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Hero's Journey (4): The Mentor - Teacher, Jester, Influencer.

A counsellor, it is said, is a man who knows every position, but no woman. If you look around the counselling scene, you will understand that this aphorism is not far-fetched, but taken right out of the thick of life.

Everyone needs their counsellors, whether private or professional; but only a few people have good ones.

Mentors are even more important than advisors.

Mentor and counsellor are not the same thing. Not every counsellor is a mentor, but every mentor is in some way a counsellor. However, it would be best if every counsellor also saw himself as a mentor, because mentors have vital tasks that go far beyond counselling.


In the blogcast, I read this recent blog article to you. With emphasis, of course!

In the model of the hero's journey, the heroine meets her mentor soon after setting out, because alone she usually does not even recognise her goal. Mentors open eyes, broaden horizons, change perspectives, give courage. True mentors do what good teachers do: A true teacher does not teach, nor does he impart knowledge, but he transforms people.
Mentors do that too.
They help others to grow.

Mentors ask questions, point out and invite. They support the hero on his journey, which often resembles an odyssey to the new self.

Your mentor, your friend.

"Mentor"is originally a name, namely that of Odysseus' friend in ancient Ithaca. On his departure for Troy, the Greek hero entrusts his friend Mentor with his possessions and his son. In the course of Homer's mythological story, Athena, the goddess of wisdom, repeatedly slips into the human form of Mentor when she advises Odysseus or his son Telemachos.

You may be asking yourself: "Wait, if Athena is the goddess of wisdom, why is her statue in front of the Parliament in Vienna? - I can't answer that question for you in terms of content; it is probably the sculptural translation of what is called Paradoxical Intervention in psychotherapy, or simply a Practical Joke. However, I do have a precise suspicion about the question of why she turns her back on parliament - but we are already getting into great detail on the subject of mentors.

We know mentors from the fictional world in different guises: Wizards like Merlin in "King Arthur" and his successors Obi-Wan Kenobi in "Star Wars", Gandalf in "The Lord of the Rings" or Albus Dumbledore in "Harry Potter". Wise teachers like Yoda in "Star Wars", Rafiki in the "Lion King", Mr. Miyagi in "Karate Kid", Jiminy Cricket in "Pinocchio" or John Keating in "Dead Poets Society". We know Mary Poppins or the fairy godmother Glinda in "The Wizard of Oz". And we know the outright opposite of that - the evil fairy, so to speak: Hannibal Lecter.
The hero in a thousand guises, the mentor in just as many.

Why do mentors not have to be experts?

What distinguishes a mentor quite fundamentally from a consulting expert - such as the researcher Matt Hooper is in Jaws: The mentor does not necessarily address the factual-practical dimension of the task, but necessarily the deeper personal, spiritual side of the heroine - which is, after all, the core of every story and thus the real object of transformation. This brings us back to the true teacher.

Very often, the mentor character has been in a similar situation as the heroine now, and she now shares her experience. It was not always good, or only good; but it was always insightful - as for example for Haymitch Abernathy in "The Tribute to Panem".
Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn ... also from the mistakes of others.

Many popular influencers use this mechanism in their narratives on social media. Many of them say more or less clearly: "I was/am also in the situation you're in now - this is how I dealt with it, this is what I learned from it, follow my example, then you'll save yourself the mistakes I made. And therefore buy this and this and this. Oh, by the way: I think THIS is nice ... #advertising".

What does it actually say about the state of a society when influencers on Instagram are real crowd pullers, but the hundreds of thousands of influencers that no one can escape in the analogue - i.e. real - world have to serve as a well-stocked recruitment pool for the joke cabinet? These hundreds of thousands of influencers, also called teachers, should be equipped with everything they need to be mentors, not information distributors, shouldn't they?
After all, they are the ones who should show young people that you ask what you ask and how you ask: as an indispensable prerequisite for a free life in a strong community of self-thinking, independent people. Or not?

Teachers are the most effective influencers imaginable. Because if I wrote above that a true teacher transforms people, then un-sensibly this also applies to bad teachers.

Your brand is mentor, not hero.

One of the essential pillars of my brand management method Hero Branding® is the change of perspective. The usual, traditional view of brands so far aims to make the brand itself a hero, while looking longingly at great role models like Apple, Nike and Red Bull. In Hero Branding, we rigorously turn the perspective around and say: brands make heroes.

Brands have two stories: the first is about the company itself, telling of its creation, its history and its transformation. In this first story, the brand itself is the protagonist and heroine. The second story brings the magnetism of the brand to life for the audience. The function of the brand in this second story is that of mentor: it supports its customers in becoming heroes.

If you look again, you realise that these very same admired hero brands like Apple or Nike or Red Bull are actually not heroes, but mentors in the purest sense. Right? They support their audience in realising their dreams, give encouragement, show perspectives: "Think different - I did it too, and look what great things came out of it!"

The common concern of the mentor and the hero of the story, the common desire, is their strong connection. In the case of a brand, this is often called purpose.

You can read more about this in theprevious part of this series of articles on the hero's journey.

A brand that is managed in a contemporary way does not act as a wise instructor (!) and does not teach the army of the ignorant from above. That worked for a long time, but those times are over once and for all.

A brand as mentor sees itself as an enabler who makes others strong. As what Maria Montessori learned from one of her most important mentors, namely from a child who told her: "Help me to do it myself. Show me how to do it. Don't do it for me. I can and will do it on my own."

Maria Montessori made such an extraordinary experience, which I know well from my own work in workshops and seminars and enjoy above all: Often the teacher learns the most.

So a brand as mentor best takes on the role of a coach, like John Keating in "Dead Poets Society". Keating once faced the same situation as a student at Welton Academy as his students do today. With the help of the works of great poets like Thoreau, Whitman or Frost, he now inspires them to think for themselves.

After his suspension as a teacher, he experiences that he had transformed his class: from drilled institutionalised sophomores to "Think different!" boys: "O Captain! My Captain!"

My favourite role: the mentor as court jester.

Every mentor not only has a function but also a role and embodies an archetype in the story of his heroes. It took me a long time to understand and accept my role and thus also my story, i.e. my task - the one where I can be most useful. In the course of my professional life, my role has changed a lot.

Today, when someone asks me what I do for a living, I say, "I'm an arsonist."
No matter whether I accompany local entrepreneurs or CEOs of international companies, whether I advise individuals in coaching sessions, whether I appear as a keynote speaker, whether I hold workshops and seminars with young founders of all ages, with seasoned companies or non-profit organisations, and discover their (brand) story together with them - whatever I do: if I do it well, I set people's hearts on fire, get people moving and people moving so that they recognise their inner goal and head for it with enthusiasm. And if they want, I give them the perfect tool that I also work with: Story.
Most of the time they want it.

That is my own story, that is my task for which I am available. I only understood this when I looked through the collected feedback on my various performances not so long ago. The word "inspiring" appeared in almost every statement.
Yes, often the teacher learns the most, sometimes a little late in life. Maria Montessori would give me a knowing wink and maybe even pat my cheek.

In this role, I naturally embody part of the classic archetype of The Sage. But much more, and much more preferably, I am The Jester.

On the one hand, I work a lot with humour, because I am convinced that everything that makes us laugh together opens, connects and takes the heaviness out of the issues. Design work, even if it looks like a problem at first, is something deeply joyful, and it must therefore be done with joy, lightness and laughter.

On the other hand, I don't take myself and my ... infinite wisdom ... that I share with others soooo insanely seriously and importantly. A generous pinch of humour and laughing at oneself are the best supplement for spiritual nourishment.

But the most important thing is: the court jester is the only one at the king's court, even in the palace of the most merciless, self-righteous ruler, who is allowed to tell the truth - and does so. Packed in humour and sometimes even startling cheekiness, the truth is edible and triggers positive change via laughter - or knowing smiles. At least the spark of insight is ignited without the jester's head being cut off for it. This has worked since the Middle Ages to the present day, as you can see from recent pictures of me where something is still visible above the collar.

(Political) cabaret, by the way, works with the same mechanics: Laugh at yourself, and "Gnothi seauton - Know yourself".

How to recognise and use a mentor.

When I first heard the phrase: "When the student is ready, the teacher comes." I wasn't really paying attention and understood: "When the teacher is ready, the student comes." I found this phrase very remarkable. Some time later I realised my mistake and: that this twist was more truth than error. Very often, mentees come to mentors only when the mentors are ready for them.

But if you are looking for a mentor yourself, it should be someone whose values match yours and whose search and path match yours. This does not mean that you need a person with a comparable career as a mentor, for example on your way to becoming an entrepreneur in the food industry. Such a person would be more of a role model or an expert advisor to share experiences.

But - to stay in the business world - when someone starts a business, they learn a lot from the biographies of successful entrepreneurs who have done more than earn money: Richard Branson, Yvon Chouinard, Phil Knight ... And in them you recognise what is important to you too, and this realisation leads to the next step.

A mentor does not always have to be available as a person. The right book at the right time has inspired everyone more than a can of Red Bull ever could.

However, if you are one of the lucky ones who have a flesh and blood mentor by your side, then I urge you to do one thing: do not discuss your mentor's advice! Never!

Because when you start discussing your mentor's advice, it shows the following:

  1. You have not understood what a mentor does. He discusses your questions with you, not you his experiences.
  2. You have the wrong mentor.
  3. You are an idiot.

If you have to constantly question your mentor's experience, find someone else who is a better fit for you.

Mentors of today lead to tomorrow.

One of the most important tasks of leaders - in teams, companies, organisations and in society, for example in politics - is to promote the development of others, individuals or groups. Once again, and explicitly, teachers should be mentioned here.

Our time is plagued by a dramatic vacuum. There is a lack of people who, with practical action based on real education and, above all, underpinned by the education of the heart, accompany others in recognising their true path and, in doing so, encourage them to do the only right thing: to follow this path of theirs.

This path does not always have to be strikingly great so that it is admired by everyone standing and applauding. It is above all about each person becoming a hero in their own story, hearing and accepting their call. Every path is different: playing the piano for one's own joy and for the joy of all who listen - saving the world - starting a business - being a parent ...

But one thing is certain: a life not lived poisons from within and manifests itself in frustration, heedlessness and depression. People can no longer imagine tomorrow in a positive way, or at all.

It's like a relationship where the partners are convinced that tomorrow will definitely not be better or more interesting than it is today. In such a relationship, too many people are stuck with themselves, with the only person they definitely spend their life with. They don't know their story, have no destination for their journey, no story. A mentor is missing.

Wherever you look, this vacuum stares back at you in different forms: in the trams, at the bus stops and in the morning traffic jam from the blank stares of people who drive to their workplaces day after day with a feeling of futility, already looking forward to Friday on Monday because another week will finally be over. They are subconsciously happy when another piece of their life time has gone by unused.

We see this vacuum in schools, where the fear of the next exam is the defining feeling, rather than the desire to discover, grow and prepare to create something for oneself soon - like one's own life.

We see this vacuum in the shameful performances of actors in politics, who in fact no longer represent anything, not even what they are trying to represent. They play truant from their professions by picking up the scent of the mass exhalations and then trying to turn the popular into their personal careers instead of recognising what is right and igniting that in the hearts of the people as a common inspiring story.

A shared history is what makes us strong: as people, as companies, as a society. And at the same time, it is what we so bitterly lack in our disturbing times, in which the poison of antagonism in well-designed cheating packages is being pushed at us as a cure for every problem: Be better than them - don't let the - out with them - blame those ... Seeing others as opponents and defeating them is the recipe for success in life. Success is what counts, isn't it?

But perhaps the Dalai Lama is right when he tells us: "The planet no longer needs successful people. The planet desperately needs peacemakers, healers, innovators, storytellers and lovers of all kinds."

Our world needs leaders and teachers: mentors to help transform.

Do you have a mentor? Absolutely! - There are no friends, there are no enemies, there are only teachers.

Can you be a mentor for someone? Is there someone who obviously does not see this, who does not listen to the call of his inner voice, which you have already heard from the outside? Point!

Sometimes mentors have to work a little magic. Like Merlin, who showed Arthur that there is a sword in a stone and that the one who pulls it out becomes the new king. Arthur pulls the sword Excalibur out of the stone block and thus finally accepts his call to be king. The clever Merlin, however, has conjured Excalibur into the stone beforehand, because some heroes need not only the support of a clever view from outside, but also good advice, action and a little magic now and then ...

Every person, but also every company - whether global corporation, whether SME (small and medium-sized enterprise) -, every organisation is on a journey that leads to the meaning of it all. On this journey, the heroine needs mentors who help her to recognise and accept this own truth, the meaning, the mission, the purpose, i.e. an archaic value and her story activated by it, around which everything revolves.

And every person, every company can transform itself into a mentor on this path, thereby gaining relevance and generating resonance. Like-minded and like-minded people get into a common vibration. Wouldn't something like that be a real social network full of nice influencers? I think so.

So to all those who say, "It doesn't apply to me or to my brand!", take heart in the words my grandmother, the supercalifragilisticexpialigetic Story Dudette, embroidered Mary Poppins on the inside of her umbrella: "No Story. No Glory."

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