Why Your Ego Is Blocking You from Getting the Proper Mentorship
Story by Ani Sanyal.
Mentorship. It’s never what you think it will be, always more than you can handle and many times, exactly what you need. But, despite all the upside, why do a lot of us go through life without a proper mentor? If I had to guess, it’s because of our ego.
At this point in my career as a creative and entrepreneur, I’m convinced that much of what I’ve achieved is due to the grace shown to me by certain mentors. Did I have the curiosity, grit and follow through? Sure. But it’s the chances that people took on me that allowed me to level up my experiences, add skills and legitimize myself in the wild west of digital, marketing, and branding.
For context, my mentors are from a variety of industries and backgrounds but have all stemmed from organic situations. I’ve never approached anyone with a “Hey, could you mentor me?”, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t. It’s just not my style. Rather, I focused on asking the right questions and showed that I was hungry enough to justify investing time and energy into.
One of my mentors is a well-respected figure in the music and tech industry. To this day, he will patiently work with me through certain issues I’m having, but will always stop shy of giving me a straight, clear-cut answer. This used to frustrate me, and often I’d question what the point of a mentor was if you had to do all the work yourself anyway. But over time, it dawned on me: It wasn’t always about getting the “right” answer, but more about developing the right processes and conditioning yourself to think differently. And though he’s helped me develop hard skills over time, the most important lessons I learned were on patience and humility. These lessons contributed to my personal growth and crystallization in ways that those simple answers never could.
But these things took me time. Years, if I had to be really honest. Once I really internalized these concepts, the world opened up to me like I hadn’t seen before. My mentor was preparing me for the long haul — for a lifetime of achievement, instead of giving me the quick wins here and there. It’s not about the task, it’s about the journey.
With all the growth I’ve experienced as a result of mentorship, it often makes me wonder why more people don’t actively seek it out. As someone who’s constantly surrounded by founders, C-level executives, accomplished artists, and more, I’m stunned by the number of people who think they can do it all themselves. Despite openly flailing and looking stupid a lot of the time, they are adamant in decision to fly solo.
Does this sound familiar?
To state the obvious: you can’t be mentored unless you’re truly open and ready for it. But what does being “open” even mean? Being receptive to criticism and responsive to feedback might seem like the obvious definition, but it’s way more than that. In order to be truly open, you have to squash your ego to the point of allowing someone to tell you that everything you know might be wrong. You have to be vulnerable. To clarify, being open is different from humility. The openness that is required from a mentee has to be unconditional, and it has to be built for the long term because results are never instantaneous.
But your ego isn’t that easy to conquer. Putting your desire for growth over your desire to be right is the first step. You have to literally strip everything else away, and focus on the end goal. In layman’s terms, prepare to eat sh*t, and if you aren’t the sh*t shoveling type, then tap out before you waste anyone’s time. And don’t expect to happen the growth to happen on the first attempt. It requires multiple iterations, constant attention and the self-awareness to admit when you’ve been bested, or to push back on something you’re confident about. At the age of 25, this was a tremendous task for me, since by that age, I had built up a certain confidence and understanding of what made me successful. But over the coming months and years, I consciously chipped away my ego, prioritizing my need for personal growth and trusting in the process. Now, having made it to the other side, I can’t imagine living with the same approach I had back then.
The mark of a humble individual is someone who is able to seek out guidance, process feedback outside of their ego and build upon the insights to improve in their desired areas. If you’re willing to commit to the process and stomach all the ups and downs, then the right mentor can be a spark plug for your personal and professional growth.