Ever since I started this writing journey, Star Wars has been a part of it.
With the new movie, there are new stories, characters and learnings to absorb and share. Good and bad examples of how to lead ourselves and others.
If you have not seen the movie, and plan to, please stop here. It’s been a month and the initial frenzy has passed. Go, enjoy, and I’ll see you afterwards.
If you’re still with me…what a ride! For me, the movie was reminiscent of the originals I grew up with, yet still offered a fresh story of heroes and villains.
Watching the movie (again and again), I was struck by how much the paths of both character types were influenced by mentors. By the resulting impact mentors can have on our choices and development.
Mentors nurture us
At birth, we have some amount of ourselves pre-defined by nature. There is the physical, such as our hair and eye color, as well as our predisposition to certain abilities (e.g. athleticism).
Every day thereafter, our environment shapes and molds who we will become. Ultimately, nurture has a greater impact than nature on our development.
WHO nurtures us is critically important because of this. Mentors, often engaged to help us navigate our lives and careers, have a strong influence on who we ultimately become.
Mentors inspire us
Finn, who was raised from birth to be a stormtrooper, was nurtured to be an order-taking killing machine. In a critical moment, he is faced with the death of a friend. He must decide whether he continues down the path nurture offered, or follow his internal nature and resist.
Two mentors were present to influence him. Captain Plasma, who represented all he had known to that point, and Poe. Meeting Poe, and witnessing his strength in resisting the First Order, inspired Finn to start a new path.
Mentors bring out our nature
The wrong mentor, at the wrong time, can also inspire us to forge a darker and more sinister trail.
Ben Solo, strong with the force, was under the tutelage of Luke Skywalker. By all rights, he was nurtured to be a Jedi and use the light of the force to guide him.
We are not explicitly shown when and how Snoke influenced Ben. We are told Ben was seduced to the dark side, ultimately transforming into Kylo Ren. Ben’s transformation, and Anakin’s before him, demonstrate that mentors can tap into our talents, as well as our fears.
The right (or wrong) mentor can bring out the best or worst in us. They help us see and realize our untapped potential. That which has not yet been nurtured, but exists in our nature…good or bad.
Mentors are transient
What we need early in our lives and careers evolves as we do. We encounter new challenges as experienced practitioners and need mentors that are prepared to handle more advanced questions.
Han was a mentor to Rey, if only for a short time. He demonstrated trust in her judgement, and brokered a connection with Maz Kanata. In her early rejection of her force sensitivity, he kept her grounded in her natural ability and gave her a sense of belonging.
Upon her acceptance of the force, Rey needed a new mentor to fully develop her potential. Her earnest and silent appeal to Luke is to help her and rejoin the fight.
Like Luke before her, who needed both Obi-Wan and Yoda to become a Jedi, Rey needs more than one mentor to realize her potential.
Mentors are challenging
There is no easy path. Growth and goal achievement take work.
Mentors push us past our mental limits, as it is only beyond them that accomplishment lies.
When Luke told Yoda he was not afraid, Yoda responded “You will be.” Han told Rey, when he offered her a job “I wouldn’t be nice to you.”
Mentors are not there to be nice to us. They are there to tell us the hard truth. We must experience fear of failure, and mentors help us face those fears.
Mentors are human too
We should beware any mentor that offers an easy path or plays into our fears, versus helping us face and move past them.
Darth Sidius lured Anakin to the dark side by playing to his fear of losing Padme. Snoke played to Ben’s fear of never being as powerful as his grandfather.
“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
We are all flawed and mentors are no exception. We must always take a mentor’s feedback in the spirit intended. That could be an intention to genuinely help others. Or not.
If a mentor is offering an easy or questionable path, they are likely out for their own interests and it might be time for a new mentor.
I hope you’ve had the opportunity to experience all that Star Wars: The Force Awakens has to offer. That you enjoyed it as much as I did.
Whether you are a fan of the movie, or appreciate the role mentors can play in nurturing us on our journeys, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
Title image sourced from the StarWars.com picture gallery.