“As Iron Sharpens Iron, So One Person Sharpens Another”
At the heart of the Theory of 5 is the idea that people who care about us will care enough to challenge our actions, intent and mindset, just as we might challenge theirs. Because of this, together we will achieve more than we would alone.
Whether we are mentoring someone, being mentored ourselves or are in a co-mentoring relationship, being accountable to others is an exceptional method to stay on track toward our goals.
Here’s an example.
You have planned to hit the gym after work, but the day was a bear. Even though you’re mentally exhausted, you know it’s in your health’s best interests to put your body through its paces.
Which of the following would make you more likely to follow through with this plan?
You are going alone.
You have an appointment with one of the trainers at the gym.
You know your long-term workout partner is waiting and counting on you to meet them so you can push one another to reach your goals.
If you’re going alone, the only person you’ll be letting down is yourself. If your motivation is lagging, you can rationalize it in your mind you’ve had a tough day and deserve a break. You’ll hit it tomorrow.
Meeting with a trainer who works at the gym will provide you with more incentive, but it’s still no guarantee.
If you’re really tired, even the pain of possibly having to pay for a missed appointment might make it seem worth it.
Knowing that a long-term workout partner who you’ve committed to meet will be waiting and counting on you.
That’s the best motivation to get yourself to the gym. If you don’t show, you’ll not only be letting yourself down, but you’ll be letting them down as well. For most of us, that’s unacceptable.
They would understand if there was a reason you couldn’t meet them (stuck at work, injury, illness, etc.), but just a tiring day at work? That’s just not a good enough reason.
A committed individual will grab their bag and get to the gym — and they’ll be glad they did.
Being accountable to others will drive us on when our self-motivation is wavering in specific areas of our lives. It’s natural for most people to want to be well-thought of by people we respect and care about, and the idea of letting them down is always worse than letting ourselves down.
While we should be able to maintain an intrinsic drive to work toward our goals, there are times when it’s valuable to look outward for a motivational boost. During times when the temptation is greatest to take a shortcut, procrastinate or call our effort “good enough,” knowing we’re accountable to others we admire will give us that extra encouragement to take it that step beyond.
One of my favorite Bible verses, which I first learned as a 7-year-old from a wrestling coach at the YMCA, is Proverbs 27:17 — “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” This sentiment is at the center of the Theory of 5 — and of mentoring in general. People who want to be great will challenge each other to be great.
It can be difficult at times to hear our mentor’s feedback or face their potential disappointment when we do not meet our goals because of our actions or behaviors.
A good mentor, however, will challenge us with tough questions and expect us to give our best effort. They want what’s best for us — otherwise, they wouldn’t be using their valuable time to mentor us in the first place — and they have a good idea what behaviors are needed for us to reach our goals.
It’s human nature to become defensive when challenged, but if we listen with the right spirit — and know that our mentor believes we’re capable of achieving what we’ve set out to do — we’ll take their guidance to heart and our effort will be rewarded in our future results.
We will have to work on our humility along with whatever area we’ve asked our mentor to coach us to improve — which isn’t a bad thing in itself — but we owe it to both our mentor and ourselves to listen and act upon their lessons. Anything else is a waste of everyone’s time, and that just won’t do.
This accountability works for everyone in the relationship. Whether we’re mentoring, being mentored or co-mentoring, knowing we’ll let someone down if we don’t give them what we’ve promised is a natural motivator. If we “talk the talk,” we’ve got to “walk the walk” to maintain the respect of those we value and care about.
Also, when we’ve been asked to mentor someone, we should go into it with the spirit of coaching them to bring out their best (which will also bring out our best), and not to just lord our knowledge over them to make ourselves feel superior. As one of my own mentors often told me, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”
We grow from challenges. Our habits, our behaviors and our actions will produce much greater results if we’re sharpening our blunt edges against our mentor’s iron until those edges are razor sharp and gleam in the light. Our mentor will become sharper in the process, rewarding them for their efforts.
These sharpened tools are what we’ll use to excel in our life.