Before reading skimming down or reading further, take a few moments and ask yourself the following question. Everything that happens from here on out is dependent upon your ability to have your own feelings on the matter. It allows us to establish a common language to communicate in and builds you a home for all of your thoughts to sleep when this blog is over.
"What is the difference between a reputation and a legacy?"
At first glance it easy to see these as synonyms; words that clearly mean the same thing. But if we take a longer look we'll soon realize that one only applies to the here and now, while the other implies that things will be a certain way for quite some time. One depends a bit on the opinions of others while the other is largely in your control.
The former definition is about reputation. Your reputation is something that walks around with you and resonates in the minds of all those you've come in contact with. A reputation is usually specific and current, but sounds an awful lot like an opinion; such as Lebron James is the most dominant player in the NBA.
This sort of statement can cause people in bars to flip tables and to rage post in the comments of ESPN's latest post. In something such as sports, an opinion about someone is effectively a statement about their reputation.
Reputation is too Flexible
You could have multiple reputations that walk around with you each day. Your boss could know you as their ace employee, your spouse may think of you as a dependable lover, and your friends might see you as the life of the party. However, your ex may see you as a liar and your less crazy friends may classify you as "the drinker".
All of these things are reputations. All of them are in the heads of other people. Yet, they walk around with you wherever you go, and even if you try to start over, you'll only get so far before old reputations pop back up in your life. Try as we might - we can only change ourselves so much.
Your reputation is important. It is a living, breathing business card. Every moment of your day and every interaction you have with another individual either builds or hurts your reputation in their eyes.
Reputation though, is so malleable, so capable of being recreated and redefined that its actual weight doesn't quite match its perception. People talk about reputations all the time, but we've really focused on the wrong thing. We get so caught up in people's current perception of us as individuals that we forget the real goal -
Building A Legacy
A legacy is something that exists long after you've moved on from your physical form. A legacy is for the most part, untouchable, once it is set in stone. For better or for worse, our legacies define us well after we've taken our last breathe.
To quote novelist Dara Horn, "every person has a legacy. You may not know what your impact is, and it may not be something that you can write on your tombstone, but every person has an impact on this world."
Although the word sounds powerful and positive when used in sentence, we must acknowledge a legacy can be a bad one; it could be horrible in fact. History is littered with souls who have done tremendous harm to the world. Yet, Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, Nikolai Tesla, and so many others have left behind legacies of beauty, justice, grit, innovation, and fearlessness. Now, those are the things we'd love said about us.
The key to legacy though, is not found in acts of valor or within incredible discovery, although those are certainly ways to achieve it. Rather, a legacy is formed through the careful and constant effort to make the world around you better. Each of the individuals mentioned above may have had flawed reputations at the time (Churchill was a heavy drinker), while others may have had their legacy tarnished by jealous competitors (Tesla). Yet, their constant commitment to bettering the world they inhabited left them immortalized among their peers.
Now, it would be unfair for any of us to expect that our gift to the universe be on the level of ending slavery, bringing peace to conflict, discovering the foundations of math and physics, or driving to create free electricity. Some of us just might get there - and a few of us will - but we can't plan for it.
We can, however, do something right now that can improve the world one person at a time. That action is what you saw in the title - becoming someone's mentor.
The Truth About Being a Mentor
See, a mentor is not simply a coach that gets someone from point A to point B. So many of the popular mastermind groups, corporate structures, and leadership conferences make it sound like a mentor should have a defined role in a person's life.
In the attitude of many "thought-leaders" on the topic - a mentor should fulfill a specific need of the person asking for guidance. For example, a personal trainer would need to learn how to become a better personal trainer from a veteran coach who is experienced in the field. A salesperson may have a mentor who teaches them negotiating tactics and guides them to "close the deal".
There is most certainly a technical component to being a mentor. We don't want to spend all of our time communicating on existential terms - a deeply satisfying, but often misdirecting form of conversation. Yet, to act like mentorship is cut and dry is purely bullshit. Moreover, assuming that mentorship is a planned and calculated relationship between two people completely undercuts the purpose of a mentorship in the first place.
In my life, the best mentors have been people who didn't have to guide me. In fact, most of them were never asked. I paid someone once - it was nice - but it didn't change my life. No, the best mentors I ever had grabbed me by the metaphorical neck when I was fucking up, or helped scoop me up when I was down, or played devil's advocate when I was riding high.
And each of them will have an additional mark on their legacy; me.
Everything that I'm doing, have done, and will continue to do is inspired by the talks I've had with my mentors. Each interaction was so powerful that it led me on a path to better myself, which ultimately led me here to place where I've become the mentor.
My Life as a Mentor
And now, as a Master Instructor for a leading fitness brand, a man with my own documented struggles with anxiety and depression, and a soul who genuinely loves to see someone else grow - I've become a mentor. Each and every day of my life, or at the very least my work week, I have a conversation with someone who is looking for guidance.
Sometimes it is something as simple as "Hey Kevin, my client has a hard time getting into a deep squat without a TRX holding them up". Others have asked me who I saw for therapy, how I cope with my anxiety and still become successful, and how I found my voice for writing. I've coached people's careers, their relationships, and their mindsets.
I remember telling one person that "they needed to blow their personality up and let the world know they exist when they hit the top stair" of the Equinox we worked. I also remember telling an entire class of new trainers to "remember that their personality and excitement is only attractive if they can deliver results in a professional manner".
It isn't about what I said or didn't say. It isn't about what I wanted or needed in those moments. It was about delivering exactly what the person, or persons, in front of me needed to hear. It still is.
There is no ON/OFF switch.
That is the real secret to being a mentor - you are always a mentor. You don't get to pick and choose the way you listen to someone's needs and offer assistance. You must be willing to step into the role whenever a moment, or a person, presents themselves. You might not know you could be someone's guiding light - or you might be in a position in life where you feel like no one would come to you for advice. You're wrong. At any point in life, from our lowest lows to our highest highs, we are capable of helping someone else.
We Need You
The world is only getting ripped a part more each day, but we must stay committed to being there for each other in some way. Your mistakes can be someone else's lessons. Your success could be someone's motivation. Your questions could help someone else find the answers they've been chasing. Your honest effort could be the only source of light for a person lost in the darkness cast by the fear of failure.
And in turn - the person, the people, that you guide will only work to format your legacy. As you drive them towards their better self - you'll be remembered as a catalyst. And while we shouldn't help others with ultimate goal of helping ourselves, it is comforting to know that there are people in this world who think the world of you because of your dedication to them, and that with each of their good deeds and accomplishments - you can rest on being a successful influence.
And so you, yes you; the person reading this line of text - be someone's mentor.
If you want the world to really notice you, then invest your time in being there for others when they need you. Take more time helping others find answers than you do framing the perfect Instagram shot. Care less about how you make people feel things and more about how you make people feel.
"Be the person who cares less about how they are perceived and more about how they are received. "
It's all about people - it is all it has ever been.
Define yourself through your legacy - the summation of all of your good work and the work of the people who represent you as they go into the world. History remembers leaders, lovers, linguists, and listeners most fondly. Be someone's mentor.