The Peter Principle is that we rise to the level of our own incompetence. In nature, those are the rings of the tree trunk we call growth rings but in life they are called incompetence, calamities and humbling circumstances where suddenly we seem to have not enough time and not enough resources to do what needs to be done. In Walker language, “not evolving fast enough. It’s that uncomfortable time (or times) in our life when the wheels fall off the cart. We are not in control.
Rather than panic when this uncomfortable time happens, or make massive irreversible changes which aren’t necessary and are usually regrettable, I’d suggest in these times of incompetence, we fess up and use the opportunity to reinvent ourselves. But before we get into that, lets make some clear expectations.
1. You can’t avoid it. All the universe evolves at the border of chaos and order. if you got sold a model of life that suggests you can avoid times of incompetence and total dumb dumb feelings of lost control, you got sold a lemon. All things, dogs, cats, flowers, rocks, trees, oh, and you, evolve at the border of chaos and order. So, with that on the table, the fact that you can’t avoid it, we can move to the next stage of dealing with incompetence,
2. You can’t avoid it but people will continue to think they can avoid it. There are three different generic ways people try to avoid the Peter principle. The first is to pretend that they are bullet proof and then hit it at 200km/hr face first. Second is to follow an ideal or guru who told them that if they eat banana’s, be good, donate to so and so, and eat their crusts, they will be blessed. In other words, no Peter Principle. That doesn’t work. Just ask the last Pope how it felt to be incontinent and driving around standing up in the Pope mobile for hours. The final and most common way people try to avoid the Peter Principle is to stimulate themselves with false realities – sugar, food, carbohydrates, greed, sex and spirituality (or a version of it) this group of people try to see anything that disrupts their comfort as the enemy. They have a radar and if challenge comes they put on the breaks and try working less hours to reduce the stress, become single to avoid confrontation or hibernate in an anti establishment community. That’s called “the Bonsai principle” prune your life to avoid Peter Principle.
The purpose of a mentor is to challenge you. Why? Because that’s bringing the Peter Principle to you while you still have time to process and grow rather than wait for you to get to the Peter Principle, feel incompetent and then be dealing with incompetence in real time. Treat mentoring as a sort of flight simulator. Would you prefer your airline pilots to learn in a simulator or by flying cheaper seat flights with 200 people on board?
So there are three important keys to choosing a mentor.
1. Make sure they make you feel uncomfortable by predicting trouble before it arrives.
2. Make sure they are not driven by interests that could prevent them being tough love honest with you. (like a work colleague, a friend or someone who needs your payment to survive)
3. Check that they can solve 90% of your personal issues within 30 minutes.
In the entire universe, nature evolves at the border of chaos and order, support and challenge, competent and incompetent. Learn to coach yourself by remaining a student, by having a welcome mat out for your own incompetence, try learning in virtual reality, rather than in reality.
Take it like this. You are going to climb a mountain. You decide that you are a pretty good mountaineer. But there’s changing weather and the mountain ice shifts. So, would you decide to learn how to deal with slippery ice while you are in the reality of the mountain climb, or would you be better to simulate that challenge and deal with it in a gym?