Why should you have a mentor?

Rita: “ I feel lost in life. I need a mentor.”
Gita: “ Why do you need a mentor for that?
Rita: “ To guide me, of course!
Gita: “Can’t you do it yourself?

Does Rita really need a mentor?

What about you? Are you totally lost in life? Do you need a mentor?

I need a mentor. I need one to criticize me. I need him to tell me I am bad.

I have a lot of people to appreciate the work I do. But I have very few people to tell me that I am bad. I need more of that type of people. They are the ones who help me grow.

The other day when I told my mentor that I plan on writing a book. He did not criticize. He just replied “Okay”. I would have felt happy if he mentioned that it was a bad idea and corrected me.

One thing I fear the most has been said aptly by Randy Pausch, author of  Last Lecture –
When you’re screwing up and nobody says anything to you anymore that means they’ve given up on you…you may not want to hear it but your critics are often the ones telling you they still love you and care about you and want to make you better.

But this feedback need not necessarily be criticism. In the book, ‘Power of the other’, Henry Cloud mentions that for every negative interaction there should be five positive interactions for the relation to be healthy. It is not just about feedback. But it is about constructive feedback. When someone criticizes you, you should be able to take an action from the feedback given.
Mentors are not only there to give you feedback. They exist to help you avoid the mistakes which they have already made. They don’t let you fall into the same pitfalls.
How to get your mentor?
 Get over the myth that mentors have to be people. Mentors need not be people. Even though I was lucky to have a mentor at most of the stages of my life, I did not go approach them. They wanted to mentor me because they saw potential in me. Similarly, when you start putting in efforts, you will notice that people will want to help you. They will want to see you grow. Paulo Coelho tells the same in Alchemist

And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

But if you want to start off with something and have no clue, just approach the person who you want to be your mentor and ask specific questions. Once when I felt stagnant in my company, I approached my new manager and asked me how he grew in the company. He told his story. But he did not stop there. He took it as his responsibility to teach me the intricate things which matter when talking to stakeholders and other things which helped him grow. I just got my mentor by asking about his success.

It is not just people who can be mentors. Books can also be mentors. Most of the times when I read a book, I feel that the book has been written for me exclusively. The timing seems so right. If not for the book, I wouldn’t have got through the difficult phase easily. Even articles do that. Today I was reading an article on how to not make your writing stale. A few days back I felt that I am close to exhausting everything I knew till date. This article gave me solace that I am not alone. And this problem can be fixed.
Even inanimate objects can be mentors. I have written here about the lessons FM radio has taught me.
What you should not expect from mentor? 

Mentor is there only to guide you. Don’t expect him to spoon feed you.

You are the one who is ultimately accountable for what you are doing with your life. You should not put the blame on your mentor for not guiding you all the time.

Happy finding your mentor!

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