Mentors. Much has been written on mentoring. Heck, I think even Ryan did a blog post already on mentoring. But Robin had his Batman. Harry Potter had his Hagrid. Frodo had his Gandalf. Luke had his Obi-Wan.
I recently attended a conference (2012 WACUHO ANNUAL CONFERENCE AND EXHIBITION) and had the pleasure of attending a panel of Chief Housing Officers (CHOs) talking about careers, what we “mid level” managers needed to know, etc. It was like being a brand new super hero (think Booster Gold or Blue Beatle) listening to a panel consisting of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern, etc. You get the idea. One CHO talked about mentoring. He talked about there being a difference between a mentor, and “someone you look up to.” He went on to say he hears lots of younger professionals talking about mentors when in reality they were people that “they looked up to.” His idea of a mentor involved an INTENTIONAL relationship. This made my heart skip a beat. I was thrilled to consider that someone more seasoned as I would be WILLING to have an INTENTIONAL relationship with someone to advance the field. To raise the next generation of leaders.
To put it in geek terms, there is a difference in relationship between Robin’s relationship with Batman and the other Justice League members relationship to say, Superman. Many people “look up” to Superman but Superman didn’t always develop intentional relationships to build up the next generation of leaders. In fact, when I read and watch the Justice League, it was a weakness of the team in that there was no one to take over for the leaders of the League. Maybe they thought they’d live forever and there wasn’t a need.
But Batman was different. He took on the challenge of building up others. Even if it was begrudgingly, he had Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, etc. Batman, though a loner, had younger heroes to mentor. And Batman didn’t usually seek them out. Those mentioned often sought Batman out (with some exceptions). Pursued him even. They didn’t just look up to Batman – they desired Batman to build into their lives.
So the question for you, reslife geek – who are the mentors in your life? Who are the people you look up to? Have you even pursued mentors? Or are you ok just watching from afar? Have you ever asked someone to be your mentor? What would that look like? I know for a long time I waited for seasoned professionals to pull me aside and take me under their wing. I felt rejected for a while because I wondered why they wouldn’t. Until someone explained to me – how egotistical it would be for someone to say – hey – do you want me to mentor you? Yeah. I hadn’t considered that. It changed my paradigm. Robin pursued Batman and asked him to train him. Batman, after Dick Grayson resisted. But they continued to pursue. They knew that Batman had something to offer them. So don’t wait for someone to come and mentor you. Pick one person in your life who you respect and ask them if they would have an intentional relationship with you, and the goal being developing you as a professional and leader. Don’t just “look up” to those who have gone before you. Pursue them. They’ll push you beyond what you thought was possible. They’ll speak truth into your life, challenging you in the areas you need it, and cheering you on towards success.