We all have a lot of mentors throughout our lives. Our first mentors are our parents – they show us what the world is and teach us how to walk, speak, express ourselves. Our mentors then become friends that are older than us, a brother, a sister, teachers in school, colleagues at work, bosses. Mentors are the people that help us to grow, the people we admire and look up to. These mentors come to our lives in an informal way and, most of the time, we don’t search for them intentionally. We are exposed to these mentors by chance, not by design. What does this mean? Then what happens?
The documented acknowledgment of the value of mentoring stems way back to the ancient Greeks. Philosophers like Aristotle and Plato realized the importance of transferring knowledge. Today, the system we depend on for transferring knowledge is school. The role of mentors is filled by teachers. However, there is a stark difference in the way teachers behave and how we are taught to learn today, compared to ‘Aristotle and Plato’ Another word for mentors we use today is teachers. The difference between these two is that “teaching” is the formal way of transferring historical facts while mentoring is “teaching” by example, by showing our personal experiences, failures, and successes.
The world has evolved a lot in the last 2000 years and it seems that society focused on other forms of knowledge transfer and has forgotten what the ancient Greeks knew about the importance of having a mentor – we forgot why we need mentors.
Why mentorship is key to growth
Consciously or unconsciously you always have a vision for the person you want to become stored in your mind. A mentor influences and/or reflects attributes of the person you want to become – when you are 1 year old, you want to be like mom and dad – you want to walk and speak. When you find a job, you want to become a professional – you want to be like your manager, boss, or someone who is an expert in your field – you want to become better in what you do.
When you meet a person with the characteristics and experiences you aspire to, you can learn from them impressively faster than usual. The way we learn as soon as we are born is by absorbing and replicating behaviors even if we don’t understand exactly what we are doing. We see, imagine, and then do – the brain creates these models and there is no questioning of “why”. This is also why very often when we ask experts what exactly they are doing to be that good at whatever they are doing – they struggle to answer. So usually, when we read about the greatest people in history like A.Lincoln, H.Ford, N.Tesla, B Franklin we study their lives, habits, behavior, decision-making, productivity tips, etc and we try to improve ourselves by copy-pasting as much as we can. And that is the most natural and normal form of human development.
The thing here is that when you don’t know these people personally you are trying to become like the image of them, without truly understanding the experiences and details that made them who they appear to be. So for example, if you want to become a good investor and you think W.Buffet is the best mentor for you. You buy and read a book on Warren Buffet’s investing strategy, but do nothing because the information is not practical and meaningful for you. In this scenario, there is a big knowledge gap and your points of view are too different. It is better to have someone who spent the last 4 to 5 years investing so all mistakes and lessons are still fresh and you can understand each other much better. Having a conversation with a person who just faced all the problems you are facing now, can give you a much better perspective and some practical advice. This means that you can relate to and apply the learnings much better, and level up much faster.
At OneUpOneDown we believe that in order to become the person you want to be, the fastest and most effective way is to have the right mentor – your future self. Very often, we are not sure who we want to become or who we are now and that’s the beauty of life – we discover parts of ourselves at every age and in every situation. We very often are looking for purpose and direction, for someone who would show us the way or simply would give us feedback if we are on the right path or not. Sometimes, we need a mentor for a longer period, sometimes even one meeting is enough to push us to the next level.
It is all about the experience, which is the main focus of OneUpOneDown. And we understand that it is not easy to find a mentor, it’s not like meeting someone and asking them “can you be my mentor?” – it doesn’t work that way. Having a mentor is a relationship, it’s like a couple’s relationship – there are two people building a relationship, it takes time and effort, it’s not a one-time meeting and advice. That’s why we believe more women can use OneUpOneDown as an instrument to build more meaningful relationships.