Sticky Notes of Thoughts

…because some thoughts are worth remembering

On Mentors: Searching for Mr. Miyagi


In the movie The Karate Kid, an unassuming elderly man, Miyagi, who happens to be a karate master takes a bullied boy under his wing. The boy is promised he will be able to learn karate, but instead he is stuck doing the elderly man’s home improvement chores: sanding his floor, waxing, painting the fence. The boy finally gets fed up, and tries to leave when the master asks him to show him “sand the floor”, “wax on, wax off” and “paint the fence”, as the master sparred with him. In this brilliant moment, the boy realises that everything he’s being doing up to now had a purpose, and they came together to realize his goal.

We should all be so lucky as to work for a “Mr. Miyagi” in our lives. Often, that’s not the case. A friend of mine once told about a possible corollary of the Peter Principle, where people tend to be promoted up to their level of incompetence: most likely, you are more qualified, intelligent and thoughtful than your boss. If so, then hoping to have a Mr. Miyagi as your boss, will only result in disappointment.

We have to find mentorship wherever we can: starting with ourselves. One’s own mindfulness can act as a mentor as well. When we are asked questions that are framed poorly, rather than getting frustrated at the question or directly answering the question, pretend we were asked a question that should have been asked, and answer that.

As for searching for a mentor, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Ken Robinson lists four roles of a mentor:

  1. Recognition (of talent)
  2. Encouragement
  3. Facilitating
  4. Stretching

The mentor does not have to serve all four of the roles above. It doesn’t have to be your direct supervisor or  your colleague, it can be someone outside of your field. It doesn’t even happen to be someone you know.  In Japanese, the word for teacher, 先生 (sensei), is also a title given to other professionals such as doctors. It is a title showing respect as the “one born before me”. Anyone who has walked the path before us has something to teach us.

Happy wax-on, wax-off.



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This entry was posted on March 26, 2015 by in Management and tagged , .
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