Take the Shortcut: Find a Mentor and Apprentice Yourself

When I committed to getting on the Genesis Developer list, I hadn’t even bought the Genesis Framework. Granted I had worked with one client on a project involving the Genesis Framework, but that was hardly enough to say time spent with the framework to know anything about it. If there was an issue, I relied heavily on the developers of the child theme we were using. I didn’t have access to the Genesis community forums, tutorials, or code snippets from those who had gone before. 

Needless to say, I was a little lost. I needed direction. I needed to know what to do next and what not to do. Both of these would be extremely important. Focused work keeps me from getting distracted, and I know what I need to avoid.

In the middle of this realization, Matt Mederos of The Matt Report started a quick community board at WP Mentor. I quickly signed up and was able to get connected with a mentor who develops on Genesis. I was ecstatic, and couldn’t believe I had found such an amazing opportunity so quickly.

Why did I want a mentor? And what’s this apprentice thing?

Knowing What to Do

Being very new to the WordPress community and especially to the Genesis Framework, I was trying to gain as much knowledge and experience as I could. I paid for a course and started studying up on various tutorials on whatever I thought I needed to know. In between clients, I was trying to teach myself how to backup, migrate and restore sites, make WordPress theme out of HTML, and code a slider (didn’t get very far on that last one).

All of this led to spinning my wheels and feeling very unfocused. Being in a mentoring relationship has helped me to focus what I’m doing, and incorporates what I already know as well as what I need to know at that moment in time. The concept is “Just in Time Learning” and I am starting to excel at it! Learn what you need, when you need it, and only then. Having the focused direction of what is important and pragmatic will save me countless hours of wheel spinning.

Knowing What NOT to Do

Jim Collins in his book Good to Great says that great companies have a “stop doing” list. Often times, in our personal and business lives, we have a bunch of tasks to complete. These pile up on our to do lists and can actually distract us from accomplishing a goal or getting anything done. Having a “stop doing” list not only helps you focus on the essentials bust clears things away that are not essential to your personal or business development.

Having a mentor, someone who can direct me and say “do this and don’t do that” is incredibly important as I’m moving forward as quickly as I can.  Minimizing distractions and telling me to focus on developing practical skills has been invaluable. I am still learning and having to figure out some things, but there is a focus to the learning. I am working on a specific project which means I don’t have to worry about superfluous features. Knowing what not to do is very freeing.

Apprenticeship and Collaboration

The most exciting part of this mentorship is helping my mentor develop a course to train people like me to be WordPress users and Genesis Developers. In helping develop the course, I get to receive the training for free and give valuable feedback to my mentor. This is exactly what I needed. 

However, this moves beyond mentorship, and into apprenticeship and collaboration. Thankfully, I’ve developed enough skills to be useful in preparing this course. However, I’m learning and receiving instruction on how to develop on WordPress, and I’ll have my work reviewed and critiqued. This is a very interactive process, and one that will not only give me instruction, but also the experience and muscle memory to become what I’m focusing on: a Genesis Developer.

Final Thoughts

Are you overwhelmed by the amount of information out there in your particular field?

Are you missing the forest for the trees?

Are you willing to do the hard work to develop your skills?

If you answered yes to most or all of these questions, find a mentor. And quickly. Past that, offer to apprentice yourself to them. Let them tell you what you need to do, and what you need to not do. This is one of the most efficient ways I can think of to learn about, acquire and master a skill. Apprenticeship is one of the oldest means of acquiring the skills you need for a profession. It’s no surprise it took apprentices a a couple years to move up to Journeyman, and then many more years to move up to Master level. I am under no delusion this journey will be easy. I’m just trying to move it along as quickly as possible, in as much of a straight line as I can manage.

More on mentorship, apprenticeship and “just in time learning” to come!

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