寻师问道的重要性 / The Importance of Seeking Mentors

寻师问道的重要性

我认识许多成功人士,他们在成长过程中都得到了上天的眷顾,有幸遇到一位甚至多位导师。那些事业有成、生活和美的人更是如此。

真正聪明的人在寻师问道时都会追求自己崇拜和尊重的品质,而且不怕提出愚蠢的问题,以最大限度地抓住一切可能的学习机会,获取无论是专业还是哲学方面的知识。

几个月前,我得到一次非常特别的机会,在管理学大师吉姆•柯林斯的家乡——科罗拉多州圆石城——对他进行了采访。吉姆•柯林斯创作的《从优秀到卓越》一书是史上最畅销的精装商务书。(本次采访的全文将刊登在近期出版的《财富》中文版杂志上,届时您也可以通过本网站观看采访的视频。)在交谈中,柯林斯对导师在他终身学习中的重要意义做了精彩的讲述。

25岁时,有一天,柯林斯一边开着车,一边用录音机收听有声读物。录音带里引用了美国前总统杜鲁门的一段讲话,大意是如果一个人活到30岁还不能明辨是非,那他这辈子都别想了。这番话深深地触动了柯林斯,他把车停到路旁,琢磨自己还有5年的时间可以用来搞清这个问题的答案。

显而易见,是非之别相较于左右之分要复杂得多。柯林斯坐在路边,反思正确价值观对人生的重要意义,决心拓宽学习渠道。当场,他决定成立自己的个人董事会——依据人物的工作观和生活观选取积极的作为榜样——而不是人们经常联想起的公司董事会权贵,来作为拜师学艺的源泉。

最终,他为自己选择的个人董事会成员包括一些熟人,也包括一些素未谋面的人。其中有些人知道自己被柯林斯选中做他的导师,但也有些人并不知情,无意间成为柯林斯学习和敬仰的对象。

对此我有几点感触。首先,一个25岁的青年,对探索人生的价值如此重视,以至于半路停下车来专心思索,足见其思想之成熟、思路之清晰。其次,这种行为彰显出一个活到老学到老的人和一个自认为跨出校门就再也不用学习的人之间存在着的巨大差别。

有些人通过研究生院之类的教育机构或其他非盈利组织举办的学习课程为自己发展起师徒关系。而另外一些人,则像25岁的柯林斯一样,四处寻师问道,并在年长后乐于指导和培养下一代。他们没有守株待兔似的等着老师找上门来,而是主动出击,遍访名师。

其实我们的世界需要更多这样的人,他们不仅注重提供专业和职业方面的建议,而且能在更广泛的意义上帮助年轻人发展并不断调整自己的价值观。

一个人如果没有明确的价值观,就好比一家企业缺乏核心价值和经营策略。虽然他们可能会凭借运气在创业之初取得一定的成功,然而一旦遇到挫折和不可避免的困难,光靠运气也许支撑不了多久。缺乏正确的人生观也很难有一个幸福的人生,从长远看来,这比获取物质上的极大丰富更为重要。

我有一位银行家朋友(现在已经幸福地退休了),他曾问那些在他眼里已经失去了工作和生活平衡的工作狂朋友们:“你们都对自己的生活干了些什么?难道你们想当墓地里最有钱的人?”

目前在中国,每年加入就业大军的大学毕业生与市场上适合的空缺岗位之间存在严重的数量脱节。在中国社会各层面都经历快速和重大变化的背景之下,对价值的追求也引发了人们的广泛争议。虽然向导师学习本身并不能“解决”上述任何问题,但无论如何它都是件好事,也是件必要的事,对正规教育和企业培训等也都起到了补充的作用。

近年来,中国企业越发讲求对企业社会责任的承担。而注重对人的培养正是在个人层面的某种必然反映。

柯林斯的故事有很多层含义。其中最重要的就是年轻人应该保持活到老、学到老的精神,要以正确的价值观而不是成功的表象作标准,为自己寻求积极的人生榜样。如果能够铭记这一点,他们就能找到好老师,不管是在圆石城还是在北京城。

同时,柯林斯的故事也提醒我们,一个人的学校教育结束之日,正是他真正学习的开始之时。对这一点了解与否,其分别有点儿像北京烤鸭和野鸭的进食习性之不同。前者被强迫喂食,迅速催肥,好投放市场;而后者翱翔四野,寻觅自己喜欢的食物,过着更长久、健康、幸福的生活。

从柯林斯的故事中,我们还学到另外一点:没有愚蠢的问题,只有不敢问出口的问题。许多年轻人丧失了向身边那些潜在的导师求教的机会,就因为他们不能主动寻求建议。

北京烤鸭虽然美味可口,但我毫无疑问更愿意做一只自由的水鸟。

The Importance of Seeking Mentors

Many successful people I have met, especially those who are both successful in their endeavors and happy with their lives, have been fortunate to have one or more great mentors along the way.

Really smart people seek mentors out based on qualities they admire and respect, and overcome the fear of asking dumb questions in order to maximize their learning opportunities, whether on professional topics or more philosophical ones.

I had a very special opportunity a few months ago to interview management guru Jim Collins, whose “Good to Great” is the best-selling hard cover business book in history, in his home town of Boulder, Colorado. (The interview will be carried in full in an upcoming issue of FORTUNE China and on this website in video format.) During our conversation, Collins told a fascinating story about the importance of mentors in his own life-long education.

At the age of 25 he was driving in his car and listening to an audio book on the tape deck. The tape contained a quote from the late American President Harry Truman stating that if someone did not know the difference between right and wrong by the time they reached the age of 30, they never would. This thought struck Collins so profoundly that he pulled his car off the road to contemplate the fact that he had five years in which to figure this question out.

Obviously, the difference between right and wrong is much more complex than the difference between right and left. While sitting at the side of the road, Collins reflected on the importance of embracing the right values in one’s life, and decided to widen his circle of learning sources. He decided on the spot to create a personal board of directors — positive role models he selected based on the values they embody in the way they live and work — not with the kind of authority one would usually associate with a corporate board of directors, but as a source of mentoring and learning.

Some of the people he eventually selected for his personal board were people he knew personally, and others were not. Some knew he had selected them as mentors, and some did not, remaining passive objects of his study and admiration.

Several things struck me about this. First, it shows a great deal of maturity and clarity of mind as a 25 year old to think the quest for the right values in life is so crucial that you pull your car off the road to think so carefully about it. Second, it’s the kind of behavior. that demonstrates the difference between a lifetime learner and someone who thinks their education is more or less complete when they finish their schooling, which is a profound difference.

Some people develop mentor-mentee relationships through programs organized by educational institutions, such as graduate schools, or other non-profit organizations. Others, like Jim Collins at the age of 25, go out and seek mentors, and at a later stage in their lives they make themselves available for mentoring younger folks. He didn’t wait for mentors to come knocking on his door. He took the initiative to seek them out.

The world needs more of this, not only focused on professional and career advice, but in a broader sense, to help young people develop and fine tune their own values.

An individual without a clear sense of personal values is a bit like a company without core values and strategy. Luck may provide some early success in their career, but it probably won’t be sustainable through turbulence and the inevitable tough times. The lack of a clear sense of personal values most likely also won’t bring happiness, which is much more important in the long run than acquiring material wealth.

As a (now happily retired) banker friend of mine used to ask friends who he felt were workaholics who’d lost their work-life balance: “What are you doing with your life? Do you want to be the richest guy in the graveyard?”

There is currently a big disconnect in China between the number of college graduates coming into the work force each year and suitable available jobs available for them in the marketplace. There is also a lot of debate and discussion about the search for values against the backdrop of major, rapid changes in so many facets of Chinese society. Mentoring won’t “solve” either of these problems but it is a good and needed thing nonetheless, and a complement to formal education, corporate training programs, etc.

On the corporate level in China, corporate social responsibility has been embraced with gusto in recent years. Mentoring is really a kind of corollary of that on an individual level.

There are various lessons embedded in Jim Collins’ story. Most important is for young people to adopt the attitude of being a lifetime learner and seeking positive role models based on good values rather than outward appearances of success. If they take this responsibility to heart, they will be able to find mentors, whether in Boulder or Beijing.

Collins’ story also reminds us that an individual’s education has really just begun at the time they complete their formal schooling. The difference between someone who realizes this, and someone who doesn’t, is a bit like the difference between the feeding habits of a Peking duck and a wild duck. The former is passively force fed and fattened quickly for market; the latter flies far and wide in search of their favorite food, living a longer, healthier and happier life.

Another important lesson we can learn from Collins’ tale is that the only dumb questions are the ones we’re afraid to ask. Many young people miss out on opportunities for learning from potential mentors around them, because they don’t take the initiative to seek advice.

Peking duck is delicious, but I’d rather be a wild duck any day.


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