If you would have asked me a couple of years ago about mentorship I would have immediately thought about The Karate Kid and Mr. Miyagi or something – I would have never thought about having a mentor for my career.
I’m blessed with two spectacular mentors and many wise teachers. My mentors are incredibly intelligent women that against many odds and struggles have succeeded in business and personally. They’ve learned many lessons along the way and choose to share them with me (I’m a very lucky girl). They also have mentors in various areas of expertise and their mentors have mentors. It reminds me of indigenous religions when knowledge was passed down from the elders to the youth of the tribe because they were the future.
Living in a digital age where information consumption doesn’t necessitate conversations with other human beings and isolation from others is an every day reality for many, the thought of having a mentor might strike some as odd or maybe even unusual. Furthermore, if your perspective isn’t challenged in an experiential fashion every now and then how to you grow and not remain stagnant?
Today I read and reread the same line a dozen times: “Admission of ignorance is often the first step in our education.” It really resonated with me on many levels. In order to grow one must be humble enough to know that one is not fully grown ever. Henry David Thoreau once wrote: “How can we remember our ignorance, which our growth requires, when we are using our knowledge all the time?” Both of my mentors realize this on such a level that they seek growth and learning opportunities like flowers seeking the sun.
For any of my fine lectors out there that are looking for pathways to success in your respected fields – look no further than the people that you admire or the people that are in a position that you aspire to be in whether it be five years from now, ten years from now or twenty. Find a way to engage those individuals – invite them to coffee, ask them how they built their business, or how they were able to climb the corporate ladder, or how they became so great at guitar…whatever the case may be.
You have to respect the person to want to work with them on this level and vice versa. There has to be something about that person which resonates with you personally as well. For instance, both my mentors have qualities that resonate with me such as: a commitment to women’s issues, integrity in their work and a strong intuition that guides them in business and in life.
For a successful mentor/mentee relationship it’s more than mere admiration for one’s work – that person must also want to work with you. It has to be a relationship where there’s a great deal of trust, shared vision in some senses, honesty and in some cases friendship. There’s something very karmic about these relationships as well – the expectation is that as you grow influential and successful in your career or art that you pass forward that which was given to you.
I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership. What makes a good leader? What type of leader do I want to be? One of the key things I keep thinking is how a sense of humility in the face of adversity is incredibly valuable. Knowing thyself and one’s own limitations as well as strengths allows for more creativity and collaboration with others on a level that is often underutilized. There is a reason that in economics and business there is so much emphasis on “human resources” and “human capital.” No technology can replace the innovation, motivation and inspiration of the human spirit.
There’s so much reinvention of old wheels that if we all looked to each other and linked up like a chain we’d be halfway to the moon already instead of charting the same old roads and finding the same dead ends.
Well, I want to go to the moon, baby. Venus sounds lovely too.
When I was living in New Mexico there was an old man who taught me to make Native American crafts like dream catchers and fans. He did beautiful leather and bead work and one day I asked him: Who are your teachers? He told me that everything around us is a teacher so long as we can shift our perspectives to being students. He was a wise old man and I think of him now – wherever he might be…
A special thank you to all of my elders out there for helping me figure this world out.
Here’s to a lifetime of learning.