My 9 year old daughter is learning to play “Let It Go” from Frozen on the piano. She will sit down and play for 15-20 minutes several times a day. Sometimes she plays slow, sometimes she plays as fast as she can, sometimes she plays trying to not look at the piano. When she makes a mistake, she either starts over again or tries to continue and regain her rhythm. 

For her, each keystroke is a cycle. Every combination of keystrokes is a cycle. Every session is a cycle. Everyday is a cycle. It’s not a surprise, that the more cycles she can run through, her chance of success increases. How does performing more cycles of something create success? Where does that success come from? The more she practices the more she is able to discern the quality of the product. She is able to make choices by understanding what is good, better and best. The more cycles she has, the more she is able to discern these differences and play with them at her discretion. 

It has been said that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at something. Each hour, day, year is a cycle within a cycle. We wake up in the morning, go about our day and for the most part it’s like groundhogs day. We encounter the same or similar people, circumstances, etc. The next day in our life closely resembles the day before, with some minor changes. Hopefully, those minor changes are the result of trying to grow and develop as a human. Cycles are small but they build up. One year has 365 day cycles. Five years has 1,825 day cycles. If you lived to be 70 years old, you would have lived for 25,550 day cycles. Are you using the opportunities you’re given to improve? Are you changing with each cycle or are you in the same place you were 500 cycles ago? 

In the course of life we all come across obstacles that challenge the way we cycle. By welcoming new challenges, our cycles will either be strengthened or we will realize how we can adjust them in order to improve. Being able to adjust your cycles allows them to work in a way that is beneficial to you, those you love and your community. 

When beginning to learn anything, it can be overwhelming. This is usually because you don’t know where to put your focus and when you don’t know where to put your focus, a solution is often hard to find. However, solutions are often a lot simpler than perceived. If you had the experience of someone who has cycled enough to have a good understanding of their cycles, you would be able to see solutions much faster. This is the result of mentorship. Mentors are individuals who have gained knowledge and experience by going through many cycles of their own. They share what they have learned to help others know what to focus on and what to ignore. Mentors should be able to teach their mentees principles, procedures or steps that help them create healthy cycles that are useful and that lay the groundwork for higher levels of problem solving. Mentors help to discern the differences in quality faster while avoiding the missteps that cause many negative or unuseful cycles. When the mentee uses the principles taught to them, they could possibly learn what it took a mentor 20 years to learn in a matter of a few months or years.

This process grants a mentee time to truly commit themself to their cycles, trust the basics and then build upon the foundation they’ve been given. The innovation attained by the mentee would otherwise only have been accessible to them by taking the same amount of time the mentor did to learn the principles, steps and procedures. I believe that all admirable mentors feel this way and ultimately want their mentees to succeed. 

How can you tell if you’ve found a good mentor? The mentor’s ability to distill complex subjects into self-evident truths for the mentee to easily discern is the most important trait. Since a good mentor wants their mentee to not just duplicate, but to innovate, they will teach higher level problem solving and introduce challenges to the truths that they teach. True mentors are aware that they don’t know everything and this is why they should encourage their mentees to use the principles they have found success with, while also challenging to see things from a perspective that is new. It is only through looking where no one else has looked, that new and better ways are found. By following this process, mentees are not overwhelmed by information and instead are being prepared to examine the problem from all sides. When someone is confronted with information that supports the truth as they understand it, the truth is reinforced. When someone encounters opposing information to the truth as they understand it, opportunities are provided to reflect on it and see if there is something of value to be added. Information that was not previously understood could be gleaned from the opposing view while information that reinforces the truth will be included in the new cycles created. Being able to recognize and appreciate improvement is a highly underrated skill for meaningful progress and motivation. The ability to perceive, even small milestones, will keep you focused on the process and looking for opportunities for growth. Good mentors are invaluable in making sure your hard work is focused and rewarding.