Scott’s Thoughts: The Great Ones

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

Mark Twain (1835-1910); humorist, essayist, novelist

Mark TwainWho you associate with in your career can have a dramatic impact on your ability to learn and ultimately rise as the years pass. While many of us look to the most successful in our field for inspiration, mentorship from these stars can fall short. There’s a surprising gap between those who are successful and those who are successful and can communicate what makes them successful.

In other words, some people are great at what they do, but not so great at showing you how. Great athletes can be poor coaches. In fact, some of the greats in any given field will actually turn out to be the most discouraging mentors. Whether their inability to personally inspire is drawn on fear of competition, envy of those more successful, or a belief in a “zero sum game” when it comes to the market, some heroes can turn out to be zeroes when the objective is learning to be the best.

There are those among us who may not represent the pinnacle of success, but possess a completely unique gift: The ability to make you feel as though you can become one of the great ones. These people are vital to your growth.

All great teachers provide encouragement first. Even if the lessons are hard and the truths harder to hear, good mentors are the ones who embrace your pursuits with you, who make you feel as though you can achieve your goals even while you’re failing your way through the latest attempt.

Tune your ear to speakers who mix tact with their honesty, who do not disparage your ideas, even as they gently suggest alternatives. Do not readily accept the negativity and “tough love” of those who you may idolize only for their apparent success. Greater rewards reside with the truly great ones– those who make us feel it is only a matter of time before we are in their company as peers.

Photo of Mark Twain courtesy the excellent Stanford Bookhaven blog.

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