Why Mentorship is Dangerous

I’ve been thinking of this concept of mentorship. Through my young adult and professional life I have always been encouraged to seek out a mentor. And we seem to read about it a lot in career advice columns, blog posts, self-improvement literature, etc. And yes, I have had a handful of more wise, experienced individuals guide me through challenging and uncertain times, both men and women. Not sure I would call them mentors though.

Here’s the observation that I’ve made. It becomes dangerous when the mentor is treated as a hero. Then the mentorship experience becomes hero worship. This creates limitations on your self development. You fail to develop to your fullest potential because you become so focused on BEING your mentor. Do you really want to be a second-rate copy of your Mentor or a first-rate you? So here lies another meaning of “bcc”: do you want to become a Blind Carbon Copy?

Here’s a simplified analogy regarding the above. Steve Jobs died this past year in case you didn’t hear. He is probably the first person associated with that brand called Apple. There was a lot of attention focused on him after he died. Lots of people were sad. There were a lot of tributes written about him. He was worshipped and he continues to be worshipped. He has been deified.  So the question I’ve heard is “Who is the next Steve Jobs?” And it continues with “Who is the next Mark Zuckerberg?” Or “Who is the next Arianna Huffington?” Or “Who is the next Angela Merkl?” Or “Who is the next Margaret Thatcher?” (Huh? That was a curve ball, right?) Yes, I look forward to watching Meryl Streep portray the Reagan era politician in “The Iron Lady” which is coming soon to a theater near you. These questions are silly. Seeking out “The Next” whatever creates limitations and ceilings on inventing something different that can change the world in even a greater capacity. Sure, the aforementioned people have made a major impact on the world but that does not mean that they represent the absolute potential. Mentorship and learning from great leaders has value but be careful not to diminish your own ability to do amazing things. Do something different.

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How the World’s Most Powerful Blogger Masters Fear

Sometimes this is what I do on Friday afternoon before an evening out. I seek to entertain and educate myself by checking out YouTube. I had a recent discussion with a date about Arianna Huffington and why she is such a Big Deal in the media and blogosphere. So I decided to find out what Search results YouTube (Google) would produce for “Arianna Huffington”, the woman who has been called the “World’s Most Powerful Blogger.” And I found this piece from 2007 uploaded by GoogleTalks where a very pregnant Sheryl Sandberg then of Google, now the COO of Facebook interviews the New Media titan.

Aside from her explanation of how she transformed from a Conservative to a Liberal what I found interesting was Ms. Huffington’s insight about the concept of fear. Women and men handle the feeling of fear differently. Nothing too earth shattering there. But what kinds of things are women fearful of? Ms. Huffington illustrates her point with the concept of the “Evil Roommate” which lives in our brain and tells us mean or undermining things. The Evil Roommate exists in the minds of both men and women. But here again lies the difference. For example, women wake up in the morning and the Evil Roommate may whisper something like this to them, “Look in the mirror, is that another wrinkle?” or “Those jeans are tighter on you because you threw them in the dryer, right?” She goes on to posit that it’s not about the absence of fear which will move us forward, but of mastering it. I think this thought approach applies to human beings in general. Both men and women have different perceptions of what may cripple them mentally and/or emotionally but  perhaps it’s a matter of first identifying the nature of the fear and why it’s given permission to exist in our minds.

Ms. Huffington is an interesting personality to listen to. Her thoughts about the perception of the “outspoken woman” and what needs to change to move women forward are not revolutionary but she speaks to the themes of human dignity and the democratization of the Voice. Human beings feel valued when they have a Voice that is acknowledged and heard. So regardless of whether you agree or disagree with her political views or maybe just don’t like her, in the big picture she reminds us about the beauty and power of the blogosphere to deliver Truth from ordinary people. The emergence of New Media has granted a voice to ordinary people who can blog about things that matter to them up to a potentially institution-changing and revolutionary way.  I do understand that a double-edged sword exists where any non-Truth can also be broadcast by an ordinary person with evil intentions to destroy the World.  But the global activism that this form of communication  has spawned just in 2011 also amplifies the new era of individual self-fulfillment and attempting to “do good” in the world. So the next time the Evil Roommate rears itself, press the mute button. That Voice does not earn the right to be heard.

You can follow Arianna Huffington @ariannahuff and her Internet Newspaper the Huffington Post @HuffingtonPost