Finding the Right Mentor
Hi! My name is Coach Jimmy and how do you find a good mentor? That’s a great question and a question that probably a lot of people that are looking to do something wonderful in their life that you need to ask. Whether you are on a fitness journey, you’re trying to take control of your life, you are trying to build a business, you are trying to do something beyond what you have done before in your life, a mentor is the fastest way to get there.
I remember that early on in my life it was really hard for me to find a mentor, I couldn’t find somebody to latch onto because before I got started in business or my fitness journey, I was a three time college dropout. I quit a lot of things. I probably didn’t allow people to mentor me. I was also at one point in my life a 100 lbs overweight. Again, not real teachable, not very coachable. I wasn’t for a lack of people trying to help me.
And I just shared that with you because I wanted you to know how bull headed and bone headed I was early on trying to do something, but not being willing to seek out a mentor, somebody that had done what I wanted to do and was willing to share shortcuts with me.
You know it wasn’t long after I decided to take control of my life, I started losing weight, I started gaining some confidence, that I moved to New York City because I had let a dream die of being a performer, of being on stage, performing on stage specifically in musicals. Love to act, love to sing, love to be on a stage, and illicit an emotion from an audience. It really is, and still is to this day, my passion.
And I knew that college wasn’t in the cards for me anymore, but that I knew that if I really wanted to be the best at something, I needed to work with the best. And on my way up to New York City, I started asking people that I knew that I trusted in my field, who do I need to work with in New York City? Who do I need to….I need to be better vocally, I need to be a better story teller, who is the best?
I had a friend, a director friend here in Dallas, that said, “I have the guy for you and you’re not going to find him on a Facebook ad and you are not going to find him advertising through fliers, but you need to call my friend Jack Lee.” And Jack Lee was…guys, when I met him he’s is probably in his late 70s, early 80s. He was the epitome of old school musical theater. I mean this guy had worked with everyone from Gene Kelly, who is one of my personal idols, to Chita Rivera. I mean the list just goes on and on and on.
And I remember my lessons with Jack going in and people would see me or hear me sing or watch me perform and they would say, “Jimmy, I want to work with your vocal coach. Who do you work with?” And I would always just smile and I would say, “No, I really don’t think you do.”
Mentors Push You to be Better
This is the mistake that people look for in a mentor. People think a mentor is that person that is supposed to make them feel good all the time. That’s supposed to stroke their hair and make them think that they…tell them that they are pretty all the time, let them know how wonderful they are, and Jack was anything but that. I think Jack was really good at identifying talent quickly and I think he did see something in me.
So from the very, very beginning Jack was on me hard. He was my musical theater Yoda, my Mr. Miyagi, and if you remember Mr. Miyagi, you know he was making Daniel-san do all sorts of things that he didn’t understand. Paint the fence, wax the car, and you’re like, “But, no dude…” and the same thing Jack would do these things with me. Jack, “I just want to sing this song beautifully.”
He didn’t let me cheat. He didn’t let me ramp up. He wasn’t scared about overwhelming me. He wasn’t scared about giving me too much information.
I had a really bad habit of listening to myself and judging myself as the notes were coming out of my mouth. We really would take pieces and we take time to look at the sheet of music and we dissect who is this character? What is this story about? What is the emotion in this? I need you to tell me a story and we would get this and I think I would have it so down and then I would go stand away from the piano with my sheet music and Jack would begin to play. We’d get just a few notes in and I would start to sing and he would just get so mad at me like, “God damn it, Jimmy!” and slam down the piano, the case of the piano, and just cuss me up one-side and down the other and I maybe got like two words out of my mouth.
I am like, “Jack, what is it?” and he’s like, “What did we just talk about? There was nothing honest about that.” He is like, “I see yourself listening to yourself. You’re judging yourself in the middle of the performance.” The “performance”, the four notes or five notes that I got out of my mouth and he wouldn’t let me cheat. He wouldn’t let me cut corners and he held me to a high standard from the minute we started working together.
He didn’t let me ramp up. He wasn’t scared about overwhelming me or he wasn’t scared about giving me too much information. In fact, Jack believed in me so much that he heaped more…he heaped so much on me that he knew I couldn’t process it all at once. It used to just frustrate me to no end.
I would leave my voice lessons and call my wife and she had her job on this fancy office on 5th Avenue and she said, “Well, how was your lesson? Was it great? Do you feel better? How is it going?” And I would leave his office thinking that I’m the worst performer in the history of the world. For the last hour, I paid this guy a lot of money I couldn’t afford to just kick me in the teeth, but I kept going back and I kept going back because I could tell I was getting better.
Tough Love is the Best Kind
I could tell that even when he was berating me, he was rooting for me. Even if he didn’t tell me how wonderful I was everyday, even if he just he continued when I would master one thing, instead of praising that he would still nitpick these little things. I think everybody you have heard of coaches like that. Like a coach that demands a lot, like a Bill Belichick or a Phil Jackson or something and you hear that he held his players to a higher standard. Just because they mastered one thing, that there is always something to work on. There was no finish line. There was always a way to be better.
They refused to let me settle. They refused to let me coast. They refused to let me get comfortable for too long.
I am really thankful for mentors like that in my life and I look back at coaches and acting teachers and business teachers and they have always been the ones that were the hardest on me. The hardest on me with the right heart. They weren’t yelling at me just to yell. They weren’t yelling at me just to be mean.
It’s that I could tell in their heart that they were rooting for me, that they saw something so special in me, that they refused to let me settle. They refused to let me coast. They refused to let me get comfortable for too long. That’s what you need to look for in a mentor. Look for somebody that walks what they do. Jack lived what he asked me to do every time he would perform a movement with every one of his students. He never wavered. Whether you are a students of his for one day or five years, you got the same Jack the minute you started working with him.
We lost Jack Lee last night and I only worked with him for a couple of years, but the impact that man had on my life, not just as a performer. As a mentor to others, as a coach. As somebody who refuses to settle. Who wants to play up, who wants to set the bar high, who wants to work with those willing to jump up with me.
There is Greatness Within You
I am not interested in lowest common denominator and I am not interested if you feel overwhelmed or if you can’t handle it. Being great is tough. Having an impact in this life is tough. Doing something that impacts somebody else is hard, but I know that you are on here today because you have something in your gut that says you want to be great at something. That you are supposed to leave your mark in this world. That you are supposed to be greater than what you playing right now. That you have been playing low. You have been playing safe. You have been playing comfortable.
It’s time to get out of that.
You can’t spend too much time in your comfort zone and whatever mentor you are working with shouldn’t allow you to. If all you ever hear from your mentor is just great you are and I have had those people, “Jimmy, you’re talented. Jimmy, you’re really good on camera. Jimmy, you’re a good speaker.”
I am not interested in somebody telling me what I am good at. I want them to push me and make me great. This world has way too many good, there is way too many mediocre, there is too many good enough, and that’s not you and that’s not me.
We were meant to break through that, to raise the bar, to wake people out of this zombie neutral slumber that they are in, this good enough just coasting through life thing. You need to play up.
Let Your Mentors Push You
I don’t know what that is in your life, but there is something that you are already inherently good at that you have gotten lazy with because you are like, “Well, I am kind of good at that already so I am going to go focus on this weakness.” What if you found a mentor to take your good to great to elite to just the top 1%? What kind of impact do you think you would have on this world? Instead of resting on this thing that you’re “pretty good’ at.
I was a pretty good singer. I was a pretty good speaker. Okay coach.
I am thankful for people in my life like Jack Lee and he is not alone and I could list person after person and I have aligned myself with that hasn’t let me coast. That hasn’t let me settle in good enough and I still have a long way to go even in the things that you look at me maybe and think, “Jimmy, you’re awesome at that.”
It’s the shit that I am still working that hardest on to get better. To be better for you. I need to be better so I can be better for you so you can be better. So when you are better, you are better for somebody else, and this thing just dominoes and goes.
So be picky with who your mentors are and when they are harder on you, know that it’s because they want the best. They are rooting for you. They may piss you off. They may hurt your feelings. It’s going to happen if you are working with the right person, but know why.
Hopefully, I played a role somewhere along the way in that of you being better. If this video has been helpful to you, I am going to ask you to ‘like’ it, leave me a comment, let me know what it is that you are getting better at, that you are working on, and share it with somebody that needs to hear this today.
Thank you for taking the time for letting me share my heart today. My name is Coach Jimmy and until next time, keep being great.