The learning cycle of being, giving and growing.
“A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.” — Oprah Winfrey
Were you lucky to have a strong mentor to support you while in school, to encourage you to help you find your confidence and improve your life? Did you have someone who took you under their wing at the workplace? She could have been a senior student, a drama teacher, a team lead or your boss.
Many of us wish that we had a mentor to talk to, who didn’t judge us and who cared about our interests. Today’s difficult environment has left thousands of young people feeling lost, confused and hopeless. Having mentors could create a sea change in their lives.
Most great people in the world have said that they were lucky to have had strong mentors while they were learning. And this is not a new phenomenon. Leonardo da Vinci’s mentor was Andrea del Verrochio. Leonardo was a good artist, but Verrochio was also an avid lover of books and science and encouraged Leonardo to read and explore more. And we all know the result of that. Archimedes had two famous mentors, Conon of Samos and Eratosthenes of Cyrene — both great mathematicians.
“My mentor said, ‘Let’s go do it,’ not ‘You go do it.’ How powerful when someone says, ‘Let’s!’” — Jim Rohn, American business philosopher and motivational speaker
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Everyone in their early careers, now more than ever, needs someone who will help them find their way. Every entrepreneur who is beginning on their journey needs a mentor to bounce ideas off and go to when they want to discuss something. And this may not be their boss or investor.
There has often been confusion between what is expected of a trainer, a mentor, and a coach. While each plays a critical role, there are differences between the three.
*Table created by the author*
A trainer is appointed to develop knowledge in the employee and gives clear guidelines as to what the outcome should be. A coach solves a specific issue. A mentor is someone who will be with the mentee, answer his queries, and help him find what he is searching. Each has its importance in the life of a young professional or entrepreneur. In today’s uncertain environment, a mentor plays the most critical role of someone who is there to listen, answer questions, and opens the mentee’s mind to immense possibilities.
As app developer Shawn Hitchcock puts it:
“A mentor empowers a person to see a possible future, and believe that he can obtain it.”
“The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your image, but allowing them to create themselves.” — Steven Spielberg, Hollywood director
True, having a mentor has greatly benefitted young people, but take a look around at most successful people, and you will realise that most of them are strong mentors as well. Steve Jobs, Socrates, Mahatma Gandhi, Maya Angelou, Warren Buffet, Professor Dumbledore and Yoda are famous personalities who have in turn spent a lot of time mentoring other successful people!
What do you think they get out of mentoring? Being a mentor is a compelling experience. It allows you to support and help someone and through that become more conscious and grow yourself.
British prime minister Winston Churchill summed it up when he said:
“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
To be a good mentor, you have to learn to put yourself second, to focus on your mentee, to accept his agenda and believe in his dreams, and help him achieve them. These are not easy things to do especially as you are in a position of power.
This is leadership through service has personal development benefits to you and will require you to:
a. know yourself better.
b. have a real interest in another person’s success.
c. learn to put your personal judgments aside and thereby gain a new viewpoint.
d. explore new areas, sometimes industries, to support your mentee.
e. develop your own leadership style.
As a mentor, you will also get:
a. recognition as an expert and a leader.
b. exposure to fresh ideas, perspectives, and approaches to business.
c. increased networking opportunities.
d. recognition amongst other start-ups, people who may be looking for guidance.
We have heard it said: if you want something, dream and then do it. I will add to that.
If you want something, dream and then do it.
If you want something extraordinary, dream, and then do it with great mentors.
If you want to learn powerful lessons about the world and yourself, become a mentor today.
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I am currently mentoring two young women Julie and Asha (names changed). Julie is a perfect mentee, comes prepared for our sessions, always has a plan. She has her requests in place, knows what she wants and what she is aiming for. Julie is a pleasure to mentor.
She regularly shares the work she is doing, attends every talk when I forward her links, makes the most of every opportunity, and reminds me when I have to share something with her. I am always delighted to see her progress and am confident that she will get where she wants to be. I have often felt proud of her and my role in her life.
Asha, on the other hand, has been tough. She misses meetings and when she does come is unprepared and distracted. This has become worse after the pandemic, and she has been impossible to connect with. We are not getting anywhere, and I have felt improving her life is not her priority. Often this makes me feel dejected and that I am wasting my time. Last month I called the NGO that had assigned her to me and shared the situation with them. I told them it wasn’t working, and I wanted to opt-out of this mentoring assignment.
They called me a week later saying they were unable to get in touch with her as she had left for her village and the contact they had for her in the village said that her father had lost his job, so Asha had been sent to live with some other relatives. They asked what I would like them to do.
This made me reflect. I remembered that the core reason I volunteered to mentor was to impact lives. Asha needed me much more than Julie. I had to change my approach and make it about her and not me. I asked them to keep trying to contact her.
Yesterday I got a call from Asha, she was unwell, struggling and couldn’t talk much. She thanked me for reaching out and said it gave her strength knowing that I believed in her. She asked if she could call me next week and we agreed on a day. I was delighted and relieved. Yes, I needed that as much as her. Asha was helping me to grow.
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So if you are a part of an entrepreneur’s network or a leader at your workplace, or if you have the opportunity to reach out to young people in the community, do grab the same. Being a mentor will help you to learn how to be, how to give, and how to grow. Today, when we are all struggling to figure things out, mentoring someone to find their way, could help us find ours!
Let me conclude with Hollywood actor, Whoopi Goldberg’s quote:
“We’re here for a reason. I believe a bit of the reason is to throw little torches out to lead people through the dark.”
Repurposed from The Medium article published on 22nd Nov.
Image courtesy: Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator on Unsplash