The Mentor Myth: A book review by Bob Morris

Posted on: April 15th, 2016 by bobmorris

Mentor MythThe Mentor Myth: How to Take Control of Your Own Success
Debby Carreau
Bibliomotion Media (April 2016)

Who’s your best mentor? That would be you IF you are determined to become the best you that you can be

Oscar Wilde once advised, “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” I presume to suggest that you commit to becoming the best you that you can be by improving every day. Try, stumble, fall, fail, get back up and try again. You have two eyes and two ears, only one mouth. Observe and listen at least 80% of the time. Be your own best friend. Ask yourself the questions you really don’t want to answer. In order to improve, challenge yourself to do what you really don’t want to do…and do it better than anyone else can. Finally, do all you can to help others to become the best person they can be.

To what does the title of Debby Carreau’s book refer? The answer consists of three parts: First, “mentorship is not a silver bullet that will magically eradicate systemic inequities.” Having Jeff Gordon drive a vehicle cannot repair an engine and transmission that repeatedly break down and need to be replaced. Next, “mentors are over utilized and undertrained, and they underdeliver.” As often as not, their advice is either insufficient or wrong. Finally, “you are in control of your success.” Stop looking for easy solutions to difficult problems and simple answers to complicated questions. Take ownership of your decisions and, especially, of their consequences.

These are among the passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Carreau’s coverage:

o The Career Exploration Tool (Pages 4-6)
o Figure 1.1: Three-Part Example of a Career Exploration Tool (12-13)
o The Key to Great Planning: Expect Everything to Change (15-18)
o Seven Tips for a Great Résumé (18-20)
o Your Education Does Not End with Graduation (30-32)
o Cluttered Life: Three Solutions (41-45 and 60-62)
o The Eight “Time” Categories (45-46)
o Managing Your Personal Life (52-55)
o Managing Personal Brand Is Not: An Elevator Pitch (68-71)
o The Four Cs You Need to Become a Peak Performer (86-103)
o What Mentors Can and Cannot Do for You (107-109)
o Working with Your Mentor (109-113)
o Rejecting the Bare Minimum (127-132)
o Finishing Projects Right (134-136)
o Choosing High-Profile Projects and Roles (148-150)
o Why Failure Is Important (166-170)
o How to Prepare for Failure (168-170)

In my opinion, the information, insights, and counsel that Carreu provides will be of greatest value to women, minorities, those who are preparing for a career, those who have only recently embarked on a career, and those who feel that their career is stalled, in the ditch, off the rails, etc. There is one other category to include: those who are mentors now or who aspire to become one. In a perfect world, all supervisors are effective mentors to those for whom they are directly responsible. In fact, few are. In that same perfect world, others who give advice — especially when an important decision must be made — are well-qualified it do so. In fact, many are not.

Both those who mentor and those whom they advise must keep the three-part myth in mind. Ensure that by reading this book, highlighting key passages, and then re-reading it or at least the passages every 9-12 months.

These are among Debby Carreu’s concluding comments: “In your journey, make sure to keep looking for your genius [i.e. unique strength]. You have the potential to do something amazing — change the world, break the glass ceiling in your industry, or live a life aligned with your values, spending time on whatever you really care about. This genius doesn’t rest with a mentor of anyone else; it is your job to find it and use it to make the most of your career” and of your life.

I presume to add that almost all limits are self-imposed. Pogo the possum observes, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” That is often true but by no means a permanent state. Long ago, Eleanor Roosevelt suggested, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” So, forget about the Lone Ranger and any silver bullets. Also the Tooth Fairy. Throw away your own crutches and take ownership of yourself in months and years to come. Here’s excellent advice from Helen Keller: “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”

TAGs: The Mentor Myth: How to Take Control of Your Own Success, Debby Carreau, Bibliomotion Media, Who’s your best mentor?, Oscar Wilde, “Be yourself [period] Everyone else is taken”, Jeff Gordon, Pogo the possum, “We have met the enemy and he is”, Eleanor Roosevelt, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” Lone Ranger, Tooth Fairy, Helen Keller, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing”

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