According to Henry Ford, “My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me”. I guess you may have heard of the saying, if you are the only smart person in the room, leave the room. You need people to learn from daily if you really want to progress in addition to making impactful difference. That’s why I’m of the humble opinion that mentors are life savers.
In the course of this discussion, we shall be looking at how mentors can shape one’s life; empower him, and make him a leader subject to his industry and set objective. We shall also be looking at the adverse effects of mentorships and its relativity to other factors.
You cannot underscore the importance of mentorship in the life of a progressive-minded being. I can proudly say that I am a product of mentorship. Mentors have really shaped me to be a better person. My mentors have created so many opportunities for me. I cannot overestimate the role of mentorship in my life. They are priceless. I have always told my friends, I am not smart, rather I am smart by association. Let me take you on a brief trajectory path on my life. I arrived in USA ten years ago and joined the Nigerian Lawyers Association as a graduate student in New York Law School. Later on an opportunity became available to serve in the association and one of my mentor who is a Judge me inspired to contest for the position of Public Relations Secretary in the association which I won by God’s grace and that position opened so many doors of opportunity for me. It was the Nigerian Lawyers Association that gave me the opportunity of meeting one of my most influential mentors Chief Dele Momodu who is the CEO Ovation Media Group and former presidential candidate in Nigeria. Apart from writing the Foreword to my book which has opened doors of opportunity for me, Chief Dele Momodu has been so resourceful to me. I’m deeply humbled to write on his online newspapers (Boss Newspapers) which is the biggest online newspaper in Nigeria. I can go on and on, but as the sage will say a word is enough for the wise.
Let’s go into the meat of the discussion. Who is a mentor? In lay man’s term, a mentor can be defined as a person or teacher who is very knowledgeable and experienced in a particular area of life. You can even say a mentor is a trusted adviser. Either way you define it, a mentor is a person who can either guide or inspire you for greatness. A mentor must not necessarily be older than you, he or she can be younger than you provided you are learning from the person. Mentors come in different shapes and sizes. The question now is, who needs a mentor, what are the roles of mentors? What are the characteristics of a mentor?
Before you choose a mentor must be sure of what you need in life and the role the person will play in your life. Isn’t it true that the journey of a 1000 miles begins with a single step in the right direction? You must know where you are headed. In a nutshell, you must know your purpose in life. You can’t just wake up in the morning and say you need Mr. A or Mr. B just because he or she has money or famous. You must know the value and change in your life you want to see. I liken mentors as leaders. As mentioned earlier, people follow different people for different reasons. I will try and do justice to these situations which can be called pyramid of leadership:
- Position: People follow you because they have a right to follow you which can be as a result of the position you occupy.
- Permission: People follow you because you allow them. For example in relationships cases when you decide to allow people to build relationships with you.
- Production: People follow you because of what you have done for the organization or association. This is result oriented.
- People Development: People follow you because of what you have done for them
- Pinnacle: People follow you because of whom you are or what you represent. The question now is where do you belong?
Mentors are very resourceful and one has to be very tactical when finding a mentor. You may be wondering how I do engage or find a mentor? Every case is different, but being strategic is very important. These are some ideas to finding a mentor.
First, define the mission, vision, and objectives you intend to accomplish, learn or reach. For example, let’s say you have a sector/job type in mind. Do some research in the world of social media, online, podcast, conferences, YouTube and LinkedIn. You can even ask friends or colleagues via networking. You have to be specific enough because the more specific you are, the better. You have to know who the ‘influencers’ are. These ‘influencers’ are the people you will like to learn from. It’s imperative to learn about your mentor. Read as much information you can find about them. Pay particular attention about what they did to get to where they are, their mistakes, strengths and trajectory journey. This will give you a general mental picture about them. Also, see the value they can get from you. Some people feel they are being abused by their mentors due to the kind of assignment or deadline they are given, forgetting the words of Thomas Edison “opportunity is missed by people because it is dressed in overalls and it looks like work’. Mentors like productive mentees.
You will agree with me that nobody has a monopoly of knowledge. Therefore, the relationship between a mentor and mentee should not be parasitic, rather it should be a symbiotic one. Finally, define your strategy. How will you connect with that mentor? You can attend conferences, meet ups and so forth. You should bear in mind, there is no short cut to any place worth going. You have to pay the price by learning the ropes. It’s quite unfortunate a lot of people want to beat the gun by earning without learning. You have to learn first before you earn. How do you learn? You can volunteer your time, money or whatever you may have for your mentor. You just never know the opportunity that might be available to you. Some narcissistic minds believe once they are successful, they don’t need any advice, forgetting the words of Bill Gate “Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people to think they can’t lose”. If mentees have positive minds in addition to being able to think out of the box, they will remember the words of Oprah Winfrey “Luck is preparation meeting opportunity”. Therefore you must be prepared and willing to do the needful in order to get to where you want to be. Let me share some examples; after I published my first book, I reached out to some of my mentors who are President and senior officials in NYC High School and Colleges, and they were not only receptive of my Executive Summary and curriculum, they were kind enough to take up teaching and administrative positions because of my work. The moral of this point is that I have been able to build a strong relationship with my mentors and the right opportunity became available for me to share my work with them.
To know a good mentor. Look for certain qualities. A mentor should be a person who inspires and motivates you to progress in life. The person ought to display high integrity, honesty and must have a proven track of success. He/she must be able to teach or have expertise in a particular field of interest to you. The person should be able to refer you to available opportunities in addition to introducing to his/her network. A mentor must be strategic, able to solve problems by analyzing issues in addition to being able to innovate. Again, mentors are very resourceful beings. Their advice are priceless. Due to how busy they can be, I will strongly advise you grab every little opportunity they have for you. Though one of my mentor once told me, just like we shouldn’t be too busy for our friends and family, a mentor should never be too busy for his or her mentee. A mentee should always value the time his/her mentor shares with him/her. One of the most important skills a mentee ought to have is listening skills. It’s quite unfortunate many people listen with the intent to respond as opposed to understanding. When you listen you’ll be able to hear unspoken words. According to Bernard Baruch, Most of the successful people I have known are the people who do more listening than talking’.
Mentors help you to realize your strength, they can facilitate or championing your cause by talking to others about you, they assist in conflict resolution by mitigating where necessary in addition to anchoring for you where necessary.
I found an interesting note on LinkedIn on How to find a mentor. ‘Sadly, people often go about finding a mentor by cold-emailing people who are more or less strangers and asking them this loaded question: ‘Will you be my mentor? I have a few suggestions for a better strategy: 1. Do your research to know exactly who you are reaching out to. If they work in Sales and you want to go to IT, tell them you know it is not their area and ASK if they know anyone in the department you are interested in who they could introduce you to. 2. Compliment them. Follow their content and like, comment, or share. They will notice and appreciate you and be more inclined to want to help you. 3. Introduce yourself short and sweet. Then you are no longer a stranger. 4. Make a very specific reasonable request, like to answer a few quick business questions. Explain what you are looking for or the area you need advice on. 5. Keep up the dialogue. Keep on and develop the relationship, not only when you want something and then disappear. 6. Be very respectful of their time! If you find a genuine person and approach them the right way, you will quickly land not one but multiple mentors or advisors”.
A great quality of a mentor is their cognitive ability. Mentors are very creative. They can safely be regarded as eagles because they have deeper insight. There is an African saying, “What an old man sees while sitting on a chair, no matter how tall a child grows he or she cannot see it”. Talking about cognitive skill, mentors help us to adjust to stress, relationships, goals, work on our purpose etc. by adapting to ever-changing situations. Mentors assist us in creating a new experience. They share with us some of the valuable lessons or experience they have had in the past which might be relevant to us. It should be noted that mentors don’t do the work for us, we do the work. They only facilitate the process for you so you don’t have to go through the length of time they had to go through.
Mentorship must not always be a one on one relationship. Just like you can learn by observation, so also you can have online mentors who might not even know you have been understudying and following them. These category are the people I call pinnacle style of mentorship. You develop a pivotal relationship with this kind of mentorship.
Once you learn a lot from your mentor, it’s your responsibility to apply what you have learned in your daily and professional life. You must find a way to use what you have learned in addition to what you know to create something unique. As mentioned earlier, you have to take the bold step in addition to desiring a change in your life before a mentor can come in. According to the sage, once the student is ready, the master materializes. According to the former President of America, Barack Obama “change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we are waiting for”. According to Beverley Hills, “There’s no shortcut to any place worth going“.
Though mentors are good, some can have adverse effect. You must continually check on time to know what is happening. Listen to news, read articles, visit them. Some mentors are destiny killers. Some can have you work out yourself in the name of mentor-ship. Some can be wolves in sheep clothing and the list continues. You simply have to know when to bow or leave as Kenny Rogers said in his track “the gambler”
Much has been said about mentors, let’s see relativity, difference and similarity between mentors and role models. Both of them can serve the same purpose, but they have a little bit of similarity and difference. In simplest terms, a mentor is someone who teaches and guides you in your area of interest. He/she must be an expert in his/chosen feild of practice. You can have several mentors for several projects. Your mentors can be online or offline. Your mentor can also serve as a role model to you depending on your mission and vision in life. On the other hand, a role model is someone you definitely want to be like. In this sense, you imitate the works of the person, you reading about the person and his/her works in addition to the philosophy and lifestyles. The person can also serve as an inspiration to you. You may not have access to the person like you do for mentors because the person may be far from reach (dead or alive), but the works of the being in question warms your heart.
In conclusion, I will leave you with two great quotes from Paul Ryan and Brian Tracy; According to Paul Ryan ‘Every successful individual knows that his or her achievement depends on a community of person working together”. Therefore you cannot attain success alone. You need a mentor and community to shape and guide you. Is it true that it takes a community to train a child? No matter where or what your case or situation might be, never be hard on yourself, just continue working hard and smart, trust me, your works are being noted. You may have had a thousand nos, remember all you need is one yes and the narrative will change. I have been there (called names due to my failures and mistakes) and I can tell you from experience that mentors are very resourceful. Per Brian Tracy: “It doesn’t matter where you are coming from, all that matters is where you are going”
Lastly, do you have a mentor? If yes who is your mentor?
Henry Ukazu writes from New York. He works with the New York City Department of Correction as the Legal Coordinator. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org