Mentorship Myth

I was in the mall yesterday and a viewer recognized me and approached to ask for help.  Their ask was for my mentorship.  They think by being taken under my wing this will somehow lead to their success, and as many times before I had to disabuse someone of this notion.  Mentorship has become a buzzword infused with magic that has the promise of success.  If you can find someone to mentor you then you’re as good as there.  This isn’t how mentorship works…

I can count the sum total of hours I have spent with my own mentors on the digits of my hands and toes. Out of 23 years as an adult I have spent well under 20 hours actually being mentored.  Don’t mix the vocabulary.  I have spent years of my life in training and education, but mentorship is it’s own thing.  Mentorship is when someone significantly ahead of you in the game of life decides to take some time to learn about you, and then give their viewpoint. Aldopho is probably the single most influential person in my life, and yet I feel like saying that we spent 3 hours talking would be a gross over statement.  We met, I sked for advice, he gave it, and that was that.

I try to pound into people’s heads that the “idea” is only valuable if you put work behind it.  Every hour of good ideas you are given will require a year of trying to put those ideas into action.  Adolpho was the one to tell me to print flyers and bang on the doors of businesses. What I needed to hear was that this was an acceptable thing to do, once I realized it was possible it was up to me to spend the next few years doing it.  He was the one to tell me to tell the client that you alway know the solution even if you don’t.  Why worry the client?  You WILL fix the problem, so just smile and tell the client it’s under control.  Then work your ass of trying to figure out what the hell’s going on! He gave me three or four lessons.  That’s it.

Other mentors have come and gone over the span of a cup of coffee.  Business, success, and even technology really are not that complicated.  You just need to adjust your perspective.  When you see the problem from the right direction things just fall into place.  People don’t need to hold your hand, you’re the one that just needs to grind though to put their words to action and then see how it works for you.

The person I met yesterday lives deep in the Baltimore ghettos without a car.  He needs mentorship so that he can find a way out… is what he thinks.  What he really needs is to start walking.  Baltimore is full of Tech Meetups. From Canton, to Federal Hill, to Sparrows Point, and the Station North Arts District there’s generally a couple of tech meetups every week.  Baltimore City is a relatively small city at around 6 miles by 6 miles.  From where this person lives there are a huge number of tech events within a 3 mile walk.  So an hour of a commute each way walking.  I know it’s not fun.  I’m sure as hell glad I don’t have to do it anymore, but… but… it’s absolutely doable.  So that’s my great mentorship to him.  Go to every Tech Meetup in Baltimore for a year. One sentence is a year of action.  Until he has proven he’s willing to do what needs to be done there’s nothing else I can say.  Until he’s tried to attend meetups, run into problems, and solved the problems he can solve there’s nothing to say.  Until he’s found the next idea or opportunity there’s nothing else I can offer.

People want to dream the big dreams.  They want to wax lyrically over cups of coffee about how amazing they will be once they’ve done something.  Do you think that’s what successful people want to waste their time with?  I’m going to write my posts for today, spend 2 hours at the gym, spend 2 hours doing a YouTube Live Stream, spend another hour or two working on an idea that seems curious, and then wrap up the day by repainting my bathroom.  Can you guess how many craps I give about sitting and dreaming…

Mentorship is invaluable, but as with such things people think it’s something that it’s not.  It’s someone who’s where you want to be taking the time to learn a bit about you.  It’s someone giving the advice that they’d want to hear if they were starting out again.  It’s someone pulling a SINGLE card out of their Rolodex and passing it to you.  Mentorship does not provide transportation, or college money.  Mentorship does not shower you with clients for free.  Mentorship does not show you some imagined cheat code to game your way to success.  Mentorship is just advice… Without your follow through it’s no more valuable than a fortune cookie.

Instead of looking for “Mentorship” I’d recommend you figure out your 5 most pressing questions.  What questions do you need answered in order to move forward.  Then just ask ANYONE who seems like they may be helpful their advice. Most people are willing to give their two cents about something, but have no interest in some type of formal mentorship. When you go to a Meetup and there’s a CEO just ask, “So if you had a kid who wanted to get into tech where would you point them?”, of if you’re talking to a recruiter, “So what skills does you company find valuable, not just that you’re hiring for, but really need?”, or to a business owner, “Are there any tech services you want, but no one is offering?”

You’ll get a lifetimes worth of advice just by asking a few questions when the times are right. Whereas if you’re looking for “Mentorship” you’ll probably fail on a number of fronts.



1 Comment

  1. “Every hour of good ideas you are given will require a year of trying to put those ideas into action.”
    Thank you for that quote and that article in general. I think I had the idea of it, but I was missing the words to express it clearly. This will help me in a realistic planning of future objectives.

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