Mentors: Use Wisely

Mentors: Use Wisely

Wisely seeking guidance from knowledgeable and kind mentors can build winning self-esteem and predicate impactful careers.

I’ve had the privilege of interacting with a range of noteworthy individuals during my life and career: Mentors whose contributions have helped shape me as I’ve developed my own skill-sets, sensibilities, and contributions.

Emulation is a hugely effective learning tool: I highly recommend using mentors as a resource for personal and professional enhancement – with one caveat:

Develop your own fingerprint.

In our results-oriented culture, borrowing another’s mindset, connections, and inner-circle access feels seductively logical. After all, why start on “square-one” when you can skip ahead of the learning curve by imitating someone else’s moves and motives?

Today’s culture seems a willing accomplice to this mindset: Curated Content (reprinting another’s already-existing material) is a time-saving quick-fix for Social Media campaigns and billions of dollars are made by an industry of charismatic speakers and authors who profess: “Do it my way!”

Mentors are not magic

But do we really want to distract ourselves from developing our own inner-voices by answering the call-to-action of others?

Being a Beginner

No one likes the awkwardness that typically comes when taking on something new. Tackling new experiences, it’s quite easy to judge ourselves harshly and compare our novice attempts to those (mentors) who have put in more time and effort. Panicked about our progress, the idea of plugging in their answers as our solutions seems reasonable and even clever.

But copy-catting shortcuts only impedes our growth: Personal and professional development does not come from “plagiarizing” another’s experiences. Honorable stewardship entails taking our mentors resources and then creating our own structured processes with which to effectively filter our own experiences and develop our own unique brands of contribution.

“Imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery – it’s just irritating.”

-P!nk, Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter

Here are three important things to consider when identifying and then developing your own pursuits:

1. Performance does not predicate ability: Every great athlete picked up a racket or ball for the first time. They fell a lot. They also lost a lot of games. Allow yourself to be a beginner.
2. The best indicator of eventual success is dogged-determination: You cannot circumnavigate the hard work when refining a skill. Malcolm Gladwell in his book “Tipping Point” calculates 10,000 hours are needed before becoming an expert at anything.
3. Choose something emotionally meaningful to you: Do not select a career based on earnings potential, impressing people, or satisfying others’ expectations. Make a career out of something you don’t care about and you’re imprisoning yourself for a life-term of emotional struggle.

Be yourself: Everyone else is already taken

Facing challenges head-on and doing the hard work of sorting through dilemmas fine-tunes our abilities and develops vital tools we can use to move forward unencumbered.

In this way, we uniquely add to our own enlightenment while contributing to society’s collective evolution rather than just mimicking what’s already out there.