How to Become Your Own Mentor
The art of picking up wisdom from many different places.
As creative entrepreneurs, we are always relying on inspiration. It’s what drives us forward to make new art and express ourselves in a financially viable way. However, this expression usually needs some guidance to succeed. You can have the best idea in the world, but it won’t matter if you lack the knowledge of executing it. For this, we are dependent on those who came before us, those who cultivated their own knowledge through experience: mentors.
Unfortunately, not all of us will have the privilege of directly studying under a capable mentor. Many young creative entrepreneurs will have to forge their own way, likely making their own mistakes and learning from them. That doesn’t mean that you have to go at it without any help whatsoever, nor that you can’t move intelligently on your own. And once you have become successful, you will have the option of becoming the mentor you may never have had for others.
Piece together wisdom
Although you may not have a person who has taken on the specific role of a mentor in your life, there are almost certainly influential people who can help guide you. These people could come in the form of college professors, your peers in a field, or even relatives. Remember: just because someone doesn’t do the same work as you doesn't mean that they don’t have valuable insight to offer you. Keep an open mind. When you inevitably run into someone who has earned their spurs as a successful entrepreneur, creative, business person, etc., take some time to ask them a few questions. There’s a decent chance that they’ll be flattered by your attention and might offer you a few tips. Some of this advice they’ll have acquired on their own, and some might have been passed down to them. Stack up enough of these tips and you will have enough wisdom to become your own fully-fledged mentor.
Becoming your own mentor
The most important aspect of having or being a mentor is cultivating wisdom from experience. To mentor yourself, you’ll need plenty of experience, and that means taking risks. This can be especially challenging for individuals who haven’t had someone show them exactly how to do what they do. For a new entrepreneur, this is a scary but exciting time.
When you put yourself out there, be aware. When you succeed, try to assess exactly why you could be successful in a given venture. What about your actions created a positive effect? Likewise, when you fail, you have to break it down, as painful as that might be. What happened that caused a collapse? This awareness of yourself is incredibly crucial to building up wisdom for yourself and others.
Remember that, in all likelihood, you did not reinvent the wheel. As an entrepreneur/creative, you are a part of an ever-expanding network of wins and losses that have been cycling long before you came onto your scene. Humility is an invaluable trait for any entrepreneur/creative, be careful not to fly too close to the sun. This is not to say that you shouldn’t believe in yourself, far from it. Confidence is not the direct opposite of humility, and building up both simultaneously is a careful balancing act. A failure does not mean that your journey is over, but a win does not mean that you’ve beaten the game. It’s all a part of the process.
Passing the Torch
If you continue to succeed, you will eventually find yourself in a position where others rely on you for their livelihoods and inspiration. This is a great privilege, which is all too often taken for granted. Of course, not all of your peers/employees will hold you in equally high regard, but that’s nothing to take personally. Not everyone marches to the beat of the same drum, and that’s fine. Still, if you become successful, there will be people who will look up to you and want access to the wisdom you’ve accrued.
Be selective with the people you share your knowledge with and cultivate the ones you do. They will be the next links in the chain of your field. Aside from any philosophical reasons for passing down what you’ve learned, it can also directly benefit you personally mentoring your workers. No one can do everything alone, so it will be enormously helpful to you to take the time to impart some of the skills that you have so painstakingly acquired throughout your journey to others. You might even pick out a small handful of candidates through this process to succeed you if you get far enough with your enterprise. A well-developed legacy is the greatest thing a mentor can leave behind.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor