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How often do you rely on a mentor or serve as one?


Today is August 3 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you rely on a mentor or serve as one?” Those who leverage their mind, body, and spirit to navigate the chaos often rely on a mentor and serve as one as well. Actor Denzel Washington noted the importance of being a mentor when he said “Show me a successful individual and I’ll show you someone who had real positive influences in his or her life. I don’t care what you do for a living—if you do it well I’m sure there was someone cheering you on or showing the way. A mentor.” The examples of fellow actors Michael Douglas and Meryl Streep illustrate the power of a mentor to those navigating the chaos.


In 1972, when he was a young actor at 28 years of age, Michael Douglas starred in the television police drama The Streets of San Francisco. The lead on the show was Karl Malden. According to a 2021 interview by Douglas “Those days, when you were the second banana on a police show, usually you were a stop or two behind the lead because the focus couldn’t hold both actors. Karl was the first guy who said to me, ‘come on up.’ He shared the spotlight, cared about others, said I was the son he never had. A good mentor can save you a lot of pain.”


Fellow actor Meryl Streep contributed in her own way to mentoring another. During her 2009 SAG acceptance speech for best actress in Doubt, Streep called out “the gigantically gifted Viola Davis.” Streep raised her arms and shouted, “My God, somebody give her a movie!” Davis only shared one eight-minute scene with Streep in the 2008 film Doubt, but made a lasting impression on her co-stars, moviegoers, and producers; Streep’s call was answered when, three years later, Davis starred in the 2011 film The Help. Davis would eventually go on to win the 2016 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her outstanding performance in the film Fences.


When Davis received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in January 2017, Streep was there to honor her fried. In her opening remarks for Davis, Streep delivered this detailed description of Davis’s talent: “Viola Davis is possessed. She is possessed to the blazing, incandescent power. She is arguably the most immediate, responsive artist I have ever worked with,” Streep said. She then went on to describe Davis’s ability to be “so alive she glistens” and to “write paragraphs with her eyes.”


Malden did not have to share the spotlight with Douglas and Streep did not have to publicly advocate for Davis. Practicing the art of living well, however, will often provide opportunities for those who ‘made it’ to help those on the way up. The question is, will you take the opportunity to mentor others? If not, why is that? Is your focus on your self so great it shields you from seeing others? If your obsession with success so overwhelming that you refuse to lend a hand to someone who could use it? Serving as a good mentor to someone navigating the chaos and practicing the art of living well, can, in the words of Douglas, save someone from a lot of pain. As discussed throughout the Navigate the Chaos series, there are countless individuals who figured out a way through, around, or under their pain in order to reach the other side and succeed, sometimes against all odds.


In his January 5, 2022, Harvard Business Review article "The Best Mentorships Help Both People Grow" David Nour noted the importance of mentorship when he coined the term transformational mentoring. According to Nour “Transformational mentoring is a term I use to describe a relationship that offers something powerful to both the mentee and the mentor — and it requires an equal amount of work from both. As a mentee, the trick to fully engaging your mentor lies in finding the right person: someone with whom you can build a relaxed, inspiring camaraderie, driven by curiosity as opposed to the binary instructor-student exchange we normally teach. These mentorships can be formed with people senior to yourself or peers of equal stature, as long there is a mutual desire for personal and professional growth.” Those who navigate the chaos understand that if they want to grow as a professional they will also need to grow as a person. A good mentor will teach you that and if you are an engaged mentor you will remind your mentee of that belief as well.

  • Has someone mentored you?

  • Have you been open to someone mentoring you?

  • Have you missed opportunities to be mentored because you were closed minded?

  • Have you mentored anyone? If so, how was the mentoring experience on your end? And how was it received?

  • Why do you think people do not want to mentor others or refuse to accept guidance from someone who wishes to mentor them?

  • How difficult is it to find someone who is aligned with your desire for personal and professional growth?

  • Have you engaged in transformational mentoring? If so, how did it go? If not, would you be open to it?