Two smiling women, one younger and one older, looking into the camera

I came to a true understanding of mentorship later in life. Sure, I have known the meaning of the word for a long time, but like a lot of significant things, the simple definition of mentorship did not convey the depth of its lived experience. 

My experience with mentorship started three years ago across the expanse of a highly polished mahogany table as I waited to be interviewed for a job that I was quite certain I did not want.

The interviewer’s first statement hung in the air, “Tell me about yourself.” 

I was interviewing for a position at a new company. Both the position and the company were similar to my last job. Therefore, I was wary that everything else would be just as I had left it too. If that was the case, then I did not want the job.

With little personal investment from me, what followed was one of the most candid interviews I’ve ever had. I was offered the position. Although I was surprised to find myself accepting it on the spot, I will always be grateful that I did. I could not have known it then, but the person sitting across from me would become my first true mentor. 

Though my experience with mentorship may be rather new, I have learned so much in a short time. Here are three lessons I learned from my mentor. 

1. Just start.

Simple, right? I am not talking about starting that new Netflix series that your friend was telling you about. (For some reason, we have no trouble starting those.) I am talking about starting that thing you are passionate about and start moving toward becoming the person you were created to be. 

My mentor has taught me that you never “feel” ready. You won’t wake up one day at 30 or 40 years old and suddenly feel like you deserve a seat at the table. However, you can start working to make room for yourself at the table. You might even be surprised to find that you were the only one who needed convincing. 

You won’t wake up one day… and suddenly feel like you deserve a seat at the table. However, you can start working to make room for yourself at the table.

2. On the journey toward your dream, courage and fear coexist. 

To take action toward your deepest desires takes courage. When you are stepping out toward a dream, there will be fear. One cannot exist without the other. There is nothing courageous about facing fears that you do not have. 

When I realized that my mentors, people who embodied everything I wanted to be in life, were not fearless, it was liberating. It taught me that you don’t have to wait until you don’t feel fear to do the things that you want to do. You can start now. With your hands trembling and your voice quavering, you can still start.

You don’t have to wait until you don’t feel fear to do the things that you want to do.

The people living the life that you want are simply people who had the courage to face their fears time and time again and to not let those fears stop them. Although you will never be fearless, your capacity for courage will grow every time that you do, and in its burgeoning shadow, your fear will lessen. 

3. It is good to both give and receive mentorship.

Mentorship means to receive support and advice from someone who has your best interests at heart and someone who only wants to see you do and be better in the world. What a humbling thing that is. As the old adage goes, teaching allows you to truly understand. It also allows you to recognize and honor the time that your mentor has invested in you by sharing your wisdom with others through your unique perspective. 

In the words of Maya Angelou, “When you learn, teach.”

What impact has mentorship had on your life? If you were someone’s mentor, what advice would you give to that person?

Image via Melanie Acevedo, Darling Issue No. 11

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