Reimagine Mentorship: Each One Teach One

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Priceless. The value of encouragement and support, inspiration, insight, and even perhaps a swift kick in the pants.

If you ask any successful entrepreneur or leader about their journey, undoubtedly they’ll reference a mentor, a coach, a teacher, or a community that helped nurture these seeds of success. Even the earliest of leaders, into ancient Greece and beyond, all had mentors; people to guide and provide insights.

But with the convenience of  technology does authentic mentoring still exist? Have we emerged as a society of folks who know it all. My twitter feed and inbox are always full of sales pitches that promise more income, more impact, more likes. Instead of innovating new approaches, taking risks, and embracing in these trial/error experiences that, in my opinion, are essential for credibility and longevity we seek out a quick fix or $200 that ‘solves everything.’ Maybe we’ve not come to realize this yet, but what we are doing is replacing the strengths of community and personal relationships with mere service.

Reimagine the Mentor-Mentoree Relationship

Maybe the word ‘mentor’ seems a bit boxed in for you- as it does for me. Formal and in some way ‘all knowing.’  That’s far from the case- it’s been my experience that there is a fine line between mentor & mentoree. I believe we each have some unique experience to share. I approach this whole concept and idea as a sort of career collaboration, focusing more on sharing perspective and experience and less on “giving advice.” You are at times the mentor and others the mentoree- sometimes within in the very same conversation. Great mentors deliver actionable perspective and serve as catalysts to help others discover the next and best steps for themselves. I touched on this a bit last year when I published The Competiton of Creative Business. These valuable relationships are forged, where both mentor and mentoree share and celebrate lifetimes of experience and achievement.

Let’s revisit the idea of mentorship as a way rebuild our economy and local communities, and adopt an “each one teach one” mind set. You don’t have to know all the answers, but rather willing to share what you know.

I would love to continue this conversation in the comments below, tell me where have you found a mentor- and how has that changed your outlook on business or life?

26 comments

  1. I love this so much, Jenelle. It’s such a reflection of your own generosity with your experience and knowledge. It’s about learning from those who have gone before, as well as stepping up into your own power to acknowledge and be proud of what you have to share with others at the same time.
    There was an element of this that I hope came across at Spark Retreat last year – about learning and sharing all at once. The idea of each of us as mentors has actually been big in my mind recently, and is infusing everything I think about right now. Thank you.
    Tania xo

  2. Love In Everything says:

    I love it! There are so many moments in my life that I wish I had a mentor, someone to help guide and teach me, or even just listen and share with. Community is such a valuable part of life and learning.

  3. Bee Eastman says:

    Mentoring to me is an important piece of the puzzle of becoming an entrepreneur. You always have self doubt and having that one special person to validate what you are doing and critiquing your ideas is huge. I have been lucky to find that one person who believed in me; became my cheerleader and along the way, my friend. She helped me turn my life around and I am forever grateful.
    ISA this one is for you. ♥

  4. Jenn Romero says:

    I feel mentoring comes in so many forms- intentional and unintentional, with friends and strangers. To me, a mentorship isn’t something that is a weekly/monthly/scheduled thing, but an interaction that brings insight, gets you moving or challenges your thinking- maybe it is focused and deep or maybe just one instance. There are some pieces of wisdom that I return to again and again. By decentralizing mentorship we can all be mentors and mentees. We all have experiences that may be useful to another’s journey. Love this Jenelle!

    I am reminded of an instance I was sketching outside at a cafe. Someone riding a bike rode up and said “In 1970 Alexandr Solzhenitsyn quoted Dostoevsky ,’ Beauty will save the world!’ Keep it up, keep going.” Drive by wisdom perfect for that moment! I will never forget it.

    Curious about the speech it was quoted in? I had to look it up. Very interesting!>> http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1970/solzhenitsyn-lecture.html

    • Ahh Jenn, I am so glad that this post struck a cord with you. The whole idea is that there doesn’t need to be this hierarchy, corporate world or not- it is our human desire to be recognized/heard and included. If we strip ourselves from these titles we’re left with the genuine connection. I wonder how many people go through their days void of that? How many opportunities are ignored to learn and to share?

      Drive by wisdom, encouragement, and a reminder to always keep going. Love love love that! Thank you for sharing.

  5. I really believe that just exchanging ideas is one of the best ways for me to open up to new opportunities and I do have a couple friends whom I can talk to and help them too, when I can. One of them is my acupuncturist, and although her business is totally different to mine, we go through very similar struggles and doubts. We take long walks together and talk about all kinds of things and it’s always very soothing for the soul.

    But other times (as of right now) I would really appreciate a person with relevant experience who don’t make me feel like she’s trying to sell me a “one size fits all for only $…” kind of advice. I guess I should start visualizing that person will appear when I’m ready for it…

    • Creative & smart brains are great aren’t they?! Those exchanges are always so invigorating and inspiring plus it’s always reassuring to know you’re not alone when it comes to struggles and self doubt. (We all have them- no matter the type of business, or amount of experience!)

      Please feel free to email me (contact at trashn2tees.com) or let us know here in the comments what type of help you need, advice, insight you’re struggling to find. We’ll do our best to help you get the extra support you need Soledad!

  6. Gabrielle says:

    This post really resonated with me, I think the mentor/mentoree exchange happens all the time, without us even realising it sometimes. I find it really important to have a couple of people I can ask for honest opinions and advice, they’ve been invaluable in the development of my business. And in turn I’m inspired to help others. I love talking through other creative business’ challenges and ideas, i find it really invigorating and inspiring to think about someone else’s creative business rather than my own! I’d really like to help more people starting out with their creative business (I dream of writing a whole ebook on it!) but I feel like I have to reach a certain point where others will deem me a ‘success’ or at least successful enough to be worth listening to. I’m not sure where that point is but I’m hoping I’ll know it when I see it!

    • I do agree with you the mentor/mentoree exchanges happen all the time, and in various forms. Do you tend to seek out these types of relationships? I posed the question earlier this week while writing- is a mentor & a role model two different things?

      While many of my own mentorish-folk happen to waltz into my life wearing blue high heeled shoes, a few of them I actually sought out. I keep a list of people whom I admire their skills, style, work, etc. sort of like a “People I’d like to work with Bucket List” I’ve had really great experiences reaching out to these ‘role models’ and developing ongoing relationships (mentoring included)

      One last thing Gabrielle- how do you define successful, are you aiming for one pivotal event to say, “hot damn, I can write an ebook now ladies!” If so what is it? And how can we help get you there?!

      • Gabrielle says:

        My instant reaction is that a mentor is someone I can communicate with while a role model is someone I admire from a distance. I haven’t purposely gone looking for mentors, or people to mentor, it seems to grow from getting to know them on twitter or through their blog. I think I will define I’m successful enough to write an ebook that people might think worth reading when I reach a certain level of turnover each year (I design and produce stationery), when I have a certain number of retailers stocking my products, maybe when people actually seek me out to ask advice. I’m not sure, I think it’s about being successful in others’ eyes as well as my own, if they don’t think I’m a success by their own measurements, they’re not going to listen…

        • Maybe another post for another day… trying to understand why we’re not looking to turn role models into mentors?

          I admire your courage to share your thoughts, and desire to provide new business owners with inspiration and valuable insight. While ‘success’ does lend credibility here are a few other ways you can earn it http://ohmyhandmade.com/2012/contributors/why-you-need-street-cred-21-ways-to-earn-it/
          Writing an ebook is actually on the list- I urge you to start writing today: you have wisdom and ideas that deserve to be heard and you can always include revisions and new additions as your business continues to grow and thrive!

          • I love this whole conversation! Gabrielle don’t wait until you have achieved an arbitrary level of success to write your thoughts! You have knowledge right now to share! I prefer to read books and writing by people who are just feeling their way along instead of people who have everything all figured out. I think the more we embrace our own skills and share them freely the more skills we acquire-it is a perfect circle of learning! When I look back on my first ebook I want to head in and re-do EVERYTHING but then I remind myself that it is a snapshot of where I have grown from & it inspires me to do it better the next time:) I just wanted to chime in and echo Jenelle-start writing today!

  7. Great and timely post Jenelle. I love your message. So much guidance comes with a price tag these days. I love helping others and am happy if I can pave a way for them that I learned by walking. And of course the teacher always gets taught too. I love the exchange of information. I have a 90-year-young friend (an artist) who wanted to set up a twitter account and in exchange shared some drawing ideas with me. Love that! Still, I would love someone wise who looked at me and said “I see something really unique in you…let me help you.” I am looking…

    I was so happy to find you Jenelle. I know I can always call you and bounce an idea off of you. Priceless. Just like this community! xo

      • I so agree loves, mentorship seems to be styled as coaching or private programs more and more lately. I’ve been asked a million times why I don’t coach creatives since I offer time, advice, and mentorship for free all the time. For me making that relationship one about money instead of exchange of ideas feels all kinds of wrong. I would rather give it away then make it a job! The funny thing is that giving mentorship without looking for reciprocity always leads to getting more in return then you could have possibly imagined. Colleen I see something unique in you and am always here to help-but like Veda Hille one of my favourite musicians wrote: “god knows that my mouth holds more teeth than wisdom” 😉

  8. Lushy Boutique says:

    I personally have never had a mentor. The next best thing for me are blogs like this one that help people with small online businesses. These blogs have really helped me over the years. I always appreciate it when people take the time to share their experiences and what they have learnt in order to help others.

  9. This is a wonderful post Jenelle. It’s so true that the more you give away, the more you get – building the community at story of mum has given me as much, if not more, than the community gets from me – that shared searching is such a wonderful opportunity for individual growth.

    I haven’t forgotten about the big DIY mama retreats idea (and I’m sure I’ll ask you to mentor me on that at some point!), it stems so exactly from what you are talking about – bringing people together to learn from each other. I think of it more as peer learning than mentoring, an opportunity for us all to learn from each other as equals, experts in our own lives. And as we see our own expertise and knowledge help others, that enriches us in turn. (But I think this is kind of what you’re talking about with mentoring here?)

    Online, I’ve been blessed with support from communities like this, from you and Jessika, and from wonderful women like Ellen Elwell, just helping me grow for the love of it. Recently, I’ve found myself looking for ways to reach out more in my own ‘real life’ community as well as online. I held a hand out to a young woman doing a job I used to do a few weeks ago, because I know the stresses well. It hasn’t taken very much of my time at all, but I know that just being heard and seen makes such a positive difference when you’re striving on your own. Jenelle, you rock.

    • Pippa, you’re always such a delight. I’m so glad you’re here!! The community that has been built around Story of Mum is spot on to what’s been echoed here in my post, but even more so in the comments. I love that you’re pushing past that comfort zone and getting involved in the community- with the art exhibition but also lending a hand to that young woman.

  10. I AM THE LAB says:

    Love this post. The truth is that real mentors are on a journey themselves. Hence, it’s not about being an expert, it’s about being open to share how you got that one or five steps ahead of me.

    The most empathetic mentors are those who understand that the road is open ahead of both of us. What I want in a mentor is a person who turns around and tells me the truth about the next few steps in my creative journey: There will be tests, trials and temptations. There will also be great successes and massive triumphs. I am willing to show you how to navigate and survive the struggles and I am here to celebrate your successes.

    I love your thought on not letting mentoring become a synonym for service. A car repairman performs a service, there is no real love for you there. A mentor performs a continuous stream of kind acts that foster growth and inspire courage. If we can’t find one person to fill that role for us, a community of givers can do the same. That’s why the OMHG community is so valuable: it’s more than ‘each one teach one’, it’s ‘we all teach all’.

  11. Jennifer Lachman says:

    My first thought was that I have only had one mentor in my life. An older woman in my community who was very willing to help me take my sewing to the next level. She taught me to tie my thread tails together, anchor my buttons and all of the little details that make the difference between good sewing and couture. But then I realized that I wasn’t just born knowing how to sew. I read blogs and followed tutorials, and still do. There are a lot of “pay for this sewing classes” out there that I have never taken, but I have gotten the same benefits for free, from the huge online sewing community. I guess you could say that I have had a hundreds of mentors.

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