How to be the mentor you'd like to meet

This is just the start

Dear friends,

This is a short one, and it is one I feel incredibly passionate about: mentorship. It probably is worth dedicating an entire series for but I’d like to start small. Consider this an early stage version of an idea.

A year’s worth of notes about being a good mentor:

  1. Don’t try so hard to be smart. Ditch the jargons, and you’ll eliminate BS in a second.

  2. Learn to listen and shut up. This is not about you. This is about the person you are mentoring. Don Draper once said, “People tell you who they are, but we ignore it because we want them to be who we want them to be.” While he may not be the most ideal mentor, he still gave out valuable quotes and lessons for the luckiest viewers alive. He was a flawed character (who isn’t) but there’s no doubt he really did paid attention to what makes people tick, what sets them apart, what makes them inherently human. Master that curiosity and you’ll mentor the world. 

  3. Be a voracious reader on relevant subjects. Trust me, your future self, colleagues and dinner mates would thank you.

  4. Strive for a stronger EQ. It’ll make you a lot more rational, and resilient.

  5. Be a learner yourself. Have some skin in the game, and never be to big to still do some of the dirty work yourself. This will not only increase your empathy towards your mentees, it also might just make you a lot more self-aware of your personal weaknesses. In case no-one told you, that is not a bad thing. 

  6. Train yourself to be relentlessly optimistic. Optimism is contagious. It’s powerful, and timeless. It’s hard to convince someone to improve their work if neither one of you looks forward to the possibilities of it, to the future where it exists, to what that person is capable of doing even in the midst of a crisis. Anyone can be a skeptic. It takes courage and resilience to not be. 

  7. Pick up mental models of folks who’ve done it and iterate to what works for you. Some books/blogs for that: Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss, What to do when it’s your turn (and it’s always your turn) by Seth Godin, or his entire blog if you want a primer, Essays by Paul Graham, Jony Ive biography by Leander Kahney, Damn Good Advice (for people with talent) by George Lois. Loads of resources out there for your curiosity. This is simple, and there’s no rule for how to do this right other than to just go out there and absorb knowledge. It’s the one thing you have a complete control over. Why is this specific piece important? See #8

  8. Accept that you’ll fall short, and that’s ok. The biggest difference is when and where you can use your flaws to your advantage, and how can you train yourself to make informed decisions when shit hits the fan? Learn from folks who’ve done it. (or at least had some resemblance to what you’re currently facing). Your mentees would probably respect you more if you have the humility to do this.

  9. Write often and encourage your mentees to do the same.

  10. Just be human. And have some compassion for what people are going through. That’s it.

That’s it. I’ll expand more on the subject over the coming emails. There’s a lot to address here and I want to make sure it is all worth your time.

Best thing I’ve read today:

If you are just out to make money, god bless: I hope you make some money. If you just want awards or recognition or for others to think highly of you, I hope you get that too. But I don’t think anyone is really satisfied by fame or fortune. I find it incredibly satisfying (and gratifying, rewarding and pleasant) to honestly have done the best job I could have done on something and I believe that works for everyone else too. Being skillful and exercising your mastery is what you’re here to do. Doing anything less undermines the whole point of being alive.

from Rules of Business by Stewart Butterfield, Slack CEO

Be well, and safe!

Your friend,

Nikki Espartinez