Russell Brand
Mentors: How to Help and Be Helped
Bluebird, UK, 2019
ISBN-13: 978-1509850884

Mentors1

 

"Our mentors aren’t perfect people; and that is what makes them easier to relate to. We can more easily accept our own flaws when we see those in our mentors. If we put our mentors on a pedestal, they become aloof and distant. Knowing their flaws, even when they’re big ones, doesn’t negate the positive influence they have had on us. How could it?"

This latest offering from Russell Brand is a natural successor to his previous book, Recovery, in which the famous comedian took us on an inside look into what has made him the man he is today.

An aspect of the 12 step work that Brand has benefitted so much from is that of having a sponsor, or mentor; someone who is ahead of you in your journey of recovery and who can guide you along the way.

Brand has clearly done a lot of listening and learning, humbling himself as he has metaphorically sat at the feet of various people on his road to sobriety. That fact gives this book so much authenticity.

Listening to Brand’s book made me think who my mentors are and have been. He makes the point that your mentors could be people you have never met but who have influenced you. I hadn’t previously thought of that, and it helped me to think of the people who have shaped me and are still doing so.

It also made me realise that, of the people I have never met who have mentored me, when I think of them, just about every one of them had major flaws. Gandhi used to sleep with young women to test himself against temptation, Martin Luther King, Jr, was known for having affairs with multiple women while he was on the road speaking around the US.

Our mentors aren’t perfect people; and that is what makes them easier to relate to. We can more easily accept our own flaws when we see those in our mentors. If we put our mentors on a pedestal, they become aloof and distant. Knowing their flaws, even when they’re big ones, doesn’t negate the positive influence they have had on us.

How could it? I have flaws too, and have done things I wish I hadn’t. We all have contradictions; none of us walks our talk perfectly. To an extent we all live double lives, our flaws don’t negate our good qualities. If we admire someone and then find out their flaws and then dismiss them, we are judging them based on those flaws, not on the characteristics that make up so much of the rest of their personhood.

In this short but poignant book, Brand lays out what it is about his mentors that has shaped and are still shaping his life today.

Starting out with a lament for the lack of mentors in our society, the book moves into typically ebullient descriptions of Brand's mentors, ranging from a devoted atheist, to a seasoned jiu-jitsu champion, to an Eastern mother figure who gives out hugs for a living, to a practising Swami. 

Given his profile, Brand certainly has access to a vast range of people. What his eclectic collection of mentors shows though is that you don’t need to follow everything about that person’s life to learn from them. And that reflects the maturity that comes from recognising you need mentors in the first place. You probably won’t even agree with everything they might say, but there are definitely different aspects of their words and/or lives which you can take away.

Brand follows these chapters with his own experiences of being a mentor, firstly as a father. But he doesn’t only talk about being a father to his daughters, but one to certain people in his life who are starting out on the journey that he has travelled. 

Mentors reveals a more reflective Brand, the father of two little girls and another year or so clean from drug use. He also comes across as more mature in this short book. Not that he was immature in his previous book, Recovery, but in this one he exudes more of the characteristics of a mentor himself. There is more life experience that comes out in the way he writes.

This leads to his final chapter on becoming a mentor. One of the main aspects of recovery in 12 step programs is passing on to others what you have learned. Brand is practising what he preaches, and gives practical tips on being a mentor whose shadow others can rest and find guidance in.

Like its predecessor, Mentors is very much autobiographical. That is what makes it so interesting. Brand is anything but boring, so it is a wise move indeed for him to talk about mentors from his own experience. And as with the rest of his life, he can do this with an authority that commands the greatest respect. 

This is a highly recommended read, especially in these days when many of us seem lost and without direction.