How to learn from mentors you never meet. 

There’s an unwritten rule in Nashville that if you see someone famous around town, you don’t bother them. 

You pretend you don’t know them. You don’t ask for a photo or an autograph. You let them go about their day as if they’re a normal person just like you.

This is why when I saw Sheryl Crow at our neighborhood swim meet, I didn’t bat an eye. “Oh, there’s another suburban mom cheering on her kids. I guess all she wants to do is have some fun.” Stop that, that’s terrible. 

This is why when I met Katy Perry and she shook my hand (this was years ago, everyone was shaking) I didn’t flinch. She said, “Hi, my name is Katy” and I did my best not to say, “Hi, I’m a firework.” Two dad jokes in the first 100 words? Ridiculous. 

I apologize for those, but the rule stands. 

In Nashville, let famous people be people. 

This rule does not apply to me. I’m more known than I was 10 years ago, but I’m by no means famous. Think about it this way. There are 327 million people in the United States. If I had one million Instagram followers, that would mean in a room of 327 people, about one would know me. 

But I don’t have one million, I have a little more than 100,000 so that means 1/10 of one person in a room of 327 people would recognize me. What’s 10% of a person? It would just be one dude in the room whose right arm wanted to high five me, but the rest of him would be confused why his arm recognized this gray-haired, very tall person. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about social interactions like this because of the social distancing with the CoronaVirus. It’s easy to feel isolated in times like this. It’s easy to feel cut off from not just famous people, but mentors, friends and family. I realized something surprising though, social distancing has never stopped me from learning from other people.

I’ve never met most of the mentors who have had the greatest impact on my life.

They don’t even know I exist, but they’ve still taught me invaluable lessons.

How?

Books.

I have a library of mentors the likes of which you’d never believe.

David Whyte’s books have been a constant guide over the years, especially in moments when I was confused about the way forward. His book, “The Heart Aroused” changed the way I look at my career. 

I might never meet Anne Lamott, but that hasn’t stopped “Bird by Bird” from mentoring me for years. It’s not just a book about writing, it’s a book about life and I keep coming back to it. 

I don’t know if I’ll ever have a chance to connect with Brian Biggers or Michael Todd, but their sermons have been the background to many miles I’ve run when I needed a little bit of encouragement. 

Sometimes, thanks to the Internet, I’m even able to go beyond the book or the podcast and get a little one on one advice with people who are famous to me. I did that with James Victore. I read his books and absolutely loved them. I followed him on Instagram at @JamesVictore and then I even hired him for a coaching session that was worth every penny.

You might feel isolated from people right now, but you’re only ever as isolated from your mentors as you allow yourself to be. 

If you want to grow during this challenging season, add one new mentor to your life. Read a new book. Listen to a new podcast. Follow a new Instagram account. 

That’s not just content, those are mentors. Those are teachers. Those are leaders. Each one is waiting to teach you, waiting to inspire you, waiting to say to you, “Baby you’re a firework!”

I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself. 

Jon

P.S. If you’re going through a career transition right now and need some awesome, practical advice, start here.

 

 

 

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