Lessons About Mentorship We Can Learn From The Star Wars Universe
In honor of the new Star Wars movie coming out, I figured this would be a pertinent Quora answer to share with you all.
I am a huge Star Wars fan. I remember seeing Episode I in theaters three times and having just about the entire movie memorized. I would run around my house pretending to be every character, spouting off full monologues between Jar Jar Binks, Obi Wan, and Qui Gon Jin.
My entire life, I have wanted to be a Jedi.
1) There are always two: A Master, and an Apprentice.
In Star Wars, each Jedi Master can take on a single apprentice. This is done extremely purposefully.
The reason why this relationship is so powerful, and is the teaching process that sculpts the future Jedi of the Star Wars universe, is because it is extremely intimate and personal. If the Master had multiple apprentices, they would conflict and compete for their teacher's attention. And if there were multiple Masters for one apprentice, each Master would consider their own teaching style "the best way," and conflict with each other to see which style the student adopted.
This is what makes the relationship so special. It gives the apprentice a glimpse into the future of who he can one day become (a better version of the Master), and it gives the Master a glimpse into his core and where he once started, as a point of future learning from the perspective of reflection.
2) The Challenge For The Master Is To Be Non-Attached, And The Challenge For The Apprentice Is To Trust The Master
There are very few relationships in the Star Wars universe where we see this as clearly as the dynamic between Anakin and Obi Wan in Episode II.
Before Obi Wan takes on Anakin as his apprentice, he is warned by Yoda and the rest of the Jedi council that Anakin is "too old" and cannot be taught. But why?
This is because Anakin has already reached the point of "free will." Essentially, he knew his own power and believed he knew the best way to go on his journey—thus, somewhat removing the need (or potential) for a true Master. The purpose of having a Master, as an Apprentice, is to be guided in the right direction. For the Jedi, this is being guided down the path of non-attachment and devotion to the practice of being a protector/Jedi.
At the same time, by choosing to take on Anakin as a Padawan, Obi Wan was walking into the Master/Apprentice relationship attached—he wanted to prove that Anakin could be a Jedi. Obi Wan was emotionally invested (which is the opposite of the path of a Jedi).
As we see at the end of Episode II, this is where the conflict arises. Anakin believes he knows the best way to go (stops trusting Obi Wan, in an attempt to save Padmé), and Obi Wan is too attached to Anakin's development to let him make his own decisions—and fights to help Anakin see his mistake. The two battle each other in the last scene and show their conflict. The Master/Apprentice relationship cannot continue. The Master is too attached, and the Apprentice no longer trusts.
3) You Cannot Become A Master Until You Have First Been An Apprentice
Every single Jedi master in the Star Wars universe was once a Padawan. That is the whole purpose of the "program."
When you are a Padawan, you learn humility. You maintain a constant state of openness and are willing to absorb anything and everything that you are taught from your mentor. This is how you grow—and you grow extremely fast. It's the reason why Jedi begin learning at such a young age.
When it is time for you to become a Master, you are ready to pass along your teachings as a "next stage" of learning yourself. You learn by teaching others—and by being given the responsibility of a Padawan, you are now presented with the opportunity to see (through the mirror of your Apprentice) what you have learned and what you still need to work on.
4) The Master Lives On Forever Through Their Padawan
As we see in a variety of the Star Wars movies, the Jedi masters of days old come back and make an appearance as their "ghost," to remind the Apprentice that, dead or alive, they will always be part of their lives—because they played such a monumental role.
When you truly experience that relationship dynamic of Master/Apprentice, that symbiotic, perfectly mutual exchange of knowledge and learning, it stays with you forever. And you look for it with everything you do because you see how valuable it is.
There is no faster way to learn.
There is no better way to learn.
You are, as an eager oak does beside an aged oak, learning to reach for the sun.
You are on the path to becoming a Jedi.