Sometimes the Best Mentors Don’t Say A Thing

When I was in high school, I ran a program called Life Skills. It was an elective program where Seniors guided Freshman, communicating the ins and outs of adolescence every week in a scheduled class.

I now realize this was a foreshadowing of my current calling. But looking back, I know that what I really wanted, above all else, was to be guided myself. I was lost, confused and shut down. What was I doing in a mentoring role?

Turns out, I was learning.

The thing about mentoring is the mentor learns as much as the mentee. It’s never a one way street. I have accumulated mentors since high school. And each experience offers its unique gifts, but what I have found, underneath, is that great mentorship consists of deep listening. On both ends.

My best mentors have been those who listened deeply, who tried to understand the meaning behind my words, to aid my self-discovery and self-actualization. They were less interested that I follow their path and far more adamant that I followed my own.

And the more they listened, the more I trusted their advisement, sought it out.

Mentorship is not apprenticeship. It’s not about mastering a skill or learning a trade, though that can play a role. It’s far more about connection, about being heard and seen and championed. None of my mentors have been astrologers or meditation guides. But they have been out-of-the-box thinkers and doers, those who have forged their own path, who have lived lives of self-advocacy. And that’s what I took away.

According to Mentoring.org, at-risk young adults who are mentored are 130% more likely to hold leadership positions. And a recent article in Forbes, highlighted a study from Sun Microsystems that concluded that “employees who received mentoring were promoted FIVE times more often than people who didn’t have mentors” and “mentors were SIX times more likely to have been promoted to a bigger job.”

I’m not surprised by this. Leadership requires confidence. And if we have an emotional epidemic in this country, it’s unworthiness. Sometimes we need someone to believe in us until we can do it for ourselves. And sometimes we need only to spend our time upholding and supporting another to realize how much we have to offer.

As a mentor, I focus on the individual’s talents and gifts. It’s my role to help foster them, whatever they are. And they may be buried, unrealized or only hinted at. But every single person possesses something unique to them. Are they great with people, excellent at dissecting why and how something functions, or a great organizer? Are they go-getters or more flexible and passive in their approach? If astrology has taught me anything, it’s that there are a million roads to roam. It’s not my job to rate the path, it’s my job to illuminate it.

In other words, I listen and I learn.

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