Spectacularly OK, Astoundingly Mediocre

Ever wonder why mentors are a thing?

Ever catch yourself in a WTF moment?

Curious about what happens at the intersection of mentorship and the WTF moment…?

I have a reputation in collegial circles as having a quirky, irreverent, no-nonsense leadership and coaching style, wrapped in a whole lot of heart and big fun.

I’ve learned to carry my authority with grace, and easily toggle between humor and gravitas. I’m also known as one who will happily throw an arm over the elephant in the room and name it for what it is.

That style is integral to the brand I’ve nurtured for over two decades of doing my work.

It suits me rather well, thank you very much.

And as a man on a path of professional, personal, and spiritual growth, I’m nowhere close to being fully baked.

Sure, the reputation is fun and feels completely authentic. It gives me a good name and street cred, which I’m wildly grateful for.

At the same time, I have a strong hunger to grow, and I willingly raise my hand as one who knows that there’s a universe of learning yet to be had both inside and outside of myself.

If I’m honest, I often feel like a novice.

That’s not a bad thing, and I don’t equate being a novice as “less than.” I recognize that there’s a lot more to this voyage of discovery – and I’m willing to stay open to as much of it as I can.

Having learned long ago that great mentors grease the gears of learning, I make it a point to always have at least a few on hand.

A few weeks back I took a piece work – a recorded coaching call – to a pair of current mentors, David Goldsmith and David Peterson, for review.

I knew at the outset that it wasn’t an example of my very best work, but that was the idea.

It was competent in a “meh” sort of way. It was also the perfect kind of material to highlight my blind spots and provide a few (at least!) learning opportunities.

Yeah, showing up with a chunk of mediocre work was a vulnerable thing to do…

So what? I was there to learn, and learning rarely happens without vulnerability and humility.

As sure as could be, as “The Davids” and I made our way through the recording, the lights around blind spots started turning on. Some of them revealed hidden attachments, some shown on indulgent (my language) handling of old stories and known information, some showed a lackadaisical reliance on easy rapport.

In other words, the signature brand and style I mentioned above had all but drifted away.

I was equal amused by how boring it was, astounded by how much pure mediocrity I was pumping out…

And delighted and relieved that I brought this recording to this pair of formidable, trusted mentors.

It was, as a grad school professor used to say of a couple of local Brooklyn greasy spoons, “spectacularly OK, astoundingly mediocre.”

I love that a better, more discerning part of me had the wisdom to set ego aside, get out of the way and allow myself to be witnessed and learn from being in full-on, half-assed mode!

And the crazy thing? It was more FUN than I’d had in weeks!

What’s my answer to “What happens at the intersection of mentorship and the WTF moment?”

I can’t speak for you, of course.

For me, though, it was a whole lot of priceless learning, a mess of allowing, a hefty helping of vulnerability, the recognition of how very off-brand half-assed work is – even when it “provides value.”

And the cherry on the sundae is that it inspired more open-hearted belly-laughter than I could have imagined.

That night I went to bed still chuckling and feeling richer for the experience.

Not bad for a day’s work…

Not bad at all…