Though I had seen him from afar, Andy and I had never met prior to me walking into his office the first time. I remember the moment well – Andy rose from behind his desk, greeted me with a hearty handshake, his trademark smile, and motioned for me to sit in one of the black, questionably stable, plastic and metal chairs.
Our conversation was off-and-running, and immediately I sensed something…the presence I’ve not felt since…well, ever. If there was a way to radiate transparency, authenticity and genuine interest, Andy was doing it. He listened, asked questions, and made observations based on my responses. Though I don’t recall how long that initial meeting actually lasted, what I do remember is the feeling of being in the presence of someone who displayed a desire to be an encourager, a sounding board, and a person who would challenge me and hold me accountable. Indeed, I had just taken my first step into a larger world – I had just found the mentor I had no idea I needed.
One of the first mentions of the character Ben Kenobi comes in Episode IV, when Luke’s uncle refers to him as a “crazy old wizard,” who is likely to be dead. Shortly thereafter, we meet the very-much-alive Kenobi when he arrives to save a young Luke Skywalker from the scavenging Tusken Raiders. Kenobi then takes Skywalker to his humble dessert home, and thus begins a conversation between the two that would act as the launching point of the young hero’s coming journey. Without Kenobi’s intentional intervention (or sense of obligation, depending upon your point of view) it’s all but certain the Death Star would have turned the Rebel Base into space dust, and this blog series would be retitled: “Obi-Wan Kenobi: Lessons in Selfishness & Laziness.”
How do we know Obi-Wan was intentional about becoming Luke’s mentor? Well, eighteen long, hot, dusty years pass between Kenobi’s handing-off of the infant Skywalker to the child’s aunt, and this “chance” meeting between Kenobi and the young adult Skywalker. And yet, when the paths do cross, Obi-Wan is clearly more than ready to bring Skywalker under his tutelage, under the guise of “needing [Luke’s] help.” While the expediency of the relationship may be brought-about because the film’s primary purpose was not this relationship, I believe there’s more to it. Obi-Wan was clearly prepared for the moment, having been Luke’s silent guardian for the duration of the young Skywalker’s life, and he seized the opportunity because he knew the kid had untapped potential.
A mentor worth following is someone who seeks out the opportunity to be a guide – and seizes the chance to do so when it arrives. The motive is (or at least should be) to pass along wisdom, experience, and expertise to another with the expectation the learner be humble and teachable. (If you recall, the humility piece is what was glaringly missing from the Obi-Wan and Anakin relationship).
It is also quite likely the mentor is much more aware of the mentee’s potential than the mentee himself/herself. While it is circumstances that turn a reluctant Luke into a willing protege, he is clearly craving both guidance and positive attention, thereby availing himself to whatever lessons the aged Kenobi had in store. In fact, Obi-Wan was such a stark contrast to the other adult male in Luke’s life – Uncle Owen – the young Skywalker goes so far as to label Obi-Wan a “great man” within a short time of their initial meeting. This isn’t throw-away dialogue – it’s an acknowledgment that even a young farmhand knows what a winsome master looks like.
Andy didn’t wait for me to ask if he had time or interest in being my mentor. Like Obi-Wan, Andy, too, was ready to seize the moment and offer himself as a resource to learn from. He expertly listened, offered insight, challenged when necessary, and always encouraged. Had Andy – or Obi-Wan – not been ready when the opportunity presented itself, it’s likely Luke and I would still be whining about picking up power converters at Tosche Station…
Have you been the beneficiary of someone seizing the opportunity to mentor you? What was that like? What potential did your mentor see in you?
NEXT WEEK: Part 2, Knowing When to Lead