Mentorship is a lot like love. To find the perfect mentor, you need to let them come to you. One of the best ways to find the ideal mentor, is to become a mentor yourself. To learn we must teach. There is a reciprocal nature to all cycles of life.
I believe that in order to reap the greatest benefits from mentorship, seek to pay your wisdom forward either with your own mentees or in a reverse-mentorship capacity where you can turn the camera 360 degrees and teach someone much more experienced than you, something that you specialize in and are super passionate about.
I've been blessed with an exceptional wife and two beautiful children of my own who teach me a master class every day on every aspect of my life. I've also been blessed with an august leadership mentor in Anthony Howard. We learn from each other all the time. In many respects I have many mentors, I receive insight from my students all over the world, executives that I coach and train.
You might be asking as you read my portfolio of posts on here, how does this guy over 50 years old, know so much about how Millennials think and all the cutting edge paradigms of Social Selling and B2B content strategy? The answer is simple: I am being consistently reverse-mentored by those that seek me out globally to learn the timeless principles of strategic selling and big deal closing.
They know I've gone through the excruciating pain of selling to government, 22 month procurement cycles and consulting on rigorous eight (and even 9 figure) engagements to win. I've also had the rare privilege to be a country manager, run sales teams and have relationships at the top of global software conglomerates. I've gone up against incumbents David versus Goliath and unseated them in the 11th hour by deftly applying strategic thinking. Sheer will and failing forward got me here so giving back daily is in my DNA and I encourage you to do the same. That's one of the true gifts to humanity that social media brings - the ability to have a positive value exchange of good ideas across oceans.
Beyond the karmic elements of serendipity and happenstance, here are some key things to look for in securing a lifelong bond with a leader that embodies everything you stand for, someone who can help you learn and grow, pushing you beyond your bounds and self-limiting beliefs. Feel the fear and do it anyway, get beyond your comfort zone and realize your higher self. A great mentorship should never feel like an obligation or something that helps you look good on a resume or for school credit. If you're lucky, you'll find one or two great mentors in your lifetime much like great loves and you'll never forget them. The truth is, they'll never forget you. Making an impact on another life, reaching out and touching someone's very existence is just like beauty, as profound in the eye of the beholder as those that radiate it.
- Do they have real world experience? There's much to be said for composing sonnets from the ivory tower but living the dream amongst the people is a whole other level. Personally, I find that real people who have endured through real world crises and challenges emerging triumphant are most able to teach us the 'why' and 'how.' Inspired action is a million times more valuable than theory. At the end of the day, I'm asking myself: 'Have they actually done it? Have they slayed the dragon, hot air ballooned around the world in 80 days or saved the princess?'
- Do they possess a genuine optimism, compassion and zest for life?People that do well in life love people. I suppose there are plenty of stations in life that would elevate the misanthrope but it's been my experience that helping other people on this planet is the true meaning of life. I derive so much intrinsic fulfillment out of leading someone I'm mentoring on a journey of discovery and watching their sphere of knowledge and influence expand. I'm the spark and they are the light in a chained lightning reaction back and forth, as the world illuminates around compelling subjects new and old that we share and evolve.
- Do they believe in your vision and hold you accountable to it? I can't tell you how many times I've met successful entrepreneurs furiously driven by a parent or teacher that never believed in them or maybe pushed them too much. They seek to fill this void in their life with a mentor who will believes in them. Lost, they seek to pull forth their mission from within and need a guide. A theme in my writings is that all it takes is one person to truly believe in you, to make you successful. That's all it takes and you can be that person for someone, many someones. When you scout out a mentor, watch the way you feel after you've interacted. Are you bursting with ideas, new insight and enthusiasm to go attack your life with gusto? These are good signs that you've found the right one. Be ignited and ignite. The coolest part about a great mentor is how they stay in touch, check up on you, make sure you're on track for your goals and even the most granular details are interesting to them.
- Do they embrace self-education and lifelong learning? Never stop learning, never stop humbling yourself. We could never learn it all in infinite lifetimes so we must fall in love with learning everyday. Phenomenal mentors are multi-disciplinary students of life. They ask the greater questions and their thirst for knowledge is palpable. Their rooms are overflowing with memories, and their studies are overflowing with books, maps, pictures and ideas hitting them like tidal waves in endless flashes of brilliance. You think of someone like Leonardo da Vinci spurring a Renaissance, well these are the Renaissance men and women in your life.
- Are they resilient? I find that true character is exhibited in times of strife and crisis. Mentors bounce back, they're anti-fragile and accustomed to challenge. The pressure-cooker of a frontier life has built a heart full of diamonds. They tell stories of conquering unimaginable obstacles and how they did it again and again. Failure, pain, suffering and bad luck are no stranger to them but it was their attitude of gratitude, fire and tenacity alloyed with iron will that saw them through. I strive to approach every situation from the viewpoint of advantage and see the duality in all things. I look for this quality in mentors and mentees alike.
- Have they embarked on the Hero's Journey? Joseph Campbell writes, "We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us."
The Hero with a Thousand Faces:
A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.
7. Do they truly embody wisdom? Wisdom is something that is earned. I have met some of the wisest people in the world and paradoxically they are often the most humble. Perhaps they've seen everything and they find the divine comedy and tragedy of humankind amusing. It's all just a little history repeating so they have somehow managed to have never lost their childlike innocence. They see the world with new eyes. Someone wise can impart things to you beyond knowledge. They can counsel you in incredibly difficult situations to make moves that may be outside the scope of your awareness. A phenomenal mentor will challenge you to think about every aspect of your life and business in new ways. She may even encourage you to get out of the nest of your comfort zone and take flight. They lead with wisdom of experience, intuition and can see through walls and around corners.
I started this article with the metaphor of love. Finding the right mentor is almost like finding a soul mate: we have to believe they're out there in order to attract the unicorn to us. If you don't allow yourself to believe, it's near impossible for the magic of mentorship to happen for you. Step one is to keep an eye out for those rare individuals in whose lives you believe that you can make a profound difference... now. I'll close with a couple quotes that may help you think about this entire mentorship subject and process in a new way: "That's the thing with magic. You've got to know it's still here, all around us, or it just stays invisible for you." Charles de Lint; and "Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Great mentors believe in you, and that my friends... is proof of magic. From that transference of belief, all things are possible.
Now it's your turn: Who are your mentors, the most influential people on your success, your life and your happiness? What do you look for in a mentor? Which one of these qualities do you feel was most important or unusual? What's the most magical aspect of your life and who inspired it? Who are your heroes? Who's had the biggest impact on your future?
Tony Hughes is ranked as the #1 influencer on professional selling in Asia-Pacific and is a keynote speaker and best selling author. This article was originally published in LinkedIn where you can also follow Tony's award winning blog. Also visit Tony's keynote speaker website at www.TonyHughes.com.au or his sales methodology website at http://www.rsvpselling.com/.
Main image photo by Flickr: Ted Eytan
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