NOT TO BE OUTMARTYRED

NOT TO BE OUTMARTYRED

“And what of the monk Baelwich?” the boy asked.

Alternaeus smiled gently as he moved objects about the table to his satisfaction. To his apprentice he seemed harried in his manner, but also utterly engrossed and happy at his task.

“Baelwich it is hard not to love. He is fearless, and smart, and cunning, and even wise. He is one of the old monks, the ancient kind of monk,” the Wizard replied. “No matter what the high nobles and the rudely ambitious think of him I count him as one of my most trusted friends. Perhaps even, a kind of brother.”

“But he is still considered a young man, is he not? Surely he may even be younger than you. How is it then that you call him ancient?” The boy seemed genuinely confused by the Wizard’s response, or openly curious as to his true meaning. Or both.

Alternaeus halted at this labors for a moment, raised his eyebrows at the question, and looked directly at his apprentice.

“You mistake my meaning boy. He is an ‘ancient kind of monk,’ not in his mortal years but in his immortal nature. He is very much like the Apostles of old in that he fears no power on or in the Earth. His only concern is God and what is Just and Right. Such men are easy for me to befriend, and once befriended, easy to maintain in my heart. Ignorant men may call my efforts fernal-craft and sorcery, but they understand me not at all. For when it comes to what is truly essential in this world, indeed in any world, of all men there is in me no sorcery at all. Only an enchantment with the Truth.”

The boy considered the remark with some seriousness. Alternaeus returned to his labors and worked until his personal expectations were met and his meticulous arrangements fully completed. When the boy saw that the labor of the Wizard seemed finally finished he risked another inquiry.

“What then of the priest Plontius? Is he also your friend?”

Alternaeus looked at the boy somewhat skeptically and scoffed.

“As long as monks and priests are willing to martyr themselves for God, for the Right, and for the innocent then they are the most courageous and admirable of all men, and have my utmost admiration and respect. Such is Baelwich.

Yet monks and priests who watch other men struggle with wrong and will neither physically fight that injustice, nor risk the martyring of themselves to prevent such evils have neither my Earthly esteem nor the friendship of my soul.”

The boy nodded twice thoughtfully at the reply but continued to stare at the Wizard as if he still wished a more direct answer to his questions.

Seeing this Alternaeus said, “To be blunt boy, and to be brutal to your brutishness, I think little and less of the small priest Plontius. He is no friend of mine, and often I wonder if he is even a man at all.”

From the tales of Alternaeus the Wizard

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GOODLY EVILS, AND THE EVILS OF “THE GOOD” – TUESDAY’S TALE

Continuing my tales of the Wizard Alternaeus and his apprentice.

GOODLY EVILS, AND THE EVILS OF “THE GOOD”

“I have no satisfactory answer for you lad. Because to this very day, my boy, I am still amazed at those quantities and diversities of important things that evil men will fearlessly attempt over the paltry count of those same things that good men will attempt. Not because evil men are so much more numerous than good men, they are certainly not, if anything they are the distinct minority of all men. Nor because evil men are so much greater than good men, because by both inner nature and by outward behavior, they are not.

No, it has been my perpetual and sad observation that evil triumphs so often in this world not because evil is so irresistibly inconquerable in number, or because evil is so inherently imposing in nature, but merely because men who profess themselves to be good are so very often so very, very afraid.

Now that might very well seem to you like a bleak prophecy about the nature of men in general and the rather uncommon occurrence of real manhood in this world. And to be honest it truly is. But as far as foretelling what you must become, or any man must necessarily be, it says nothing about either of those things by any means.

So, if you have heard and understood all that I have said then this is the only answer I have for you. For all of that, still, be a good boy, and an even better man. For those two ends are very worthy ambitions.

Just remember this though as you mature; be yet far more courageous than most self-described good men.

For to be good without courage is no real ambition at all. And as a matter of fact it is the timid good man who is the certain mid-wife and the sure wet-nurse of most of the goodly evils that men do.”

Alternaeus the Wizard to his young apprentice.

APPRENTICES AND MENTORS – HAMMER, TONGS, AND TOOLS

Designing Your Own Apprenticeship: How to Build a Team of Mentors

Recently, a friend wrote a book about how she’s always longed to go to Paris but finally resigned herself to the fact that she won’t. And she’s okay with that. Because Paris, for my friend, is not something out there. It’s what’s right in front of her.

The Art of Designing Your Own Apprenticeship

I love that. She’s given up on the veneer of a life captured on Instagram and rejected the promise of fulfillment a city can bring. Instead, she’s embracing the life she has to live right now and discovering some extraordinary lessons in the process.

For some reason, I couldn’t help but think about my recent post on Medium on networks and how Hemingway’s move to Paris changed his life and career. But for every Hemingway in Paris, there’s a Bronte in rural Haworth.

As I’ve said before, creative success does not happen in isolation. So what network did the Bronte sisters have access to, living in rural England in the 1850s? Certainly not the host of influential artists and authors Hemingway had in Paris in the 1920s. What was the team of mentors that led to their inarguable contribution to the world of literature? Who did they?

Well, they had each other. And in light of my friend’s book, I am left wondering:

The other weekend, I hosted a conference of 150 people from all over who had come together to learn how to build an audience around their messages. At the conference, we kept bringing up the metaphor of the “table.” For us, this meant the place where life is shared and lives are changed. We had people sit at round tables and told them to discuss each speech delivered from stage, sharing what they learned and helping one another apply the lessons.

One takeaway was the table you’re called to may not be a new network. Often, the place where breakthrough happens is the place you find yourself in right now. And that little idea changes everything.

Accidental apprenticeships

In the Middle Ages, we had a different way of getting experience and gaining access to networks.

Under the apprenticeship system, a person worked for free in exchange for an education. The student often lived in the same house as the teacher. This was the way a person became a professional — it was a totally immersive process — and it began as early as age twelve.

After completing the first stage of apprenticeship, the student, now called a “journeyman,” could venture out and travel to other cities for work. What a journeyman could not do, though, was take on apprentices. That right was reserved only for masters.

In many ways, a journeyman was still a student, though now able to be paid. To be a journeyman meant applying the techniques your teacher had passed down to see if they worked in the real world. It was a test, to see if you had what it took.

There was a certain amount of restlessness to being a journeyman. After a season of wandering, you had to submit a master work to the local guild and if they found it worthy, you were accepted in the guild, becoming a master. If not, you might have to wander forever.

How long do you think this process of apprenticeship took? How long to learn a new trade, practice it, and eventually earn the right to teach others?

A far cry from the modern two-month internship today, an apprenticeship took at least ten years. It was an excellent way of learning a skill under the guidance of someone wiser and more experienced. But in modern times, this ancient art of diving deep into a craft has but disappeared.

Now, the responsibility for reaching your potential is up to you.

This is more than a challenge; it’s a cruel taunt. Pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps can only take us so far, and despite what we’ve heard, there is no such thing as a self-made man or woman. We are all products of our environment, influenced by the people we encounter and the places we live. In other words, we need help. So how do we find it?

Finding your calling will not happen without the aid and assistance of others. Every story of success is, in fact, a story of community. Some people will help you willingly, while others may contribute to your education on accident. But if you are wise, you can use it all.

This is what I call an “accidental apprenticeship.” Here’s how it works.

Designing your own apprenticeship

Three years ago, three people I barely knew got together and decided they wanted to start a mastermind group. Each asked three other people, and that’s how the twelve of us started getting to meet every week. We’ve been doing it ever since.

Honestly, this was not the table I hoped to be invited to. I didn’t even know it existed. But this group has been the source of my greatest professional and personal growth in the past decade. Finding your own network may lead to a similar breakthrough. Just remember these three steps:

  1. Decide what you want to learn. Try to get as specific as possible. Listen to your life and pay attention to what it says. Once you get clear on this, share it with people you know so that you can get connected to others who want similar things.
  2. Identify a community you can learn from. Don’t look for a single mentor; look for a group of them. Most mentoring is not between individuals but amongst peers. Even in the Middle Ages, this was often the case. In the studio of a master, there were sometimes a dozen students all working together under the tutelage of a teacher but also learning from each other.
  3. Use the collective resources of the group to help everyone reach their goals.If the group is not already meeting together, then it’s your job to call them together. Help everyone understand what each individual brings to the table and encourage them to share their talents.

This was what the Bronte sisters did for each other. They didn’t have access to the world’s greatest writing teachers, so they became the network they needed. They created their own group of mentors that would help them succeed, writing stories as little girls and sharing them with one another.

I think the lesson here is obvious: Don’t neglect the opportunity you have to create the network you need with the people who are already around you.

Don’t miss where you are right now

At the Tribe Conference, when we were saying goodbyes on the last day, I was happy to see people who sat together all weekend exchanging phone numbers and email addresses. They got it. Community creates opportunity. And if that’s true, then one of the best things we can do is create more communities.

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Sometimes, I think, we get the wrong idea when we see people who succeed because of their network. We think the largest groups with access to the most important people are where growth happens. But often, success is the result of everyday effort multiplied by a small group of people.

We forget that when Hemingway went to Paris, the world didn’t yet know who Gertrude Stein or Ezra Pound was. James Joyce was only beginning his literary career. And Paris was just a cheap place to live.

When you think about your Paris, that place where your greatest growth happens, try to remind yourself that these places can happen anywhere — in the hustle and bustle of 1920s Paris, the rural farmland of 1850s England, and all points in between.

And as you consider who should be sitting at your table, that small group of people who will transform your life, remember these people do not have to be famous. They just have to be committed. What makes a group special is not the prestige of any single member but the collective wisdom it shares. This is where that old quote by Margaret Mead still rings true:

When we gather around any given table, we create community. And we can always squeeze in one more chair. If you don’t have a seat yet, then you just might be the one who is supposed to call everyone together.


In case you missed our little gathering, here are some snapshots as told by the attendees themselves:

Resources

  • To read more about the Bronte sisters and how they helped each other become great writers, check out Bounce by Matthew Syed.
  • To learn more about accidental apprenticeships and how they work practically, listen to this podcast I did on apprenticeship.
  • To learn how to create your own mastermind group, listen to this podcast.
Want to dive deeper into this? Get my best-selling book The Art of Work plus $250 in bonuses including free videos and a workbook.

What’s one thing that you could do today to start creating the kind of community you need? Share in the 15 Comments.

About Jeff Goins

I am the author of four books, including The Art of Work. I also run an online business teaching writers how to get the attention their work deserves. Every week, I send out an email newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.