Mentor Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Mature
Rethinking what it takes to give sound advice.
I used to imagine my life as a movie. In the movies, you always see these unlikely heroes and troubled, unmotivated or awkward kids built up to eventually do great things. I would catch myself daydreaming about being overly ambitious or acting out in defiance of the system and getting noticed. In my movie, the mentor character was all but cast I had them completely built up — now all I had to do was find the right person to play that part.
That’s exactly what I expected growing up. Someone who would see some hidden power or potential and take me under their wing. After all, that was how all the movies and TV shows were doing it. My mentor was somewhere between a Mr. Miyagi, gracefully teaching the value of patience and focus
and Jack Donaghy — Six Sigma-ing me into an awesome, semi-ridiculous / ruthless business woman — able to negotiate circles around the toughest of executives.
Unfortunately, life being actually nothing like television — I never cast the role of mentor. I tried all the tricks, though — defiant, overachiever, I even played the lazy slob character. Auditions were held. Regrettably, none of the adults surrounding me fit the role. So, eventually I decided to be myself and drift like a tumbleweed.
And tumble, I did.
The pivotal wake-up call happened years later — after a particularly tough day at work.
An unexpected turn of events had me struggling to communicate some tough information to a client under a tight deadline and emotions were starting to take the wheel. During my lunch break, my husband told me to leave the office, go home, get some air, and come back when I felt ready to handle the added stress. He would cover for me for the rest of the day if I needed it.
He was right.
Driving home, tears streaming, Jack White blasting and nose running - It hit me. All those years ago — I had my requirements for good mentor all wrong! I had been holding out for this salt and pepper type to teach me. In realty, guidance and support wasn’t going to be found in the wisdom of some old dude. It was my husband. He believed in me - he was putting the effort into shaping and making me the best version of myself.
Holy shit — Time to rewrite that character.
To the kids:
Guidance can come in all forms. It doesn’t have to be someone older or even wiser than you. It comes from anyone who knows you well enough to stand their ground and believes in you enough and pushes you to see your potential.
Don’t overlook the forest from the trees. The thing you’re looking for, the thing you think you’re missing could have been right in front of you all along — it just might not resemble the assumptions you’ve developed.