Chapter 8 - You Can't Go it Alone

Whichever hero’s journey you choose for yourself… whether it's building windmills, saving sea turtles or starfish, feeding the homeless or bringing comfort and smiles to seniors, cooling our planet or installing a Buddy Bench at your school – no matter what path you choose to make a difference in the world, you will need a Mentor, a Wingman, and an Army.

Mentor

A mentor is a wise and trusted instructor who prepares a young hero for his quest and then guides him along the way. 

Luke Skywalker was trained by Yoda and Obi Wan Kenobi to become a Jedi Warrior.

Professor Dumbledore took Harry Potter under his wing.

Hideyoshi traveled far and wide to seek out Lord Nobunaga as his mentor.

You should know that the best mentors are often those with snow-white hair and skin as wrinkled as a raisin. For that's how they end up after spending a lifetime battling Dragons. It shows they’re men of fierce character, which is a word first used in Greece for a tool used for cutting and carving. Character, in other words, is the etching of life’s challenges into men's faces and souls. These marks tell us the mentor was once a hero himself who survived great trials and is therefore ready to pass on the gift of his skills, his knowledge, and his wisdom. 

Remember Lesson 17 on what makes a man, a man? The one in Chapter 2 that says that a man who wishes to become a true Warrior Bee should share with others the gifts of his knowledge and wisdom? That, in a nutshell, is what a Mentor does. Take Star Wars - 'The Force Awakens' as an example. There we see Luke Skywalker - by then an old, wrinkled, gray-bearded man - living alone on a barren, rocky island where he is found by Rey, the young female hero who has recently joined the Rebel Alliance to fight the evil First Order. After much pleading, Skywalker agrees to train Rey in the use of ‘The Force.’

From a distance, this is what I am trying to do with this book. 

More wrinkled than a prune, wounded and scarred, and with more gray hair than old Skywalker, I have fought and continue fighting many dragons, made a gazillion mistakes, and failed more times than I wish to remember, or confess. I’ve taken the time to examine all my victories and defeats in order to learn from them, and gone as far as writing two long books about them. This is why I say you can trust me.

Mentors will not only train you but will make you understand both your strengths and limitations. They will take time to get to know your temperament, your nature, and will tell you whether what you’re thinking on doing is either right for you, or not. They will also tell you when you are absolutely ready to go on your hero’s quest.

In every hero’s story, both in legend and real life, you’ll find the wise workings of a mentor. 

You’ll need one too.

Some boys immediately think of their dad as their mentor, but, as you learned from the story of my father, that usually doesn’t work too well. Because they love us too much, dads will often do everything they can to keep us from going on daring adventures. 

Then there are boys, like me, who grow up with fathers who are not around much, or boys like Hideyoshi, with no father at all. This is sad, for sure, and now a reality for 1-out-of-4 children in the United States who are being raised without a father. But it doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. Of all the stories I’ve read, I’ve never come across a young hero who was mentored by his father. In fact, orphan hero stories are quite common. So are stories of abandoned children and those given up for adoption. Luke Skywalker was an orphan. So was Harry Potter, and James Bond, Superman, Batman, and Spiderman. The founder of Apple,  Steve Jobs, was given up for adoption when he was a baby. 

What I strongly believe is that your mentor must be a man. To explain why I’m so convinced I’ll tell you about a weird incident involving young male elephants (up to age 13), in South Africa.

Some years ago, officials at the Kruger National Park and Game Reserve in South Africa were faced with a growing elephant problem. The population had grown larger than the park could sustain. Measures had to be taken to thin the ranks. A plan was devised to move some of the elephants to other animal reserves. Being enormous creatures, elephants are not easily transported, so a special harness was assembled to air-lift the elephants and fly them out of the park using helicopters.

The helicopters worked… the harness didn’t. It could handle the juvenile males and adult female elephants, but not the heavier male elephants, or bulls, as they are called. A quick solution had to be found, so a decision was made to leave the much larger males at Kruger Park and relocate only some of the female elephants and juvenile males.

The problem was solved. The herd was thinned out, and all was well at Kruger. 

Sometime later, however, a strange problem surfaced at the younger elephants’ new home. Rangers there began finding the dead bodies of white rhinoceros. At first, poachers were suspected, but the huge rhinos had not died of gunshot wounds and their precious horns were left intact. The rhinos appeared to have been killed violently, with deep puncture wounds. Not much in the wild can kill a rhino, so rangers set up hidden cameras throughout the park.

The result was shocking. 

The culprits turned out to be marauding bands of aggressive juvenile male elephants - the very elephants relocated from Kruger National Park a few years earlier. The young males were caught on camera chasing down the rhinos, knocking them over, and stomping and goring them to death with their tusks. Such behavior was very rare among elephants. Something had gone terribly wrong. The young males were acting up, just like young men do today in street gangs.

Some of the park rangers had a theory. What had been missing from the relocated herd was the presence of adult male elephants that remained at Kruger. In natural circumstances, the adult bulls show younger elephants how to behave properly and keep them in line. Call them wise elephant mentors. Without them, the younger elephants were missing the guidance of the male elders as nature intended.

To test the theory, the rangers constructed a bigger and stronger harness, then flew in some of the older bulls left behind at Kruger. Within weeks, the bizarre and violent behavior of the juvenile elephants stopped completely. The older bulls let the younger ones know that their behavior was not elephant-like at all. In a short time, the younger elephants were following the older and more dominant bulls around, while learning how to behave like proper elephants.

And that’s why I insist that you should look for a male mentor when ready to go on your hero’s journey. 

Look for someone you admire… someone you respect. It could be an uncle, your grandfather, a teacher at your school, or a friend of the family. It could also be stranger… a man who might’ve done something like you plan on doing, and who agrees to prepare you for your quest. 

You’ll be surprised how many men are willing to help young boys when asked politely - with humility and respect - and who show a willingness to make every effort to learn. This last bit is very important. A mentor will only agree to train and guide you if he senses you are prepared to do whatever it takes to learn from him.

You know what really bugs me? Kids who say they want to change and do something important with their lives, or are frustrated with themselves, or depressed, or scared, anxious and confused, but when you tell them what they should do or think about, or what they should read and learn, they roll their eyes because they think it will take too long and require too much effort, so they don't do anything but keep whining and complaining. It's as if they expect someone to give just them a quick and simple magic potion to solve all their problems or do the hard work for them. A mushy brain is what they have. And no Grit, one of the most important Life Forces.

I suppose it's the price we're paying for living in an "instant-everything" kind of world which makes us believe that problems can be solved by sticking them into a sort of cosmic microwave and zapping them away in 30 seconds.

Not too long ago, a young man came to me for help. He was in his early twenties and working for his father with whom he had a terrible relationship. This young man had a big heart and gentle temperament. The work he was doing with his father wasn’t right for his temperament and he wanted to do something else… something closer to his nature. He was looking for his purpose in life. The young man loved to read, and, when younger, had tried his hand at writing stories just like I had done. He came to me asking if I would help him become a writer. Since I cared for him very much, I immediately agreed and began to mentor him by sending him books and sharing the gifts of my knowledge and experience. But nothing happened. He never responded, nor did anything to make his dream come true. I since learned that he is still working for his father and is not happy. 

I am not a mean person, but you’ll understand why I would be reluctant to mentor him a second time should he come knocking at my door again. For you see, it is not our wishes and desires that matter, but the time and effort we are ready to put in to make our dreams come true. 

Let this be a lesson for you. When the time comes for you to seek a mentor, make sure you are prepared to listen to him and honor his gifts by doing the hard work, like the one I hope you are doing with your Warrior’s Workbook.

Later on, I’ll tell you the story of Alexander the Great who was mentored by none other than Aristotle, another orphan, and one of ancient Greece’s greatest philosophers. From what I’ve learned, it appears young Alexander never paid attention to Aristotle’s lessons and paid a heavy price for his laziness and arrogance. That’s why I call him “Alexander the – Not – so Great.”

But what happens if after looking everywhere, you still can’t find a Mentor? What then?

I say, run to the library! 

That’s what I did since my father wasn’t around much. Dad was a single child and Mom had only sisters, so I had no uncles. I didn’t like my grandfather, and the few male friends my father had were as useless as shoe umbrellas or yellow raincoats for fish... any color, for that matter.  

It was at the library where William found that hidden book which taught him about windmills and sparked his idea to save his village. 

Ask your librarian for books of great tales of adventure, like Greek myths and legends. Or biographies of people who overcame great challenges. Read them for inspiration and clues that will serve your hero’s journey. 

Most of my mentors are dead. They were some of history's greatest philosophers and scientists, daring adventurers and explorers, deep thinkers, writers and wise men. The books they wrote, and the wisdom they contain, have guided me all my life. Others, thankfully, are still alive and have written great books about boys and men. I’ve listed them at the end of this book to show my gratitude for the guidance they’ve provided me on this journey.

After finding your Mentor, you’ll need a Wingman.

Wingman

A wingman is someone who has your back.

Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger had Harry Potter’s back.

Luke Skywalker had Hans Solo and his droids R2-D2 and C-3PO.

William had Gilbert, his best friend.

If there is one thing for which Alexander the Great can be thought of as “great,” I’d say it was his secret weapon… something called the “Macedonian Phalanx” - a simple battle formation with a simple instruction: “A soldier never goes to battle without a buddy beside him.” With his shield in his left hand and his sword in the right, a warrior thrusting his sword leaves his right side exposed - vulnerable to the enemy’s attack. In the Macedonian formation, however, the warrior always had a trusted Wingman guarding the area where he was most exposed.

More than a bunch of virtual friends on social media, you need a Wingman you can fully trust. Someone you can turn to when things get rough. Someone you can be honest with and tell them when you’re scared or lost. This is the moment when the Dragon of False-Pride wakes up. Far too many men refuse to ask for help because they think it makes them appear weak, so they go it alone, exposing themselves to needless danger. 

It takes a whole lot of manly courage to be vulnerable and honest about our doubts and fears.

If your Wingman is solid, he’ll listen with care, but will also keep you accountable, which means he won’t let you give up even when you are bruised, exhausted, and on the ground not wanting to battle any more Dragons. Like a fellow hunter, he’ll pick you up, dust you off, pat you on the back, and challenge you to keep going.

Beware of false wingmen, though. You’ll know what I'm talking about if you’ve watched The Lion King

Timon, the Meerkat, and Pumbaa, the Warthog, weren’t Simba’s wingmen; they were his ‘yes-buddies.’ They told Simba everything he wanted to hear, like that he didn’t have to return to his lion pride and assume his rightful place as King and that he should join them instead and sing Hakuna-Matata all day long and have no worries, for the rest of his life. This was the opposite of what Simba’s father once told him… that there was more to being a King than getting his way all the time. 

Timon and Pumbaa were like the boys in William’s village who wasted their lives “grooving,” with no plans for the future, playing games until their brains got mushy. 

Luckily for Simba, he found Rafiki, the old and wise baboon. 

When Simba tells Rafiki that his father, Mufasa, is dead, the wise baboon says, “I know your father… he’s alive, and I’ll show him to you. Follow old Rafiki… he knows the way!”

Rafiki leads Simba to the edge of a waterhole and makes him look at his reflection. Simba looks hard, sighs, and says, “That’s not my father, it’s just my reflection.”

Rafiki says, “Nooo, look harder… you’ll see he lives in you!” The old baboon stirs the water’s surface with his finger and when Simba takes a second look, he sees the face of his father, then hears Mufasa’s voice coming from up above. Simba looks up and sees the ghost of his father breaking through a dense cloud. 

“You have forgotten who you are,” Mufasa says in a deep voice. “Look inside yourself Simba. You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the Circle of Life. You are my son, and the one true king. Remember who you are.”

If it hadn’t been for Rafiki – Simba’s Mentor and Wingman – Simba would’ve remained “grooving” with Timon and Pumbaa while Scar, the evil lion, and his slavish gang of hyenas would have taken over and ruled.

A Wingman also tells you when he thinks you’re acting like a fool, or lying to yourself, or fighting battles that don’t need to be fought. 

As I wrote before in Lesson 6 on what makes a man, a man, many people with the best of intentions often fight what they believe are injustices, but that don’t really exist, and end up making a big mess in the process. 

Let me tell you a story so you know what I mean. 

The story is about a middle-aged nobleman by the name of Don Quixote who spends way too much time reading tales of valiant knights and their heroic quests. These stories so capture Quixote’s imagination that, one day, he decides to saddle his old horse and ride out into the world as a gallant knight in search of injustices to fight. 

As his Wingman, Don Quixote enlists a short and chubby peasant by the name of Sancho Panza who follows the nobleman on a donkey. Sancho Panza is simple-minded, and his role in the story is to speak the truth, like any solid Wingman should.

On his quest, Don Quixote is so eager to find and fight injustice, that every ordinary, innocent person he encounters on the road is seen as an enemy by his fanciful imagination. He fights them all, but because he isn’t very good at it, he usually ends up on the ground, all bruised and battered. 

One day, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza ride up a hill and look down on a wide meadow. 

“Look there, friend Sancho!” exclaims Don Quixote, “Behold thirty or forty outrageous giants with whom I intend to engage in battle and put each one to death!”

What giants?” asks Sancho Panza.

“Those you see yonder,” replies his master, “the ones with vast extended arms; some of which are 26,000 feet long.”

“I ask you, my lord, to take notice,” warns Sancho,“ that those you see yonder are no giants, but wind-mills, and what seem arms to you, are sails, which being turned by the wind, make the mill-stone work.”

Don Quixote scoffs. “It seems very plain that you know little about adventures!”

Don Quixote rides off, leaving Sancho behind, and attacks the windmills with his long lance, only to be struck by a rotating blade, thrown off his horse, and falling to the ground, all bruised and battered – again!

I hear lots of kids these days saying things like, “this is not fair, or that’s not fair!” or “that’s an injustice or that’s just wrong!” which reminds me of Don Quixote and makes me wish there were more simple-minded Sancho Panzas out there to clear the fog out of their heads and see things right.

And that, my boy, is why you need a Wingman by your side. Someone who will always have your back and cheer you on, but who will tell you when they think you are wrong, and, when necessary, to keep you from battling windmills so you don’t end up on the ground all bruised and battered.

 An Army   

The future of civilization is at stake and rests in the fate of the One Ring which has been lost for centuries. Powerful forces are unrelenting in their search for it. But fate has placed it in the hands of a young Hobbit named Frodo Baggins (also an orphan), who inherits the Ring, and steps into a hero’s journey. 

A daunting task lies ahead for Frodo when he becomes the Ringbearer. He must destroy the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom where it was forged.

Does Frodo go it alone?

Of course not.

Together with the wizard Gandalf (his Mentor) and Samwise Gamgee (his Wingman), Frodo joins six others in what’s called ‘The Fellowship of the Ring,’ and together, they set out to destroy the powerful Ring and save Middle-earth from the Dark Lord Sauron.

When I say you need and “Army,” what I really mean is a Fellowship, a word formed by combining “fellow” and “ship” that loosely means the people who will join you on your ship and follow you on your hero’s journey. 

Sadly, too many fine young men today, desperate to belong to something greater than themselves, are joining hate groups on the Internet or gangs out in the streets with tragic consequences. They are joining The Fellowship of the Locusts. 

Luckily for the world, however, there are others who are forming fellowships with other warrior bees.

Ruby Cate Chitsey, the eleven year old girl from Arkansas who is bringing hope and smiles to so many seniors, has recruited some of her classmates and friends to join her and help out at her ‘Three Wishes Foundation.’

Alexandra Scott’s courage and selflessness inspired hundreds of supporters who set up other lemonade stands throughout the country and raised a total of $1 million for childhood cancer research.

Soon after Greta Thunberg went on strike on the steps of the Swedish parliament, she inspired many young people across the world to become youth leaders in their own countries. On March 15, 2019, this worldwide fellowship managed to organize over one million students in more than 30 countries to skip school to demand that politicians stop talking about climate change and start doing something about it.

Hideyoshi’s humility and courageous can-do attitude inspired Lord Nobunaga’s workers to complete the wall and saved the day.

These are true leaders. And great leaders, my dear boy, don’t force people to follow. They don’t use lies, fear, or violence to make people support them. A true leader infects others with his conviction, enthusiasm, and passion, which inspires them to want to join his cause.

A real hero, then, is smart enough to know he can’t go it alone. He seeks a Mentor and finds a Wingman. Then, using all the Life Forces in which I'll soon train you, he inspires a Fellowship to join him on his quest to make the world a better place.

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Chapter 9 

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