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I’ve Been Approaching Mentorship All Wrong

A few years ago, when I was on the verge of making a career shift, I was presented with the idea of finding a mentor. Everyone I talked to could attribute their success to other successful people in their circles that they leaned on and learned from.

Being the logical and action-oriented person I am, my first question was, “okay so how do I get a mentor? Do I just ask someone I look up to mentor me?”

In the abstract, I understood the importance of a mentor, but I also wanted a step by step instruction manual on how to find one. That seemed like the hardest part.

The idea that I had to approach someone I admire and be vulnerable and tell them everything that’s wrong and then ask for their help was almost enough to make me say “never mind, growth is overrated.”

It also seemed very unreasonable to ask someone for their advice and attention without anything in return.

For some reason, I had a very specific image in my head of what bring mentored looked like.

I pictured a professor, or someone much older than I would meet with in an office lined with books or a coffee shop and I would share and ask and they would give me answers out of the goodness of their heart.

I never had traditional mentors in school or life and was always very wary of asking for help. I never wanted to burden people or waste their time, so I always tried to figure things out as best I could.

But in making this huge career and life change, I knew I had to open myself up to outside help by actually asking for it. Otherwise, this wasn’t going to work out.

For a while, I looked into hiring a coach under the guise of mentorship, but it all felt so transactional. Some people were asking for credit card info right on the phone (a sales tactic that I’ve personally classified as a major red flag). Some calls involved a lot of guilt and shaming and statements like “if you’re serious about making a change, you can’t afford NOT to sign up with me right now.”

Don’t get me wrong, a business coach is useful in a lot of cases, but I was looking for someone I could learn from and resonate with on a different level other than them just helping me make more money.

Then one day I watched an Instagram Live interview with a coach and one of her students. One of the questions the student asked me was how she found her mentors. Her answer changed my whole perspective.

The short version of her response was that we live in an age of unlimited resources and information. This means we can learn from just about anyone without ever having to speak to them.

Huh. Learning from someone from afar and never having to speak to them in person is basically my love language.

This completely shattered the image in my head of what a mentor needed to be.

I realized that I had dozens of mentors. I have a whole list of people whose content I read regularly, who I actively seek knowledge from, who I try to shape my daily practice around. It never occurred to me that they have actually been mentoring me this whole time. I’ve made life choices and changed behaviors I once had because of things they said and things I observed them doing. I sought guidance in the same places they seek guidance. I try to emulate their routines to better learn how they learn. And once I reflected on all the changes I’ve made and growth I’ve achieved just from observing, I realized how powerful these one-sided relationships actually are in this case.

I don’t need a coach posing as a mentor trying to upsell me with every call with services will drain my bank account and cause my anxiety with every payment.

I can read, learn and live like the people I up too. I can do what they would do, engage with them when I can through social media or just reaching out occasionally and follow along carefully. It also reminds me that they’re still just human.

I realized that I already have role models for all the various parts of my life, who I actively look to and learn specific things from.

I have different types of mentors — people who help me grow in different ways. I have mentors who help me overcome shame, help me ask for more money, help be authentic and unapologetic, help me heal, teach me to write better and show how to be a better businesswoman by leading my example.

Initially, I had made a list of people who inspired me in these ways and wanted to shout them out by name, but for some reason, it makes me nervous to call out my mentors whom I’ve never met and don’t know me. I’m not sure why it makes me nervous or feels childlike to express admiration for people, but in the meantime, until I work through that, I’ll continue to learn from them and be informed by them and allow their vulnerability by putting our content help me grow.