First like to share two quick but potent sources of inspiration I had this week in the hope that vicariously it inspires you.
- Saw Gustavo Dudamel's debut, the new 28 year phenom conductor, lead the the LA Philharmonic at Disney Hall. Words fail me. He was frenetic and energetic. He got lost in the music as all of us did. He used hand gestures and leg movements that would have made accomplished hula dancers and choreographers envious. He is and will become a new rock star and more important role model for a new generation of music lovers. By the end of the concert the audience was fulfilled and exhausted! To get a sample of his captivating style watch this video and the tribute to his mentor.
- On the other end of the spectrum, heard Sirdeaner Walker (watch this video), who courageously spoke at the GLSEN Respect awards ceremony about her 11 year old boy Carl who hung himself because he was bullied about being gay or looking gay. Already 3 documented instances this year of 5th graders taking their lives for similar reasons. 4500 suicides a year amongst 10-20 year olds and the third leading cause of death for this age group! Saddened by the unthinkable tragedy of losing a child but inspired by the courage and the hope that Ms. Walker voiced about our collective need to stop bullying and to support the great efforts underway to bring mutual respect and civility to our schools and communities.
More than any topic the selection and acquisition of a mentor uses my cycles and time. People are confused, stymied, and yet greatly desirous of having an all-knowing mentor. There is just a world of misunderstanding , mis-information, and mythology out there. I have spent hundreds of hours on this topic and devoted several posts on this. But I want to turn my attention to what makes someone mentor-able.
This general idea that everyone needs a mentor, pushes the acquisition of such a life counselor before the preparation to be mentored. In other words, having a mentor means being prepared to be mentored. Here's where we often get confused. At places like Big Brothers Big Sisters, where an at-risk youth, who usually do not have both parents, live in poverty, and have multiple other challenges, is paired with a caring adult who is compatible. This is a wonderful and incredibly effective model where the transformation of both the mentor and the mentee are well documented. However, this model is very different and not transferable to the professional arena. Many large and prestigious organizations have made this mistake in designing their mentoring programs. But I digress. What a professional needs for career guidance around life's choices is entirely different. The objective, the structure, and the mutual benefits only resemble one another.
I asked one of my mentors to tell me how she chooses mentees. She went off! She has been exasperated by the stream of goal-less, ambition-less, and track-record-less people who want to be mentored by her. She said, "I mentor causes and individuals who have shown me their potential. I choose the mentees they do not choose me. I do this out of my selfish interest to help the causes and organizations I care about grow and improve. Why waste our time on people or issues who have not expressed their potential?"
Never sufficient to just say "I need a mentor!" It can actually sound very greedy and self-centered. But like most things in life the preparation for opportunities and mentors takes some effort and focus.
So far away from the great needs of at-risk youth are the needs of professionals who need feedback, advice, and wisdom. In the Darwinian world we reside in, the people with raw talent and who exert great effort and display passion for their work–make the best candidates for mentoring. Unless you are under the age of 25, you need to be figuring out who you are and where you are going. You need to be focused on what you want.
Don't get me wrong, you can find mentoring and mentors in many places around you. Mentoring sources are plentiful. But this quest for a game-changing mentor, THE mentor, someone who will be a longer term confidante–that requires you to get your act together. Think about it, as my mentor says, why expend energy on professionals who are truly lost ?, when there are so many others who may not even be actively seeking help who have displayed their promise. To alter a famous quote, "The door to mentoring opens from within.
I can hear some of you saying–"But that's why I need a mentor!" I know I know. Get mentoring through your network, through trusted people you know. Test your ideas, nurture your curiosities, follow your heart. When you do these things you become more mentor-able. Potential mentors will see what you are doing, but more important, you will be pursuing your inner interests and talents. You become who you are. People who do that not only get more mentoring but mentor us all.
Thanks for reading. John