Boot camp was just about to start and I kept glancing nervously at the gym entrance; he had still not come and I had hoped to see him today. Few minutes in to the workout routine and Mr. Alli walks in, and to say I was relieved was an understatement.
You see, I had this massive project before me, that I needed major advice on and I knew that Mr. Alli had the experience to help me put things into perspective.
I honestly couldn’t wait till the bootcamp was over to catch him when he was a bit more relaxed. Casually, I brought up the subject and explained my dilemma. He patiently listened and told me he would give it some thought and call me the next day.
The wait was honestly worth it, as after the 40 minute phone call I had received so much clarity on the issue that I could tell that this was a bit more than I could chew.
Mr. Alli is one of 3 industry giants I have identified in my career, to model after and get close enough to, so I can leverage on their experience from time to time – like I had just done.
Our relationship has no specific titles, no major expectations, but I give it enough life to see them value me enough to be concerned enough to give me advice. On the other hand, I am careful not to make them lose their faith in me.
Isn’t that a mentor? You probably just asked yourself. Well no, at least not in the conventional sense. I think the word “mentor”–whether as a verb or a noun–has become a relatively fuzzy term and has been confused with the word “coach” (someone whose job is to train and organize a sports team). So in our thoughts, when we say we are looking for a mentor, what we really mean is, we are looking for that person to open doors for us, link us up and generally make the journey easier.
It is an undeniable fact that the greatest pressure yields the most valuable diamond.
The hottest fire produces the strongest steel. Just as a star shreds the blackest night, so too will you find your way through the dense tangle of adversity and be better for it.
If all great men and women are “before greatness”, strengthened by the hot kiln of adversity, then adversity must not be a thing to be avoided, but embraced. If greatness is a destination and only adversity provides a pathway to it, should we not step firmly upon that path? After all, if adversity is preparation for greatness, why shouldn’t you be prepared for something great.
I’m certainly not here to suggest that having a mentor is a bad thing, quite the opposite. Having someone on your side to support, challenge and teach you is both wonderful and valuable; however, I think that the way we are going about it right now is all wrong.
Note that a poor mentor is actually worse than no mentor at all. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin and Marquette University found that having a mentor alone wasn’t enough to generate positive workplace attitude and behavior outcomes. Employees who were dissatisfied with their mentorship didn’t fare any better than employees who lacked a mentor entirely and were at risk to end up trapped in a dysfunctional, career-limiting dynamic.
You don’t need to go out and find one mentor who will stick by you for the next ten years or more of your career. Instead, I encourage you to consider that you may already be surrounded by many mentors who have, already do, or will provide you with the right support when you need it.