Looking for a Mentor

My obsession with self-improvement leads me to reading a great books that inspire me to do something fantastic, motivate me to change my habits to better ones, or develop myself in completely different ways.  The only problem I have found is a lack of conversation about it.  I find it uniquely stimulating to share my thoughts and ideas about something I have learned, so that I can solidify my understanding of them and/or gain a new perspective.  However, it seems to me that self-improvement is not towards the top of the list of topics people talk about.  Same as with investments or finances, and many times relationships, I have encountered that many people tend to shy away from talking about important matters and instead focus on small talk about the weather, a new piece of technology, or the next vacation they will take.  Although I believe these are all fair topics of conversation, I have been yearning for the kind of conversation I rarely experience, from which I leave feeling empowered and with a thrilling sensation that I have found out about something that will help me improve my life and the life of those around me.

This lead me to continue pondering about the options I have.  Thankfully, we are blessed with living in the information age, in which most of the information you want to know about is just a few clicks away.  You can purchase great books in less than a minute, and have it delivered to your eReader or any other electronic device almost immediately.  You can also access fantastic online resources and learn just about any topic.  The two things that I lack from this approach, however, are direction and the opportunity for conversation.  A lack of these two makes the process of improving my life less efficient, hence why I decided to find mentors to help me.  Here is what I want to get out of my mentor or mentors.

Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.
– John Crosby

Direction

I could try to learn everything there is to know about calculus on my own (with all its derivatives and integrals), or I could choose to go to school instead and have a professor guide me through a curriculum of what he or she thinks is more appropriate for me to learn.  If I choose the right place to study for my purposes, the assumption is that the latter would yield me much better results in a much shorter period of time.  The guidance and mentorship of a professor would help solidify the right knowledge and help me apply it in the context of what matters to me.  This is the kind of direction I am seeking in a mentor.  Someone who can see where I am coming from, where I want to get to, and help me set a direction to close the gap.  This is what I refer to when asking for direction from a mentor.

Conversation

I learn the best, and I assume most people do as well, when I have a chance to bounce my thoughts around with someone knowledgable responding to them and challenging them.  When I started learning Japanese in college I quickly realized that memorizing words before the quizzes was VERY challenging for me.  I would sit and read the list over and over, write the words over and over, and try to memorize them.  Inevitably, there would always be at least one word during the quiz that I would forget.  After a couple of weeks, however, I studied for one quiz with one of my classmates, and we quizzed each other out loud.  We also attempted to use the new words in the sentence structures we had learned, and that’s when it hit me, this wasn’t so difficult after all!  I realized that the easiest way for me to learn new vocabulary was to actually put it in context of conversation and actually attempt to use/understand it.  Having someone there to listen to me say my newly formed thoughts/sentences and respond to them solidified for me the knowledge I had just acquired.  It also gave me the opportunity to learn alternative ways of thinking about the new concepts I was learning from my classmate.  Now, if this approach was so effective to learn while in school, why am I not using it to learn about important life topics such as finances, spirituality and life in general?  It doesn’t sound like something wise.

Mentors come in all different shapes and forms, or so they say, and some of the most important advice I have received has been given to me over a casual meal or while chatting on the phone.  I have been lucky to find a few great mentors at different times in my life and am now looking forward to find one more (or a few) to fill in the gaps that I am currently experiencing.  Most of the mentors I have had, however, have been there for me without me having to go and find them.  I simply met them at my workplace, at school, or through a friend.  I never had to go out of my way to find a mentor, the relationships just grew organically.  So I am left to wonder, how do you go and find a mentor when you need it?  There’s only so much Oprah I can watch/read, and doing so only gives me the advice I seek, not the advice I may need and don’t know I need.

What do you think about the importance of mentors?  Where do you find mentors?  How have you found your mentors?

3 thoughts on “Looking for a Mentor

  1. Really great question Omar.  I am also always seeking good mentors.  The most important part of the search is having a thorough understanding of oneself and one's values through which one interprets one's experiences.  If you and a mentor have different core values, then even similar experiences become non-relatable.  The second is the age-old meet as many people as possible and really talk to them about important things not only about the weather.  It's hard to do that in a group setting or at networking events, so setting up personal meeting times, a lunch etc goes a long in figuring out if someone can become a mentor.  Good mentors are naturals, the conversation and relationship naturally evolves to one where you are pushed and supported in good ways.  No matter how egalitarian I try to be, it is true, as a woman, my favorite mentors are women and obviously ones that have a lot of experience, mostly much older than me.  But yes, it is SO terribly important to always seeks out good mentors for both personal and professional reasons – and have different ones for different areas in life.

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  2. Thank you, Shammi!  I think you touched on several great points, and I appreciate you taking your time to do so.  I am definitely seeking mentors that share my core values, but have much more experience than me in the area I hope they mentor me on.  I think that as you pointed out, the main item I should focus on now is taking advantage of the opportunities I have to meet new people and make the most out of it.  I tend to stay comfortable with my group of friends, and I won't grow as a person if I stay in my comfort zone.

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  3. I had a mentor one. A guy around 20 years older than me, divorced with a little girl and living together with his current girlfriend. I never really looked for a mentor. I met this guy by chance while studying in a Starbuck coffee shop. I was very much into art and that's what brought us together at first. I come from a small town, so we didn't use phones or scheduled our meetings. We would meet whenever i would go to Starbucks to study my homework. I was 16 at the time and guidance was all i needed. I am not twisted or kinky or anything like that. I met his girlfriend, his best friend, his ex-wife, his daughter…. Truth is that he taught me a lot. We talked about poetry and photography and literature. He was the perfect mentor for me. I could always discuss anything i wished with him. He would never really judge me, he rather corrected me on my false approaches in life. I learned a lot from him and he always seemed to be happy mentoring me. The thing is that no relationship is ever that simple. I guess i shouldn't be surprised to find out that he was into me. It wasn't appearance, i never took time to even brush my hair at that period of my life. Two years after i met him things got out of control in every way. I was too young to know and that's the only excuse i grant myself. What i meant to say by all that is that mentorship can be quite dangerous as well. I certainly owe my mentor a lot. I know that had i stayed i would be his masterpiece by now. But at what cost really? Can you get that close to a person without everything getting complicated? Could  you let a person get closer than anyone to you without crossing the line?
    I would love a mentor right now. There are so many things that i still need to know, so many times that i seek guidance. But i need things to be simple in my life more than i need some guidance. Everyone talks about mentors. But none is talking about boundaries in the relation between a mentor and his student.  Are there boundaries? And which are those?
    (just some thoughts, i hope you find it useful)

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