      • What lovely words and sentiment to share with me. Thank you! I have had others convey similar thoughts about what/how I post. I guess what flows from the mind through the keyboard is simply “authentic Eric.” πŸ™‚ Of course, I only see the words from this vantage. You who receive the message are filtering (and kindly appreciating) it through your own unique lens. It is, however, pleasing to learn that some of the thoughts/suggestions are timely for you right now.

  17. When I was a Trainging manager some 14 yrs ago now… I was privileged to asked and invited to be part of an Education Team which linked business with schools.. I spent many a happy hour being a mentor for pupils who were having behavioural problems within school… It took trust on their part to open up and talk out their issues which often reflected back to home-life.. I hope I was able to help shed a little light upon the shadows they carried… It was a very special privilege for me… And one I know helped me grow and helped shape me for the next phase of my life when I took up Support work.. πŸ™‚
    Wonderful Post and wisdom here Eric Thank you

    • I’m often amazed how one life situation opens door to another. Shaping you for the next phase of your life work. Looking back upon these tangential events it becomes all the more clear. So glad you got to experience the mentor role, Sue. Any possibility that you may actively do so again?

      • At the moment Eric, I’m mentoring a very inquisitive near to be 4 yr old granddaughter.. πŸ™‚ that and some volunteer work I am involved with is keeping me busy πŸ™‚ But I would recommend anyone getting involved once having been approved in the relevant checks.. Do you have to have a police checks over there to work within mentoring? Ours is very stringent..

      • In most cases we don’t have stringent rules. I know there can be considerable (and understandable) background checks for people interested in working with children/at risk youth. Otherwise, mentoring is often an informal arrangement between a sage resource and a younger, willing to learn professional. That’s part of the beauty and what makes it work well — people craft a flexible relationship based on mutual interests and willingness to help/receive help.

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