This is the second time I wrote this blog.
The first time I wrote it, I titled it “We are All Mentors.” It was a feel good blog about how important mentors can be, and how we can all step up and be mentors to one another.
And then I deleted it. See ya!
Because, well frankly, it sucked. And I didn’t really think it was an accurate representation of how I feel about mentorship. We all need help. There isn’t one person in the entire world that goes at it alone.
The best golfer in the world has a swing coach.
CEO’s of the largest and most profitable businesses have teams behind them supporting their decision-making processes.
The greatest baller in NBA history relentlessly worked on his shot with his assistant coaches.
Even the President of the United States of America (don’t worry—no political posts here) has a team of ridiculously well-trained and smart advisors that vet his every decision.
Well because they all know just how important it is to have people around you that can advise, guide, and pick you up when you fall flat on your freaking face. So it really didn’t make a whole lot of sense to talk about why we all need mentors, because if you don’t agree with that statement than this blog isn’t for you. So instead, I want to focus on why our modern day version of mentorship really sucks—and how we can rethink it and make it better.
Every self-helper or life coach will tell you that you gotta have a mentor. No shit. Got it. They’ll even talk about why mentorship is so important. Well, the examples above show you that we all need someone in our corner that helps us through the good times and the bad. We need different perspectives, opinions, experience, guidance, and sometimes we just need a swift kick to the ass. I am confident that is pretty obvious and self-explanatory. But the real problem with mentorship is that everyone thinks if they get together and start talking to one another that they are actually mentoring or being mentored. That is not the case.
Mentorship isn’t a couple of conversations or an hour together once a week. That type of mentorship sucks, and really isn’t an effective way to move the needle to any lasting change. It actually hurts you more than it helps you, because then you are just really checking a box, and nothing more.
The mentorship I am talking about, and the kind that makes a lasting difference in the lives of others, is a deep-rooted process and system-oriented connection with another person. It is problem solving at its finest, complicated conversations to reach core values, and putting your guard down so you can truly build something meaningful and aligned with your purpose and dreams.
If you aren’t doing that, then your version of mentorship sucks.
Over the past few years, I have been lucky enough to participate in a mentorship program that offers young entrepreneurs and start-ups guidance and advice to help them hit their stride. Years ago, I was in their shoes. Sitting in a dorm room, with a decent idea, but no real idea how to turn it into a thriving business. Start Garden, founded on the ethic of finding fast, inexpensive ways to turn ideas into actions. This groundbreaking incubation company has a program called 100 ideas, where every would-be entrepreneur can access a little capital to try out a new idea. Start Garden created The 100 with a consortium of banks as a no-strings-attached way to fund people to take a shot at new endeavors each year, knowing that some can be life-changing.
Even though it has been a few years, I remember the effort and energy it took to get Comfort Research and the Big Joe brand off the ground. It was absolutely a trial by fire. It was remarkably fun, but also simultaneously frightening. We did it the best we could, but we made about ever mistake you could along the way. We would have made many more if it weren’t for all the helping hands we had along the way…people that would lend advice without any thought of getting anything else in return.
100 Ideas has really inspired me to really understand and work to create better versions of mentorship. As I have been fortunate to work with some of these remarkable young business brands, I have gotten to see that the deeper we dive into their real problems, the more they grow as people and as companies. Offering real mentorship to someone else is hard work. It takes time, energy, effort, and maybe most important, a desire to connect your experience to the needs of another. These young companies put me to task, in a good way. Together we dive into the weeds of entrepreneurship and business and work our way out of it.
People often confuse advice for mentorship. Advice is the nugget of wisdom you offer someone in need. It is like giving a meal to someone that is hungry. Sure, it cures an immediate need, but offers no long-lasting outcomes. That’s not to say it isn’t valuable or helpful. But it isn’t mentorship either. It’s the “teach a man to fish” argument. Confusing advice for mentorship is a dangerous conflict because you end of not just confusing one for the other...you actually exchange one for the other. And things get sticky when you need mentorship and all you get it advice.
So what I am proposing to you is to take a different look at mentorship. Recognize that it is not just about simple conversations, small problem-solving, brief exchanges, or nuggets of advice. Real mentorship is all about connection, valuable exchanges to focus on root-problems, insightful developments through mutual respect and awareness, and then getting your hands dirty but giving people what they really need—hands on guidance to nurture, prosper, and grow.
If you aren’t doing that, then your mentorship sucks.