Mentors

Competing With Your Mentors

A great mentor will always cheer for your success.

“Engagement season” refers to the period of time each year when the most wedding proposals happen. In the United States, it runs from Thanksgiving (fourth Thursday of November) until Valentine’s Day. For many other locations, it starts just a few weeks later, going from around Christmas to Valentine’s Day.

The most popular days for engagements are currently Christmas day, Valentine’s day, New Year’s Eve, Christmas Eve, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s day – in that order.

Just like most good publicists will start prepping and pitching their clients’ Christmas campaigns in early Summer, wedding pros’ prep for engagement/proposal season should ideally already be underway. However, if you, like almost every wedding business owner, have been juggling a zillion things, the next best time to start is now.

For the month of October, I’m going to be mostly discussing the things you can do get your business ready so that yours can be the company they most love once the ring is on their finger.

Michael Phelps and Joseph Schooling in 2008 (left) and in 2016 (right)

Michael Phelps and Joseph Schooling in 2008 (left) and in 2016 (right)


Three years ago, you may have seen the story of Joseph Schooling, a swimmer from Singapore who, as a kid, idolized Michael Phelps. Phelps served as an inspiration and unofficial mentor for him — pushing him to be better.

Then in the 2016 Olympics, Schooling swam against his mentor in the 100m butterfly race, taking home the Gold, with Phelps receiving the Silver.

I am a huge advocate of having mentors — I don't know where I would be in my own life if not for the men and women who have inspired me, held me accountable, and shared their hard-earned wisdom with me, both officially and unofficially.

That said, as you grow in wisdom, as your talents and skills improve, as you continue to educate yourself and produce the best work you can, you will come to a point where you will go up against your mentors for jobs, awards, or other opportunities.

There is absolutely nothing wrong or unfair about this.

Successfully competing with people you hold in high esteem has as much do with your mindset as it does with talent. Once you get to the level where you are competing against people who were mentors, you will have to give yourself permission to do so. If you don't, you will self-sabotage and you won't succeed.

Notice that I said give yourself permission, not get permission from your mentors. You don't need permission from them — your goals belong to you.

As you prepare for engagement season, think through what you want to accomplish next year but that you feel is too big a dream. Where are you holding back because you’ve bought into the idea that you always have to stay at least one tier below where a mentor is?

Maybe you aren’t charging what you should because it would be a higher rate than your mentor charges.

Maybe you’ve been hesitant to move into the luxury market because you don’t want to upset a mentor who works in that segment.

Maybe you’ve been turning down speaking invitations because you feel like a mentor owns a particular niche and although you are now an expert as well, you don’t want to “steal the spotlight.”

You can be respectful of and grateful to a mentor for all they’ve taught you and still go after what you want.

True leaders create more leaders and great mentors will always cheer for your success. If they don't, it's time to reevaluate their right to speak into your life.


A version of this post was originally published August 2016.

How To Succeed As A Mentor

Measuring what matters.

Photo by    Cameron Clark

Photo by Cameron Clark

There are two popular ways to think about mentorship. The first is to go into it intent on turning your mentee into your “mini-me.” The second is to view mentorship as helping your mentee become more of who they are.

While it’s flattering to hear someone say they “want to be just like you,” it’s better to use your strengths to draw out their own.

The people you mentor may not think exactly the way you do and may even disagree with you on key issues. They may look at the way you’ve designed your career or lifestyle and say, “good for you, but not for me” and only want help in certain areas.

Your role as a mentor is to help people think about things from a different angle, to ask smarter questions, to empower them to take risks, to release untapped potential, to allow your perspective to help shape them into a better version of themselves.

Success as a mentor comes not from producing copies of yourself, but in helping people flourish in their own gifts and talents.


Originally published February 2014

7 Things to Look For In a Mentor

I've been really fortunate to have some amazing mentors in my life. People who were and are generous with their wisdom, who weren't afraid to lovingly call me out when I needed it, who didn't laugh at my crazy, outlandish dreams, and who checked their own ego in order to cheer me on.

I am a firm believer that we should be lifelong learners and that we all — at any age — should have a mentor (or several) in our life, especially if we are in a position of leadership and mentoring others ourselves. Here are seven things I've learned over the years about selecting a mentor. It is by no means an exhaustive list, just a few things that come to mind as I write this:
 

1. NO MENTOR IS ONE SIZE FITS ALL AND IT'S FINE TO HAVE DIFFERENT MENTORS FOR DIFFERENT AREAS OF YOUR LIFE.

Some people may kill it in business, but have a parenting style you'd rather not emulate. Some may have a marriage relationship you want to learn from but have a managerial approach you don't care for. If you're looking for people who are perfect in all areas of life or work, you will end up navigating life alone.
 

2. A GOOD MENTOR WILL VALUE HEALTHY CONFLICT RESOLUTION AND WILL ENCOURAGE YOU TO VOICE YOUR TRUTH.

Effective leaders use healthy communication to work through conflict. Cowards use the silent treatment to dissolve relationships.

While no one is perfect in every area, conflict — large, small, exaggerated, or imagined — crops up in every part of life and a good mentor is willing to do the hard work of peacemaking. They won’t push you to sugarcoat reality or to sweep things under the rug and they won't model that in their own life.
 

3. A GOOD MENTOR WILL BE COMMITTED TO HELPING SHAPE YOU INTO THE BEST VERSION OF YOURSELF, NOT A MINI-ME OF THEMSELVES.

"Do it just like me!" is rarely in a mentor's vocabulary. A great mentor will give you the space to be yourself yet will push you out of your comfort zone.

Extroverts who insist extraversion is the only way to do life won’t be a good mentor to introverts. Extroverted mentors who understand this give introverts space to recharge, recognizing that for an introvert, alone time is life-giving and provides the needed capacity to be effective in interpersonal relationships.

Likewise, introverts realize that extroverts need more activities and opportunities to socialize as they draw their energy from other people.

A good mentor helps you create the margin you need, not necessarily the margin they need.
 

4. A GOOD MENTOR WILL RECOGNIZE THAT DIFFERENT SEASONS OF YOUR LIFE REQUIRE DIFFERENT PRIORITIES.

For a long time, "go big or go home" was a mantra that worked for me. These days when I hear that phrase, my first reaction is, "home, please" and I have made embracing the joy of missing out (JOMO) a top priority.

Acknowledging that different seasons bring different priorities is healthy; not just for you, but for your family and friends as well.
 

5. SOME MENTORS ARE A GOOD FIT FOR A SEASON, SOME FOR A LIFETIME.

It's okay to recognize when you have outgrown what a particular mentor has to offer you. This doesn't mean you (nor they) have stopped learning, but rather that you are now on different paths. This also doesn't mean that you need to end every aspect of your relationship with them, just that the mentorship part has reached a point of closure.
 

6. A GOOD MENTOR SHOULD HOLD SIMILAR VALUES AS YOU.

It’s okay if they don’t match exactly, and you may be passionate about different things. One of my mentors is passionate about animal rights and, while I feel this issue is important, my passions are very specifically orphan care and issues of systemic poverty. What matters to me is not whether we champion or donate to the same causes, but that we’re both interested in the world beyond the end of our driveways — that I’m not choosing to be mentored by someone who is solely interested in using all their resources to make their own life better in the name of “looking out for number one.”
 

7. CHOOSE A MENTOR BASED ON WHO THEY ARE OFFLINE RATHER THAN ON HOW PUT TOGETHER THEIR LIFE LOOKS ON SOCIAL MEDIA.

Instagram is typically a (heavily edited, well curated) snapshot of singular life moments, not a portrait of real life as a whole. On the other side of the coin, oversharing via social media is typically a red flag signaling deeper issues and rarely an indicator of healthy transparency.

Not allowing strangers to have access to every part of one's life does not make someone any less authentic. Choosing a mentor should never be based solely on what you see online.
 


Originally published May 2015