It has become all too common for me. Often times, when talking with a peer about mentoring, our exchange goes something like this:
I mentored today.
Oh, wow I’ve always wanted to be a mentor but I don’t think I can.
Why not? There are several opportunities that you can explore.
Well, I [insert excuse]…..
It’s apparent each one of my peers believes in the extensive academic, social, and economic benefits associated with mentoring and has an interest in becoming a mentor. What holds them back is thinking one has to exhibit “perfection” when mentoring. I had those same fears, but mentoring has presented opportunities and rewards beyond my expectations.
Elissa and I were matched in February of this year. We connected instantly through a common interest in sports, particularly basketball. The year before, I was part of a youth basketball program, while Elissa commutes several hours every day to attend practices and volunteer for her community basketball team.
Recently, Elissa, and I received the rare opportunity through NBA Cares and MENTOR to participate in the 2017 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot — an annual one-day event that brings together the newest draft picks in the league.
It occurred to me while I watched Elissa make shot after shot in a game of HORSE with several of the rookies that everywhere you went, you saw smiles, laughter and players joking around with each other. All their hard work, sacrifices, and dedication had paid off and they could just be themselves.
The importance of this seemingly simple trait reminded me of my experience during Apex’s Year End Interview, which concluded with the question of whether we would like to continue our mentoring relationship for Elissa’s sophomore year of high school. Unbeknownst to her at the time, I was nervous to answer that question. The following year would be a time when preparing for college would be a focus for Elissa and that scared me. I didn’t know much about the college process nor did I consider my own process to be conventional or advisable.
Before I had time to explain my fears, the question was posed to Elissa, “What was your favorite moment with Diana and why?”
Without hesitation, she described our quick, 30-minute lunch one Saturday afternoon. That shocked me. It wasn’t the longer, fun group events we did, nor when I helped her with school work and gave all “perfect” and “correct” advice. Her favorite moment was when we simply sat down and talked and listened to one another.
At that moment, it became clear I was viewing it all wrong. Mentoring isn’t necessarily the same as teaching where definitive answers are given. A mentor is able to provide a meaningful connection and show support and guidance by simply showing up and being there. No one’s perfect and a mentee shouldn’t have to think he or she needs to be either.
Don’t let the fear of time and “being imperfect” hold you back from being a mentor. Go ahead and take that shot. Sign up and mentor today.