Monday, 5 May 2014
Find a mentor, expand your potential!
I have always believed in the importance of mentors. We all want to get somewhere, wherever your dreams may take you. But to get there, it’s good to have someone to look up to, to consult with, to bounce ideas off and to set you straight when you lose track. You may use different names to refer to a mentor, but the fact is we all need one; be it in your profession, business, career, life or to cross-cut all these areas.
I have found it essential and humbling to have a mentor. I have two mentors and recently I was fortunate to get a workplace/ career mentor. I have found that mentorship requires humility, transparency, the desire to learn, and willingness to accept advice, no matter how uncomfortable. A mentor can guide you, take you under his/ her wing, teach you new skills and keep you accountable to your plans and goals.
Let me tell you a little about the chance event that led me to get a superb life mentor. One day I was on twitter, and I follow Heshan de Silva, @HeshdeSilva (entrepreneur, business magnate, philanthropist, young Kenyan billionaire.. I could really go on) and a post he tweeted caught my eye. He runs a venture capital firm called DSGVencap and the company was undertaking a mentorship program giving a chance to ten individuals to be mentored by Heshan. The catch was you had to send en email and justify why you should be among the ten selected in ONE sentence. So I gave it a shot and here is an excerpt of the email I sent:
I believe that if you are not failing at something every week, then you are not taking enough risks; if you want to succeed, you must put yourself out there and try- this is me putting myself out there, beating the odds and taking a risk.
Your future mentee (with utmost humility and unwavering optimism)”
(LOL, don’t raise your eyebrows at me. I gave it a shot right?)
And you know what? I later got an email saying I had been accepted into the program. A chance to be mentored by such a young approachable billionaire. I was elated! The program involved:
- 24/7 email access directly with him, where you could ask him for advice
- 2 skype calls a month
- At least 1 face-to-face meeting a month
In retrospect I have learnt A LOT from him, he has helped me to broaden my perspective on how I look at things, challenged me to push myself and really be the best I can be, and recently inspired some cool ideas I am planning to actualize. FYI one of our meetings was had over sheesha on one Saturday mid-morning! And that’s the beauty, mentoring doesn’t have to be so formal, stuffy and utterly uncomfortable. The point is to learn, it doesn’t matter where you are or what you are doing.
Here are some key pointers which have helped me:
1. Develop a relationship of trust
2. Establish short and long term mutually understood goals
3. Let it be mentee-driven
4. Be honest and transparent
5. Enjoy the process
6. A focus on approaches, not tactics (you get more value out of a mentoring relationship if you pull advice from your mentor on how to think about a given topic (an approach), rather than focusing only on tactical ideas related to the topic)
I might be failing on some of these for instance lack of consistency in meeting my mentors and implementing what we discuss, but I’ll keep working at it constantly.
So challenge yourself to find a mentor, it simply has to be someone you look up to and who has either attained the heights you want to, or will push you to scale those heights. Give it a try!