The Power of a Mentor (And what we can learn from Sister Act II)
With self-employment increasing at a rate of 3.5% it is now the fastest growing sector in our current business landscape.
This means that many of us have already or will soon make the jump from building someone else dream, to building our own.
There are countless books, courses, articles and podcasts on how to make a successful leap into the world of entrepreneurship. But nothing compares to having someone close to you, who has experienced all that you are about to, standing in your corner and nudging you in the right direction.
I’m talking about a mentor.
Someone who has already lived the story you hope to live. Someone who has succeeded through waves of uncertainty and doubt. Navigated the isolation and insecurity that often accompanies such a voyage. And can offer deep insight, real-world experience and powerful inspiration for your quest.
I have been lucky to find and know many mentors in my personal and professional life. Whenever I have worked with one, my business growth has accelerated and my sense of self elevated beyond what I could have done on my own.
This post is a reflection on what I’ve seen in others and experienced personally when utilising the power of a mentor.
And to do this, I’m going to use the wonderful 1993 film, ‘Sister Act 2: Back in the habit’.
Firstly, this is one of my ALL TIME FAVOURITE films. The message, how it’s delivered and the performances are exceptional. The cast were young, soon to be superstars. It was a sequel that surpassed the original (which rarely happens) and it changes me every time I watch it.
For those that haven’t seen it, do it today.
For those that have, a quick plot summary.
Deloris Van Cartier aka Sister Mary Clarence (Whoopi Goldberg) is drawn back to the church that once housed her while she was in hiding from mobsters. This time to help teach the music class and somehow save the school that will soon be demolished to make way for a parking lot.
It’s a low socio-economic area, the kids have no positive role models, they are rude, crude and full of attitude. But we discover they can sing. And over the course of the film, Sister Mary Clarence (Whoopi) teaches them to sing together, stand in their truth and take control of their destiny.
They transform the community around them, relationships with their family and go on to win a choir competition which inevitably saves the school from closure.
I want to highlight 3 key moments that capture the journey of working with the right mentor.
A good mentor balances their experience, their intent to serve and a series practical frameworks, ideally they have developed, that you can use to develop your own business or practice.
Whoopi Goldberg brought these kids together as a choir by getting back to the basics. They started with scales. They learned to sing in harmony by following a prescribed set of tools she laid out as the foundation for their vision.
Imagine they’ve developed their first offering. They’ve written the copy for the website, had a professional photo taken and are putting themselves out there for the first time.
They’ve been comfortable within the safety of their mentoring relationship but now they have to suck it up and share their ideas, their IP and they’re intent with the market. Watch
Initially they’re shy and timid. They want to keep hiding out and fitting in. It’s insanely hard to trek out on your own.
Whoopi (their mentor) recognises the fear and immediately brings them back to basics. She reminds them of the foundation they used to build their initial offering. We hear her say ‘alright you guys, take your cue from me’.
She runs them through a scale, they become grounded in their purpose again. They find their rhythm, they gain in confidence and inevitably, they cut loose.
A good mentor is there for you when you take your first steps out into the unknown. They anticipate any roadblocks and return you to the fundamentals when necessary. All in service of your own unfolding truth.
Now imagine you’re a little further along your new venture. There are people in your life, often those closet to you, who don’t understand what it is you’re trying to achieve. They offer ‘well-meaning bad advice’. They believe they’re looking out for you but may not have your best interests at heart.
This is captured in the beautiful moment between Lauryn Hill and Tanya Blount.
Lauryn has just received ‘well-meaning bad advice’ from her mother. She now finds herself in comparison. Judging her own worth compared to those around her.
She questions giving the up her business or practice. Throwing in the towel. Getting a ‘real job’. Tanya reminds her that her dream matters by asking her what she thinks. Reminding her to trust her instincts. And to never surrender her power.
But the best part after that is, she creates a framework for her to get in action. She doesn’t launch into a long, convoluted motivational speech. She invites her to step back into what she loves. Get back into action. Dive into her process and sing.
Through this, Lauryn finds the conviction she thought she had lost. Not by planning, or writing a manifesto or repeating a daily affirmation. But by doing the work.
A good mentor is inspiring, full of deep insight and motivational speech. But they are always focused on getting you back in action. Because that is where we learn. That is where we remember why we wanted to do this in the first place. And that is where we find results.
Now imagine you have have arrived at your moment of truth. This is the biggest pitch you’ve done to date. This is the gig that will open doors for you in ways previously unimagined. You have done all the work. You’ve busted your ass and this proposal is make or break.
But just as you’re about to begin, just as you are standing on the verge of truly breaking through, the ghosts of your past appear. A phone call from a family member. An email from a dissatisfied client. A post from one of your competitors locking in a deal with someone you hoped to work with.
It throws you. You stumble.
Just as Lauyrn is about to sing her mother walks in. Full of judgement and contempt. Sometimes our ascension throws the life choices of others into question and they will stop at nothing to stop us.
At this point Whoopi orders the kids to take of their robes. In order for them to step into the fullest expression of themselves, they have to be and own their uniqueness. Without regard for how they will be perceived.
The point is not winning the competition, the point is who they became in order to get there. Making it in your own business is pointless unless it is a reflection of what you want and who you are.
Surrounded by others on a similar path, we see all the kids overcome their background, their influences, their conditioning. We see them collaborate whilst maintaining their individualism. We see joy. Unfiltered, unashamed, unbridled joy.
A good mentor is not trying to get you somewhere. They merely create the space for you to explore, to own and to share your magnificent self. Turned up to eleven.
A final thought.
Almost every good mentor had a mentor of their own. They know they will never repay the contribution that was made to them, by them. The only way to show gratitude is to pass their wisdom on. To help someone else in the same way they were helped.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone that inspires you. Someone who has lived what you hope to. Perhaps they’re currently too busy, or too expensive, or too whatever. But perhaps, they’ve been dying to find a way to give back to the world that gave so much to them.
Perhaps you are the vehicle for them to express their gratitude.
Perhaps they want to work with you just as much as you want to work with them.
So pick up the phone and ask em.