What We Get Wrong About Mentorship
A close friend of mine once gave me a great anecdote. He told me about how circumstantially, most people will pull over on the highway to help someone who’s tire is flat while they are trying to fix their car, the hood is up, they are half way under their car, maybe they have mud on them, and they seem active. However, most people won’t really stop to help someone who simply has their hazards on, even if their tire is flat and they are waiting on the side of the road.
Mentorship is very similar. As I was listening to a Startup Camp podcast, I heard them speak about how inappropriate it is to expect mentorship without the willingness to progress by yourself. They talked about the expectation of growth when you are being mentored and how it isn’t even an option to opt out of taking your mentors advice. This seems to take a strange sitting with me since what I’ve noticed is that we sometimes expect to receive mentorship and find a mentor before we even decide what it is we really want to do, or whether we will listen to the. So here is what we get wrong about mentorship. From the perspective of the mentee.
We Think Mentorship Is A Right
Someone is choosing to dedicate their livelihood and time to teaching you the way they made their careers work. This is a privilege afforded to few, this is not a right that is expected or assumed. Because of this we have to dedicate ourselves to proving that their time is going to good use. The time that they spend with us is an investment. Not necessarily financially, but in a hearts manner it is. To help cultivate someones future is an incredibly generous and tedious action. Not everyone is cut out for mentoring. Whoever you may think should be a mentor, or be “giving back” might not necessarily be cut for it. Their form of charity might be in other areas.
The main focus is on ourselves. Making sure that we come to the table with momentum, semi-established progress in our fields, a concrete understanding of our own vision, money, and an expectation of what we want from them. Without this, we aren’t eligible to bring up mentorship. We are simply asking for handouts. But the best part is that we all have something to offer, we all have gift to use, and when we establish our calling, we can find the right mentors.
We Think Mentorship Can Be Asked For
Many times there is a misconception that an e-mail or an invitation to coffee will suffice in “courting” a new mentorship relationship. But as I’ve been learning, mentorship is far more intimate. It’s a surrogate fatherhood. It is a business paternity. To develop that closeness odds are it won’t be with a complete stranger. And odds are there is someone in your life already who has the attributes you need to get you to the next level.
Remember, life is seasonal. A mentorship is not eternal, and as long as we come to the table understanding our roles we can take seasons off and even end our season of mentorship.
We Think That Putting Into Practice What Is Learned Is An Option
When someone who is notably more wise than us gives us advise, we should be taking it. Not only is a mentor the best source of shortcuts and blind spots (as Dale Partridge says) in your field, but they know things you would never see. At times, it is a small test on the side of the potential mentor to see how well you can deal with suggestions and advice from them. Consider the source, consider the request, weigh the outcomes, and act on it.
We Think Mentorship Will Solve All Our Problems
Fear is the great paralysis of life. Even to the extent in which some won’t begin their dreams for fear that not having a mentor will harm their ability to succeed. This is a valid worry to a degree. But it is sincerely impossible to find a mentor without being active in the field of your business. Returning to the illustration at the top, if you aren’t changing your tire, no one will stop to help you. Initiative is the name of the game, similarly it is with an investor or business partner. If we have nothing going on, yet we have all the gifts in the world, we are are exhibiting Jesus’ parable of the Talents.
He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Matthew 25: 24-30
A bit harsh, I know. But because of fear, he missed out on great abundance. He didn’t invest, he didn’t sow, he hid his one talent…ironically. Don’t hide your talent. Showcase it and you will see that the people you need will be drawn to you.