chainsaws and mentors

My parents came to visit for a couple days. They come our way once or twice a year to live in our schedules. It was a great visit.

A couple years ago, I was using the family chainsaw to cut down a tree. Halfway through the trunk, it stopped running properly. I borrowed a saw to get the tree down, and rented a saw to cut it in pieces. Our saw ended up in the garage, needing to be looked at “sometime”. My brother-in-law needs the saw. Suddenly, Friday afternoon, it was “sometime.”

Dad and I started taking it apart. Technically, I took it apart. He watched.

He has a hard time with tools these days, the result of a couple strokes. He used to be the one that tore things apart, working with the belief that anything could be fixed. I picked up the mindset, and now I’m the one that picks up the tools.

Here’s the truth, however. We took it apart. For two years, I hadn’t taken the time to start the project. I hadn’t had the confidence that I would be able to figure it out. With dad here, I figured that he would recognize parts, that he might be able to point out possibilities, that together we could fix it.

And we did. After taking off covers and cleaning out crud and sanding the sparkplug and putting it together and trying it and taking it apart and disconnecting the points and finding out that they are impossible to find and putting them back together and letting it dry out and buying a new sparkplug, it started. 3rd pull.

I’ve been thinking a lot about mentors and accountability partners recently. People we ask to hold us accountable are often peers. They often don’t know any more than we do, but they are willing to be touchpoints, to be sounding boards.

They matter.

However, we need mentors as well. Call them teachers, rabbis, disciplers, guides, coaches, parents. They are people who know more than we do, at least about something. They may not touch what we are working on, but they give us someone to ask, “this part? This place? This way?”

I am concerned sometimes that in our desperation for equality and humility and teamwork and esteem for others,  we are unwilling to acknowledge that there are things that we actually do know better than others. This doesn’t make us better, or more worthy, it just means that we can’t be falsely modest.

What do you know better than others? Who looks up to you when they want to learn that? Are you willing to acknowledge that you know it better or do you say, “This? Anyone can do this.” Are you willing to watch people work, to share your knowledge without knowing everything? Are you willing to share the little piece that you know?

Are you willing?

6 responses to “chainsaws and mentors

  1. The sad thing in America these days is that most people with wisdom enough to be a mentor are too busy to offer their services.

  2. Except you.

    What Paul did was to teach someone else what he knew about twitter. And point them to other people to talk with.

    That isn’t long-term mentoring, but it is a step. And it didn’t take a lot of time.

    I think we need to be willing to start with baby steps. What do I know that you don’t know? How can I give you little steps over coffee once a week or so that will help you think about it, too.

    Not as an expert on everything, but on that one thing.

    But I do understand what you mean, paul.

  3. Maybe we shy away from acknowledging where we know more or can do better because we’ve been in negative experiences with other people who knew more or could do better and we don’t want to be like that. It takes a great deal of maturity to come alongside well with that superior knowledge or skill without coming across as superior. You’re really good at that coming alongside, Jon…thanks for the example.

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