How often do you mentor others?

Today is August 3 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you mentor others?” One such person who benefited from having a mentor was actor Michael Douglas. In 1972, when he was a young actor at 28 years of age, 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.

Today’s reflection, however, challenges you to think about those who mentored you, and the opportunities you provided to others. 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.”

  • 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?

  • 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?

Those who navigate the chaos understand they have a good deal to learn along the way. With that in mind, they seek to learn from as many people as possible. Unfortunately, life provides many examples of those who have attained some level of success by ignoring others, disrespecting them, or failing to listen. Life is unfair. If you witness someone attain success and they blatantly disrespect others you need to ask yourself if that is a strategy you wish to pursue.

Most people who translate their dreams into reality intentionally learn from others. Listening, respecting, and learning from others offers valuable lessons as you travel your path of navigating the chaos. Bobby Fischer understood this and in so doing became one of the greatest chess players ever. Robert James "Bobby" Fischer was an American chess grandmaster and the eleventh World Chess Champion. Many consider him to be the greatest chess player of all time. In March 1949, 6-year-old Bobby and his sister Joan learned how to play chess using the instructions from a set bought at a candy store.

When Joan lost interest in chess and Regina did not have time to play, it left Fischer to play many of his first games against himself. With little money, his mother moved the family from Manhattan into a small apartment in Brooklyn in 1950. Fearing that her son was spending so much time alone playing chess, she sent a postcard to the Brooklyn Eagle newspaper, seeking to place an ad inquiring whether other children of Bobby's age might be interested in playing chess with him. The paper rejected her ad because no one could figure out how to classify it, but forwarded her inquiry to Hermann Helms, the "Dean of American Chess", who told her that Master Max Pavey, former Scottish champion, would be giving an exhibition on January 17, 1951. Fischer played in the exhibition. Although he held on for 15 minutes, even drawing a crowd of onlookers, he eventually lost to the chess master.

One of the spectators was Brooklyn Chess Club President Carmine Nigro, an American chess expert of near master strength and an instructor. Nigro was so impressed with Fischer's play that he introduced him to the club and began teaching him. Since Fischer’s father and mother divorced when he was young and the young chess player who had no contact with his father, became a fixture at the Nigro household in Brooklyn. “As Dylan Loeb McClain wrote in a September 2, 2001, New York Times obituary for Carmine Nigro. Over the next three years, Mr. Fischer would go over at least once during the week for a lesson, spend Saturdays with the Nigros and then go into Manhattan with Mr. Nigro on Sundays to play chess in Washington Square Park. This routine continued even after Mr. Fischer surpassed his teacher as a player.”

Nigro left a lasting impression on Mr. Fischer. Mr. Fischer dedicated his first book, ''Bobby Fischer's Games of Chess,'' to Mr. Nigro and wrote in the forward, ''Mr. Nigro was possibly not the best player in the world, but he was a particularly good teacher.'' Legendary basketball coach John Wooden noted "Never try to be better than someone else. Learn from others and try to be the best you can be. Success is the by-product of that preparation." Fischer learned from others. Do you?