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In the age of digital self-help, everyone’s a “guru.”
At every scroll, there’s a Facebook ad for a life coach who will help you “find your happy,” and a mentor who has “the answer to success.”
I am not inferring that I don’t hire mentors or coaches. Full disclosure: I am one.
I love what a mentoring relationship brings, and they are also proven to work.
According to Sun Microsystems, employees who received mentoring were promoted five times more often than people who didn’t. Dr. Belle Ragins for Catalyst has said that 44 percent of CEOs list mentoring programs as one of the three most effective strategies to enhance women’s advancement to senior management.
I appreciate what my mentors and coaches have done for and with me, and I know I wouldn’t be as fulfilled as I am without them.
Having a mentor or a coach brings many gifts: a brain to pick, a person to vent to, a mirror that reflects me, and shared experiences to learn from. It is an opportunity to sit with someone courageous enough to take the risks and leaps that we perhaps want to take ourselves, but fear.
I see life’s blueprint as an extensive road map.
I have a roundabout idea of where I am going, and I have various routes to get to where I want to go. My mentor is like Waze, Google Maps, or whatever digital GPS is a saving-grace click away.
Every time I have sat with a mentor, that person has looked at my roadmap and highlighted routes I had not considered. Pathways that are typically much more time effective, with delightful views to see along the way, and exciting places to check out.
One of my very first mentors was a beautiful earth angel named Margie, a petite lady with hugs full of big energy and all-encompassing love.
She would often reply to my worrisome thoughts and outlandish comments with this twinkle in her eye and a gentle smile of delight, that I knew meant there is more happening behind the scenes. For whatever reason, those signals put me at ease and help me trust more deeply.
I remember one occasion, specifically, where I was just tired and done. I was broken-hearted from divorce, frustrated with my body’s extra weight and aches, and drowning from a well-paying, but highly draining job. I had put in almost four years of studying Feng Shui at the time, and I was learning about angels and how to deepen my intuition.
I wanted to do that for a living.
I knew I could help others, and I just wanted out of my nine to five, and into my “purpose.” Little did I know I had much more work to be done and healing to process before I could “just do that” for a living. Margie helped me to understand that.
I was lying on her table, receiving healing touch therapy, and she softly spoke, “One day, you will do something with energy work. It may not be now, but you can start as it were.”
After I pulled my refreshed body and sleepy eyes off her table, we sat and chatted about that point for a bit, as much as I didn’t want to hear what she had to say. I couldn’t figure out how to start navigating the process. Not to mention I was an impatient 20-something-year-old.
Like Veruca Salt from Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, I wanted it now!
Out came her metaphoric highlighter onto my messy roadmap. She gave me tools I had not thought of, and we came up with ways to start helping. They were possibilities where I could ease through my healing while helping in unique ways, yet ensuring I wouldn’t imprint or bring harm onto others.
A couple of years later, after my learning advanced and skills deepened, she was one of the people to nudge me to jump. She helped me network and connect. She helped me to believe in myself enough to take risks, to put myself out there, learn from her path, and activate a calling or nudge inside of me.
I believe we can all advance in more significant strides and save time by having a mentor by our side. We do need to practice discernment in choosing one, though.
When everyone’s a “guru,” how do we find an authentic mentor?
I have had various mentors and coaches, of all ages, experiences, areas of expertise, and personality types. But my best experiences have come in looking for the following five traits:
1. The “years of beautiful messiness” mentor.
I want to learn from someone who has failed in business and built again. Whose messiness has taught them more in life than anything I could even dream up. Give me the mentor who has had the f*ck ups and will share those lessons with me.
2. The “been there, done that” mentor.
I have decided that if I wouldn’t want to trade places with someone, I wouldn’t hire them to help me highlight my road map or take me down routes that may cause delays. I want a mentor who has had the years of experience I can learn from. If they’re going to advise me on what to do, they better have done it themselves.
3. The “always a student” mentor.
I never stop learning. And I want to learn from those who never stop learning either. If I am investing in myself, I want to learn from others who do the same, who invest in their own growth. And I ask them. I want to know what learning they are doing and how they are advancing their skill.
4. The “give it to me straight” mentor.
While being kind is something I value, I don’t want the nice guy. I want to invest in the person who is not afraid to tell me what I don’t want to hear. I also want to see prices upfront, on a website, or a place where I can quickly see what they charge if there is a financial investment involved. Everyone’s time is valuable, so let’s value it.
5. The “integrity master” mentor.
Consider what your most important value is, and find someone who values that just as much. Integrity is and has always been my number one value. Do what you say you are going to do, show up on time, and live in integrity. For someone else, it may be different, but this is my top trump.
These points may or may not feel good. Take what is of benefit, and leave the rest.
The bottom line is this: choosing mentorship can be life-changing, but we have to ensure it is a good fit.
Finding a connection with someone that feels deliciously right is crucial. When we do, we can embody the best version of ourselves with ease and have a partner with whom to do it.
And the roadmap to what is quite possibly the most extraordinary journey of our lives will come to light.