The Diagonal Mentor

Long ago I looked up to a professor who wasn’t my direct academic advisor. This professor was often more giving of his time than my immediate professor — and knowing this, he once referred to himself as “the diagonal advisor.” I truly appreciated this geometric interpretation of a working relationship.

The other day I had the chance to sit with a friend and his mentor. I gained a great deal from listening to his mentor — a gentleman of 80 years of age — and was reminded of the special opportunity to be “diagonally” mentored many years ago by my diagonal advisor. Some observations:

  • When someone is 80 years old, and s/he says, “I have *many* stories,” you tend to realize the definition of wisdom as related to having enough stories to pick and choose from … that you *might* find the right one that matters with a good enough set of choices. The wise do well on the average with their picks.
  • “It takes time,” is something you hear often from those that are wise. We want everything to happen right now. Especially when it’s as easy as pressing “Publish Post” to get this thought out into the ether. It’s impossible to imagine anything taking longer than a button press. But many things … still … take time. That doesn’t mean that you should sit and wait for something … to … happen. Knowing that “it takes time” doesn’t mean that you are willing to wait forever. It does mean, however, that you’re willing to push for as long as it takes. Until it’s … time.
  • “Life is never easy, so don’t bother lamenting the fact. Be joyful instead.” If you are engaged in challenging work, days that are downers can be expected as the norm. It’s because you’re trying to do something. And the power of feeling lucky to be challenged versus the power of feeling down due to difficulties … well, those powers are quite different.

My 5 minute blogging break is up, so now it’s back to work for lucky me :-). -JM