Book Reviews

Book Review: “Mentors – How To Help And Be Helped”

Review written by Silas Grant –

This is book 10 for me in the second half of 2020. This was the most enjoyable book thus far. The book, written by comedian Russell Brand was such an easy read for me. Although this was a hectic week for me, I was able to complete the book. Typically, I take time out daily to read pages (approximately 40-50 a day) to ensure I finish on time. On this one, I missed a few days and still finished on time. The book was so good for me that when I carved out the time to read, the experience flowed. I didn’t feel as if I rushed the read. I processed it and took a lot away from the book.

The concept: Russell Brand is a famous comic, who is also a self-described drug and alcohol addict. Through his path to sobriety and clarity, he sought out help from a variety of people. Those people he identified as mentors. Each chapter in the book details his interactions with a different mentor. He describes the experiences and the elements of mentorship he extracted from those interactions. Toward the end of the book, he also shares a bit about his experiences mentoring others as well. The point of the book is to understand the process of choosing mentors and how to improve on the process.

Key takeaways:

What is mentorship?: Brand describes it as “a transfer and an example of God’s love. The mentor embodies the divine. The teacher/student love has the ability to surpass all other loves.” In the book, Brand warns readers against attempting to see your mentors in their full 360 degree selves. The goal is to utilize the mentors. He suggests that there is something good about keeping the mentor in a mythical space. Drilling down to try to find their imperfections can get in the way of you extracting what you need from them. Brand also states that perfect conditions for mentorship include the mentor, mentee, method, and institute (place where mentoring happens). Mentors have something you want, achieved something you haven’t, and in that moment you are insufficient. But for the transfer of energy or education to take place, you must be mentally and spiritually prepared.

The boundaries and limitations of peers: While Brand was in the rehabilitation center, he met a counselor who he was able to be vulnerable in front of. This counselor at the rehab center became a mentor. Many of the truths he’d shy away from, he revealed to this counselor. The counselor didn’t judge him and accepted him and his hidden truths. A friend of Brand came to visit him. When Brand attempted to reveal those same truths to the friend, the friend used humor as a defense mechanism to avoid how awkward the truth was. Brand stated “Peers remind us of where the boundaries of our tribes lie. Getting beyond the boundaries requires mentors.” He also referred to a time in which he practiced Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Being defeated by instructors allowed him to learn the craft. Being defeated by peers who are also novices at the craft caused his ego to be bruised. We often compete with peers and lose out on the opportunities to learn because of that competition. That’s why mentors are so important.

The monster under the bed: This may have been a random element in the book to others, but it stood out to me. Brand mentions his wife and daughters often in the book. In one instance, he references his daughter and the fear that many kids have of the “monster under the bed”. In the midst of making a larger point, Brand says that in order to acknowledge or be afraid of the “monster”, a person must first conceptualize “under the bed”. There is no monster. But “under the bed” in my estimation represents our infatuation with blind spots. Certainly, we must consider blind spots, but are they more important than what’s in front of us as well as what we can control? I don’t know the answer to that, but if you read the book, I hope you see that passage. It blew my mind.

Systems and ideals: Brand talks a bit about systems, ideals, beliefs, and false values. He suggests that we need mentors that manage to overcome the systems and ideals we’re born into. He states “Elevated souls are subject to the use of emotions that cause us agitation but they are able to use them as spurs to move closer to the light”. Finding a good mentor is finding someone who has or is going through what we experience, but savvy enough to channel the experiences in a way that improves life and how we live.

Again, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is well written. The language he uses has a good rhythm to it. He leaves readers with final thoughts. Some of my favorites are below:

  • Well chosen mentors can guide you to the frontiers of your self.
  • Successful mentorship happens: If you awaken to your need for change, become willing to learn, and identify an explicit and consensual method to pursue. 
  • When you have a method and a master, your own willingness, and surrender, you have all that is required for progress.
  • Investigate where you would like to improve. 

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