This article received an Honorary Mention in the 2020 Writer’s Digest Awards.
A new client calls. The assignment in question is different from anything I’ve done before and I’m trying to figure out what to quote.
Whom do I call?
But she’s not a writer and she’s never submitted a proposal in her life! Yet, she knows exactly when I’m selling myself short and when a figure is unlikely to fly with a client.
When you think of a mentor, you usually think of someone at the workplace, someone more experienced at what you do and someone who can influence others to engage with you.
My mother does not fit any of these bills. Nevertheless, no matter what the endeavor, Mom has always been my best mentor.
On this Mother’s Day, I stop and ponder on what makes mothers such fantastic mentors and the lessons we can learn to make us so.
Moms Knows Us Best!
Even though mom may not knows the ‘market’ I operate in, she knows me inside out. That’s how she knows in her gut what I am worth and what I can quote.
Objective experience is not always the number one factor in determining your ability to mentor. It’s equally or more important to know your mentee as well as you know the scenario she operates in.
Mentoring Lesson #1:
Subjectivity — how finely tuned you are to the person in question — determines how accurate you are about what’s right for them in any given scenario.
Mom is interested in not just the big things, but also the million little ones that make up a day. If I’m telling someone about a conversation I had, typically I will only share the upshot – because I know that’s all they care about. But with Mom, I can start at the beginning. “I wanted to get in touch with so and so and I was trying to figure out how I would reach them and then I remembered someone who knows them….” And so on. Mom will listen to every little detail. This deep level of patience and care makes mothers treasured mentors.
Today the most successful start-ups are in a position to choose their investors. For sure they would go with someone who cares about more than just the ROI.
Mentoring Lesson #2:
Mentoring requires genuine interest and a deep personal connect
that reaches far beyond the bottom line.
Moms Dream Big — For Us!
Olympic athletes thank their mothers for their achievements, the Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy seeks his mother’s blessings on every birthday, and a celebrated film director, Sanjay Bhansali, breaks tradition and adopts his mother’s name, Leela, as his middle name in gratitude.
Although she’d never been educated out of Mumbai, my mother wanted for me to go to a top US university – with a scholarship. In her way, she dreamt big for me, when I was perhaps too young to do so myself, and that dream changed my life.
Today, as I see friends who are moms struggle with whether they should send their girls or even boys out of the country, I realize what a leap my mother took so many years ago.
Mentoring Lesson #3:
A great mentor brings a greater vision than even you have for yourself.
Moms Don’t Care What You Think Of Them!
Mom will say it like it is – repeatedly! Whether it’s nudging you out of laziness or reminding you of your true potential, moms don’t give up!
Research confirms that a mom’s nagging can be good for us: a study of 15,500 teens conducted by the University of Essex, found that girls were more likely to succeed in life if they had mothers who held them to high expectations!
As adults, we will almost never risk the underlying relationship and point out someone’s mistake. Worse, we hesitate to correct because we get caught up in what people will think of us!
But when moms say the same thing a hundred times, they really couldn’t care less what we think of them- they risk themselves completely!
Mentoring Lesson #4:
A mentor is not concerned with how she appears and
is single-mindedly focused on what’s good for the mentee!
Moms Are Present and Participative!
In March, my friends tell me, “We have exams.” What they’re saying is, we’re not stepping out this month — our kids need us to be at home while they study. And I get it!
Even today, it feels great to have mom hang around the house and just ‘be’ there while I’m working on something. Their presence carries a different security. Even literally — ask the grown-up actresses who will still have their mother accompany them on set.
Moms will sacrifice their pursuits to be around, to work with your schedules and to support your endeavors and never make you feel the pinch.
Mentoring Lesson #5:
A star mentor needs to be present and available when needed – and the mentee decides the need!
Moms Keep You Grounded!
In the real world, success often attracts sycophants and it’s easy to lose you bearing. But mom’s counteract this pull!
Whenever I’d excelled, mom would instantly make sure it didn’t go to my head: “The better you do, the humbler you should be!” was a sentence she repeated so often, it’s ingrained in my head!
Mentoring Lesson #6:
Mentors must maintain the delicate balance of lifting someone up
while keeping them grounded!
Mom’s Keep Inspiring Us!
Last year I took my first online course – and so did my mom! For the first time in life we were classmates, albeit virtual ones!
I was blown away by her enthusiasm for learning, her adaptability to new technology, her sincerity – we studied and gave our exams independently — and her thoroughness – she printed class notes which she handed down to me once we’d both passed!
I couldn’t believe that at 74, she could still be such an awe-inspiring role mode!
Mentoring Lesson #7:
Mentors must stay a step ahead and walk the talk: actions will always inspire more than words!
Dedicated with love to all the wonderful mothers in the world from whom we continue to learn.