• James Walton

Some of My Best Friends Have Been Dead for Hundreds of Years

"Some of my best friends have been dead for hundreds of years." I was in college when I heard a professor say this. It was a throwaway line, the kind of thing muttered in passing, and not at all related to the topic at hand. It was in reference to the relationships he had built with the scholars who defined his field of study, with whom we was deeply acquainted through their writings. That simple statement left an impression on me that I remember to this day. That professor had his Doctorate degree, which another Ph.D. later confided was simply an exercise in reading 500,000 pages of other people's work and then condensing that into 300 pages of your own work. So the fact he read widely shouldn't have been a surprise. But the window that simple statement opened for me was this: I can be mentored by anyone, anytime.  Certainly a face-to-face mentor is invaluable. I've built a part of my business by providing wisdom in real-time to the challenges my clients face.  But more important those who can provide a signpost pointing in the direction of success are those who can help you draw a map of the terrain you inhabit and help you anticipate and respond to its environment.  Learning from others through their books (or podcasts, or webinars, or YouTube channels, or or or) requires humility and proactivity.

  • Humility to recognize your career development is never finished and there's always more to learn.

  • Proactivity to step out the urgent and into the important work of reflecting on the wisdom of yesterday to prepare today for the challenges of tomorrow.

If you're feeling stuck in your career, if you're looking for a mentor, if you're seeking a spark of wisdom to help make sense of the ground on which you stand, find a good book. Your new best friend might be dead, but they'll still have a lot to teach you.

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