A Modern Day Parable: The Cup and the Funnel
Once upon a time, there was a kindly father who gave his son a task. The task had a particular purpose. One that could not be understood without doing. The father gave the boy the job of filling all of the water storage jars for the coming dry season.
At first, the boy went to the cistern that had been filled throughout the rainy season. He dipped a cup into the water, and he took it to the storage container, and he poured the little bit of water into the jar. After more than a dozen trips, the boy knew that the dry season would come and go, and he would still not be finished with the task his father had given him.
So, he decided to devise a new plan, instead of using a cup, he would fill two big buckets and use them to ferry the water to the containers. Upon arriving at the root cellar, he began trying to pour the water from the buckets into the storage jars. But the openings to the jars were too small, and the buckets were too heavy. So much of the water sloshed out onto the ground wastefully.
The boy sat down, discouraged in the dark, damp root cellar. He was trying to think of how he could please his father and complete the task he had been given. When out of the corner of his eyes, he saw something shiny, he looked and found an old funnel his mother had used for canning.
He cleaned it up and put it in the small opening of the storage jar. Then he gathered water from the cistern in his trusty buckets and filled all of the storage containers in only one afternoon. There was no wasted water, and they were prepared for the dry season. The boy learned the lesson his father had intended, be efficient, and don't waste your energy using the wrong tools.
Mentors are givers by nature. They want to pass on the wisdom that they have received. They want to see you grow into the person you were meant to be. But these days, too many apprentices have become takers. They receive, but they do not pass on. That's why I say, "Be a funnel, not a cup."
Funnels receive the benefit of mentorship. They appreciate the wisdom, counsel, and experience that they have been given. Still, they do not keep it only for themselves. They meditate on it. They put it into practice, but then there is this pull deep down in their depths that begins to call him to teach someone else what he has learned.
This process of passing on what has been learned is the core strength of mentorship. It's what has made it the backbone of Christian development for thousands of years. As we pass on what we have learned, we progress, making room for more growth. People who are funnels dedicate themselves to the full process of mentorship, but cups, want the benefit without the work.
A Cup likes to receive the hard-earned understanding of their mentor, but they want to keep this generous gift for themselves. They don't want to pass it on, either because they don't want others to succeed or because they fear the vulnerability that mentorship requires.
But their neglect in this matter will typically lead to the end of their mentorship. Mentors know that continuing to pour into a cup that is overflowing is wasteful, and they will move on looking for more productive opportunities. Apprentices who are not passing things on can not retain more because we actually learn best by doing.
So for all you mentors out there, learn from the farm boy in the story. Be sure you are being efficient in your mentorship, don't waste your time on the cups, and just keep pouring into those funnels.
And for your apprentices, ask yourself, "Am I a funnel or a cup?" "Am I receiving without giving?"
If you find yourself acting like a cup, find an apprentice, and you will punch a hole in the bottom of that cup and, Voila, you are a funnel.