What I look for in a mentor

Although I haven’t always been, I am very picky about who I learn from.

After some times of being misled, bamboozled, and relieved of large sums of money, I am extremely discerning about who I let into my heart, let influence my energy, and let care for the well-being of my psyche while they help me transform into the next version of me.

Nowadays, I make my choice fairly quickly whether I will or won’t learn from any particular person. It’s a swift bodily affirmation. But I thought it might be useful to break down what I’m paying attention to, as I make my choices.

May it be useful to you as you make your own.

As my mentor (or teacher, coach, or support), she (or he) must:

1. NOT be looking for followers or devotees.

If she is overtly (or subtly) asking me to leave as aspect of my own truth at the door and put on the garb of groupie, she is the wrong fit for me.

She must be committed to connecting me, reuniting me, and/or marrying me to my own inner knowing to an even greater degree than I have ever known.

2. Feel great to be around.

Even if “being around” only means phone calls, emails, or video conferences but never face to face, you can still sense and feel someone’s energy and true intention.

When I feel more myself around her, when I can think clearer, when I like myself more (really!), when I am articulate, when something deep within me relaxes, when my body opens (rather than gets closed and guarded) to her, and when the world seems bigger and brighter (instead of more of a scary, intense place) around her, these are clues I’m in the presence of a potential mentor.

3. Be freakin’ MASTERFUL at her craft.

I need to know that she has walked the road I am currently walking or wish to walk. I need to know that she has deeply digested her area of expertise, so that it’s part of her very being, pours out of her pores, and flows like honey off her tongue.

This doesn’t mean she has to be pedigreed or lettered. Just masterful.

4. Be real, not perfect.

If she’s busy doing a light-and-mirrors show of pretending she’s got it all together, I can’t sense her true heart.

I need to know she is strong enough to hold me at my most vulnerable, and that she is willing to be vulnerable as a way to help me find my strength. I can fake things on my own just fine, thanks anyway. With her, I need real.

5. Be willing to hold me unflinchingly in love, yet tell it to me straight.

In her gaze, I must feel deeply, profoundly, and lovingly SEEN.

Being held by her in unconditional, unrelenting warm regard regardless of my shortcomings, missteps, or folly is itself a form of grace. Her holding me in that way teaches me to hold myself in that same way.

And her directness lets me know she sees me as capable and powerful, in no need of having things sugar-coated.

6. Be someone I would want to be friends with, even if we never become friends.

7. Be a strong leader, yet not hide behind a facade of “leadership.”

I define a strong leader as someone who is wildly in love with the people she serves or the change she sees is possible in the world. And I feel her love so strongly (of me or of the change I also care about) that I want to hear what she has to say. I want to walk in the direction she’s pointing.

She mustn’t use her strong leadership to create separation between us, but to instead create closeness, intimacy, and inspiration. Adolf Hitler was one kind of strong leader. Nelson Mandela was another kind entirely, as was Rosa Parks, as is Alicia Garza, as is Beyonce. Which of these strong leaders would you prefer to lead YOU?

After being in her presence, I feel more whole, more hopeful, and more joyfully inspired. This is the opposite of feeling pumped-up, dazed, and kind of scared — which is what I mostly feel in the presence of bamboozlers and money-snatchers.

8. Have a reverence for me, for life, and for her work — along with a healthy dose of irreverence, too.

Painful stuff loses a bit of its bite when it is handled with humor. Wisdom often rides in on the back of paradox. Life is a trickster. I prefer a mentor who can crack a joke instead of a whip.

Your turn. I’d love to hear from you.

Come share with us what from above rings the most true to you? Or, what is a non-negotiable for you in a teacher or mentor?

PS: Photo by Wendy K. Yalom Photography