The Zen Master

Time for a “Thank you!”

You’ve probably seen this lesson about a Zen master who is approached by a new student:

“How long would it take me to become great if I studied with you?”

“10 years,” the master replies.

“I don’t have that long,” says the student. “I need to become great quickly. What if I worked very hard and dedicated every waking moment to this task?”

“30 years,” the master says.

“But that’s even longer,” the student whines. “I’m telling you that I’m in a hurry!”

And so the master replies, “Precisely. Students in a hurry end up taking much longer to learn what is right in front of them.”

The late Steve Rivers and I had conversations over the years about how we, in Radio, tend to make this harder than it needs to be.

Play songs people love. Play those songs a lot more than the songs people don’t love. Say something people want — or need — to hear between those songs, something compelling enough to be felt and remembered. Mix in some show business, some surprises, some fun contesting and compassionate local connection, and you win.

Simple as that.

Riv was one of my mentors. I’ve had, and still have, many others, too numerous to list. “Thank you” doesn’t begin to express all I feel for what they — you — have given to me.

Each taught — or is still teaching — me a lot, including that mentorship is something you do, not something you get. It’s a relationship that is on-going, and productive for both sides.

Look around our industry. Find someone you admire and someone just starting out and give as much as you get.

Understand you don’t “get” a mentor, you develop one. As you become indispensable, the relationship will naturally deepen into one that each values.

Inspire. Challenge. Console. Encourage. Push. Celebrate.

Be there when they need you, even if that’s inconvenient.

It’s so worth it.