The man in the picture above is my dad.
My dad was a businessman, and being a CEO meant our house was like a revolving door. While I don’t remember the many faces, I do remember the energy my dad exuded – commanding respect the moment he stepped in.
This guy literally had a suit for every single day of the year, and a different brand of cologne to match.
He was never a loud person, but when he spoke, his voice drowned out all other chatter. He was always planning trips, reading, or on an important overseas business call.
I knew he was the biggest giver but seeing people almost on their knees begging for his help subconsciously made me fearful of his power.
At times his presence almost made me feel uncomfortable and I felt intimidated, despite knowing how sweet he could be.
I distinctly remember one night, sitting at the dining room table and my dad joined me for dinner.
This was an opportunity to connect with his fleeting attention, but before he even spoke to me, I became overwhelmed with the notion that a more important call would be prioritized over a silly conversation with me.
Unfortunately, I took it upon myself to quickly finish my meal and bolt out of the room.
Actually, I don’t think I can recall having any tangible conversations with him; we didn’t speak about sports, my dreams, school… nothing.
My dad’s inability to connect didn’t just apply to me, it applied to my mother as well, and as a result, my parents’ relationship worsened. The more they fought, the harder it became to understand him.
I wish I could have seen more of his vision and understood things from his perspective.
Unfortunately, I was never able to and each fight increased the tension in my parents’ marriage, ultimately resulting in their separation.
This resulted in our move from NYC, to PA, to Georgia and back to NJ over the course of the next 3 years.
The end of their marriage signaled the beginning of a change within me. I was living in a house full of women – becoming increasingly insecure – started getting bullied at school, and without a father to look to I lost confidence in many areas.
If you can identify with this, understand that it’s okay and that you’re not alone.
These experiences will ultimately contribute to your character.
THE VALUE OF A GOOD MENTOR
After the separation, the next time I saw my dad, he was sick and had to move back in with us.
I was full of mixed emotions and didn’t know what to think of him.
Seeing this man, who I thought was invincible, succumb to the bed was comparable to Superman losing his powers; and just like that, he was gone.
He had lost everything, and despite it all, my mom cared for him until the very end.
They always say, “he’s in a better place,” but this didn’t stifle my anger.
It took me over a year to cry; I reminisced about what could have been – what it meant to have a father figure and create those memories you so typically hear about.
I felt myself falling deeper into a hole, closing myself off to the world. I was lost – left with no direction and no purpose.
Despite all the love I had in my heart, I felt like a broken man – with emptiness and darkness.
It wasn’t until I encountered my first impactful mentor that a major shift occurred.
For those of you who may be in or coming out of a dark place, I cannot stress enough how important it is to find a mentor.
Keep in mind that mentors can contribute to your life in a variety of ways. There are mentors who provide for you, who inspire you through example, and mentors who give guidance through education.
You just have to figure which type you need at this point in your life.
This will require some self-reflection and vulnerability on your end.
So the question is… what makes a good mentor?
In my experience, there a few key traits to look for:
Empathy: A good mentor must be able to see things from your perspective. This person ultimately has to create a safe space for you to be vulnerable.
My first mentor showed me the power of empathy and compassion; he always helped, never judged.
Experience: Experience in a mentor is critical. Walking the same/ similar path means your mentor can identify potential hurdles, as well as solutions to some of the obstacles on your journey.
Your mentor must be battle-tested, with stories of many defeats and victories in their respective journey.
Integrity: Your mentor should be one who lives by a code (discipline); this is critical for your development.
I’ll always remember the way my mentor taught me the makings of a man; one who is family-oriented and always striving for improvement.
Prolonged exposure to “radiation” can be hazardous to your health. Toxic energy breeds toxic energy, so be careful who you learn from.
These were the qualities that I most appreciated in my very first mentor. His character played a very important role in my development as a man. He filled the void of the relationship I desperately needed, and I finally felt able to be vulnerable.
I’ve lost count of how many bad dates, flat tires, and altercations he bailed me out of.
Above all else…
I’ll always appreciate you Norm.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE VULNERABLE?
Becoming vulnerable propelled me into my strength today.
Vulnerability is the ability to share or expose your deepest truths.
In taking off your masks, you identify your own insecurities, demons, and struggles; ultimately, revealing your true strengths.
Imagine you’re speaking to God, your mother, or someone who is a protector – someone who emits boundless love – who would you be?
What would you stop hiding?
Who is the truest version of yourself – the one who is still healing and has scars? Relinquish the idea that this person can hurt you – let go of this fear and allow yourself to be free.
There is no shame in admitting you lack something.
This is usually associated with ego; the fear of looking dumb is usually what prevents most from seeking guidance.
The burden of holding onto these insecurities is like carrying a metaphorical bag of bricks; the sooner you lose those, the closer you are to your destination.
I would often blame my upbringing for most of my shortcomings in my early adulthood. I now realize that these are cop-outs and excuses I created to justify my failures.
These shackles we often unintentionally place on ourselves limit our ability to grow.
What areas of your life have you been failing to be more open about?
In spite of my progress, my current struggle is my dad’s shadow. I feel moments of immense, paralyzing pressure, as I was very aware that I had such big shoes to fill.
While I overcame this insecurity, I still see remnants of it today.
Projects can take me forever to finish as I don’t feel right putting out any work I deem to be subpar. I still find myself expecting perfection, but this also means things won’t get done. I have passed up on so many dreams and goals because I never pulled the trigger – I am still very much living with that fear.
But I don’t let it rule me.
I am honest with myself about these potential shortcomings and continuously work to overcome them through being vulnerable and seeking guidance.
If there is something that you’ve been hesitant to open up about, I challenge you to start there.
Don’t let your fear rule you.
HOW DOES ONE BECOME MORE VULNERABLE?
1. Establish an outlet for self-dialogue: There should be a voice inside – this is normal.
The voice is essentially your conscience/ spirit and the first person you need to be vulnerable with. This can be done through a variety of practices, whether that be, meditation, inner monologues, journaling, music, etc.
Don’t be afraid to talk to yourself.
2. Open up more to those you already feel comfortable with: We are always seeking this form of exchange.
This is a tremendous opportunity to further develop your current relationships. You’ll be shocked by the response to your vulnerability.
3. Talk to everyone: You can learn something new from anyone.
Talk to the young, the old, the rich, the poor – treating each with the same respect and love. People appreciate vulnerability in others and welcome authenticity.
You can create deeper trust with someone by showing your hand and creating a safe space for conversation.
4. Identify Setbacks & Victories: There may be moments where you experience anxious energy towards diving deeper on a particular topic.
Take note of those situations and revisit them. Reflect on those emotions, good and bad, then search for ways to reproduce or reduce them at scale.
You owe it to yourself to discover your blind spots just as much as your strengths.
5. Find the right mentors: Today I have a handful of mentors for which I rely on in different situations.
Recognize that it is unrealistic to hang all of your burdens on one person. In my experience, individuals are flattered by the idea of you asking them for mentorship, so don’t be shy!
MAKING VULNERABILITY YOUR BIGGEST STRENGTH
“The greater your ability to be vulnerable, the less likely you are to be derailed by fear” – Brian Benjamin
There will always be hardships and setbacks along the way. Accept failure as being a part of your journey.
These become pieces of armor and build you up to be stronger than before. The most accomplished artists, athletes, and entrepreneurs have these two things in common.
They all had great mentors that guided them at one point in their lives.
And each of them has been through tremendous sorrow and struggle, which they used to propel them to the most beautiful and unreachable heights.
Unless you’ve felt similar hardship, you cannot match this level of passion and desire. All these victories come from a place of vulnerability – using your weakness, your trauma, and your pain as the fuel that separates you from everyone else.
In this way, adversity becomes an ally.
Teaching Proper Planning and Adaptability Skills
About the Author
Brian is a visionary – a stern believer in teaching proper planning and adaptability skills, and propelling others to achieve their full potential. He is NASM CES, CPT, and USAW certified for Strength & Conditioning. He is a Content Strategist for Modern Renaissance Man and founder of Onyx Revolution. Above all, Brian lives by a self-mastery code of love and service.