Mentoring includes removing a few rocks from life’s path

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I listened this week to a “Team Never Quit” podcast interview with American swimmer Dara Torres, a 12-time Olympic medalist and former world record-holder in three events. Mrs. Torres’s interviewers are three retired US Navy SEALS.

The contrasting perspectives on being in the water among the four were fascinating. So were the different discussions on how to swim — physically and mentally. And former SEAL Marcus Luttrell asked Dara Torres how she dealt with the transition of competing with a team to being alone “inside your head” when actually swimming.

One positive from the Torres interview was the idea of having a mentor at the outset of her swimming career, and then, being a mentor post-swimming career to upcoming swimmers.

The conversation had me thinking about mentors in my lifetime, people — usually adults — who were kind with sharing their knowledge; opening a door, presenting an opportunity. Offering guidance and sometimes allowing me to fall on my face, but also there to help me back on my feet.

I remember reading the story of a traveler hiking up a steep mountain trail. At one point, tired from his uphill climb, distracted by his surroundings, the traveler trips on his path over an unseen rock. After regaining his composure, the traveler hikes on toward the mountaintop.

Later, a second traveler hiking the same mountain trail trips over the same rock and falls.

Whose fault is it the second traveler tripped over the rock?

Answer: the first traveler. After tripping over the rock, the first traveler had an opportunity to remove it from the mountain trail, thereby making the way a bit smoother for other travelers.

That philosophy captures mentoring in a nutshell.

A few years ago I came to terms with my mortality. Not in a maudlin way, but recognizing I have only a finite amount of time in which to accomplish some of my remaining goals.

For example, I have a lifetime of drum knowledge and materials. Since April 2014 I’ve been working to digitize the best materials and make them available online in the public square.

My 1980s interview with jazz drummer Frankie Dunlop is Frankie’s only taped interview. Frankie telling of how one night at The Five Spot jazz club in NYC, he and jazz legend Thelonious Monk resolved the question, “Is it harder to play drum solos at a fast or slow tempo?,” is classic. A true pearl of wisdom.

Since uploading that segment of Frankie Dunlop’s interview to YouTube on 11/26/2016 it has been viewed 27,572 times. That’s more than enough people to fill all the seats in Bangor’s Cross Insurance Center three times.

Another 5/3/2017 YouTube clip I posted of popular jazz drummer Dave Weckl talking about studying with renowned drum teacher Gary Chester has had 63,397 views.

That’s not patting myself on the back. Rather it’s to show how simple mentoring can positively impact many people.

Starting in my 20s I sometimes thought how rewarding it would be to mentor a young person with a real interest in drumming. As of this writing that young person hasn’t appeared. But I do enjoy the now-and-then inquiries from drummers asking me questions.

My maternal grandfather’s last words to me were, “Don’t let your life waste away. And don’t let your time slip away.”

Mentoring strikes me as a solid way of avoiding both misuses of time and, in the process, removing a few rocks from life’s path.

Scott K. Fish has served as a communications staffer for Maine Senate and House Republican caucuses, and was communications director for Senate President Kevin Raye. He founded and edited AsMaineGoes.com and served as director of communications/public relations for Maine’s Department of Corrections until 2015. He is now using his communications skills to serve clients in the private sector.

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