Episode 2 – Mentoring
Learn how one conversation can change the trajectory of your life. Mentoring is sharing what you now with someone you care about. Are your conversations uplifting? Having a genuine desire to listen, learn and grow is where your mentoring journey begins.
Rajesh: Hi, Ravi. I’m excited to have a conversation. Today, what are we talking about, Ravi?
Ravi: Last time was about conversations and maybe today we can talk about a topic that is close to both of us, which is mentoring. That’s the topic, being part of my life for many years, Rajesh, and you know, which is what brought us together in the first place, so let’s talk about that.
Rajesh: Very good. I think what was fascinating to me, Ravi, all the time how I have known you for so many years, but that one story about the student that you helped get into an Ivy League school. Why don’t we start with that story? How you met him, what happened, what kind of mentoring you provided, and what is happening with the student now.
Ravi: I feel that I’ve been fortunate and I think all of us have such opportunities. I was in India talking about igniting youth leadership and I wanted some local students to also talk about what leadership means to them. This was that the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad, India. Soon after I finished my talk, a 16-year-old blind student walked up to me and said, “Sir, I really liked what you said. Can you help me get into MIT because I cannot study science and math in India because I’m blind and I want to prove myself?” That intrigued me. Being in Silicon Valley for so many years, I never had people walk up to me and say things like that with such an audacious goal for their life.
I started to learn more about him and fast forward 4 years, I’ve been able to mentor him through MIT. He got into MIT, finished from Sloan School, and is now running two companies. That experience really taught me that I had something that is stuck in my head that would not have seen the light of day if this person did not come up to me and say, “Can you help me?” Because that’s not my job; helping people get into MIT is not what I do. But we all have the hidden expertise that doesn’t get activated and that gets activated only in a serendipitous interaction like this, which later I found out I’m actually mentoring him, but what I was actually doing was sharing what I know, opening my network, and genuinely caring for his success.
Rajesh: Beautiful story, Ravi. Every time I hear it, I almost have tears in my eyes because it is awesome in so many respects. Because, first of all, normal student, not a blind one but a really good student trying to get into MIT is a tall order for anyone. In that, somebody from India who is a blind student getting into MIT, hats off to both of you.
But let’s look at the lessons learned here. In my opinion, my thinking is, going back to the first conversation about conversations, this was one of those life-changing conversations for both of you. For him, his dream came true and, for you, you realized that you have more power than you think.
Ravi: I remember, from the last conversation, you said a statement from this book called Fierce Conversations – one conversation can change life. It certainly did for my mentee [inaudible 00:03:40], it did for me as well because that was the perfect match of somebody having the desire to learn and prove himself and someone else having the desire to share and learn and be of significance. It was a perfect match and that conversation changed me in the way I look at the world because helping somebody who cannot see, I cannot just say, “Go get 10 copies of this,” I have to think. It’s taught me, really, the power of sight and vision, which I also blogged about. There are many blind people walking around on the planet who have sight but no vision and here is a person who taught me that sight and vision are two different things.
Rajesh: Amazing sorry. Let’s go back to the fundamentals of it because running a company called MentalCloud, it’s all about mentoring. In your opinion, how do you define it? If somebody says, “What is mentoring?” how is it different from coaching and is it paid, is it not? People have so many things and people use the word a little bit loosely. “I have [inaudible 00:04:49] with so many mentors,” as if it’s a pride of honor. What, in your opinion, is mentoring?
Ravi: I have a very simple definition. Sharing what you know with someone you care about is mentoring. Obviously, you have to be good in some area of expertise and you’re not going to sit on the street and start shouting what you know to everybody. You really want to genuinely connect with someone that you care about. So sharing what you know with the people you care about is mentoring. And from the other side, learning what you need to know from the people you respect is mentoring. You’ve got to have the desire to learn, you have to be a student for something, but you cannot learn from anybody. It only comes when you start respecting the other individual and say, “That’s the man I want to learn from,” or, “That’s the woman I want to learn from.” So it is about sharing and caring from the mentor’s side, and aspiring and respecting from the mentee’s side. When that combination happens, the relationship can be short-term, to satisfy a particular need, or it could be long-term where things go on and we just enjoy and so many new things are coming up because of that perfect match.
Rajesh: Very nicely said and the keyword that I took away from this is caring. Because, if you don’t care enough, then the level of sharing and the level of intensity with which you will share will be different. In my experience, what I see is mentoring, for me, is a series of uplifting conversations where the mentee and the mentor both get lifted to the next level because of the series of conversations that are happening. In my experience, being on both sides of the mentoring world, even today, I have a few mentors who help me lift myself and help me contribute better, I always look back. What is that they’re doing right in the middle of their having conversations with me? If I am hungry enough, I will be open, curious, and willing to learn and if they can sense it, whether Rajesh is hungry enough or whether he wants to be educated or whether he wants to be entertained in the name of education, and they will lift their own level if they know that I’m hungry enough.
Ravi: Again, the other person has to be willing to receive so that that hunger comes from a genuine desire to really learn. One of the key elements of a good mentee in the relationship is you have to be willing to listen. A lot of people want to hear what they want to hear and they miss out on the things that are being told.
Rajesh: That’s so true, Ravi.
Ravi: A mentee really should be willing to listen because the mentor may not say, “Now listen to my sermon.” It never happens that way. Let me tell you three things, those we call lectures. You go to school for this, these are the three Newton’s laws.
Rajesh: Or you can learn on a YouTube video.
Ravi: A mentor is generally sharing. My mentor, for example, [inaudible 00:08:05], he was just such a great and successful entrepreneur. We were just having conversation and sometime he said, “Ravi, you’ve got to move from being the founder to the CEO,” and I said, “Wow, what does that mean? I am founder and CEO. What does that mean?” It’s the mindset change. It didn’t come out as a specific, “Today, I’m going to tell you this,” it happened in a conversation that transformed the way I speak, the way I look at the company now. Because the company is no longer in this baby stage, I need to the company as a CEO. That came off a conversation that, when I told it back to him, he said, “Wow, did I say that?” I said, “Yeah, you did and that changed the whole thing for me.” He said, “I’m so glad you really caught that”
Rajesh: Timing becomes very important, isn’t it? So what time he said it, how he said it, and how much of care he put in while he said it. The other question I want to move on to, when it comes to mentoring, and people have asked me so many times, “How do I find a good mentor?” as if they can order one.
Ravi: I used to say that it is easy to find a local Starbucks because Google has pretty much indexed all the locations, but we have not indexed all the wonderful mentors that are out there, that are walking on the planet that we don’t know where they are. That’s one of the reasons what our company is trying to do is index those people that are genuinely willing to share but we don’t know where they are. They could be next to you in the same street, they could be in Australia, and we want to really make the discovery process easier.
But, in general, you can’t go somebody to say, “From tomorrow, you are my mentor.” The mentorship is a relationship which starts with an acquaintance. First, you have to respect somebody, “I’ve got to meet this person.” Either you read a blog about that person, a blog that the person wrote, or a talk that he gave, so you’ve got to start with respect. Second, when you meet the person, you ought to really earn it. You’ve got to earn it because there are mentors everywhere. If somebody is telling they’re too busy but they’re really superstars, there’s usually saying, “I don’t think my time I will be spending with you is really worth my time,” that’s what they’re saying. They’re not busy; nobody’s busy. It’s not a priority enough.
So finding a good mentor is actually being ready for mentorship has to be earned. You have to genuinely show that you’re not there to just get something very quick, but you are making the other person feel good about the conversation, like our last conversation. When that happens, you become good friends and you say, “I’m going through this particular situation. Would you mind spending half an hour every other week and, in return, is there anything I can do for you? I know you like music, I know you do a lot of writing. I would be happy to return the favor.” The attitude should be one of mutual giving, of respect. And be clear in the expectations. Then people open up out of nowhere
Rajesh: I totally agree with you. I always say that, if you want to find a good mentor, don’t even go and ask them. You start becoming a positive possibility in the future they’re creating for themselves because they are also going somewhere in their life because they have achieved so much and they have their own needs, desires, and they’re going to their next level. If you start looking as if you’re not looking for anything and you’re just adding on to whatever they’re doing, accelerating their own need, their own journey towards whatever the next step, the good part of the way I found we are living in an amazing age.
Earlier, suppose 20 years ago, suppose we both were having the same conversation and I said, “You are to start becoming a positive possibility in the future your mentors are creating for themselves.” The first question you will ask is, “How will I know because why will they tell me? Because I am nobody, why will tell me?” Look at today. They are blogging, they’re on social media, they’re giving speeches, their stuff is on YouTube. Whenever you hear whatever they are sharing, what will they be sharing about? They’ll be sharing about what matters most to them. It’s so easy to listen, and you said it nicely, you have to be able to listen, and my thinking is, even before you meet with them, you have to already listen to the things that they have shared before so you can start caring for what they care about and sooner than later, if they think, “There is so much this person is doing,” this man or woman is doing, “let me put some attention to them. How can I help you?” And that starts a conversation that might lead to them becoming a mentor.
Ravi: You are, again, absolutely correct because, like I said, we have to earn it and so doing that homework up front and you becoming a success story for them is very important. They should be able to say, “This guy I’m working with, he’s awesome.” Because, ultimately, everybody wants good stories, everybody wants to leave a legacy. You should make sure that you are that person that’s going to give them a good story, that’s going to give them a legacy. If you want to find a good mentor, I heard the story actually, at Runway.
There were these two entrepreneurs in Oxford, in London, UK. They were following this guy, like you said, following his tweets, following his blogs. He’s an amazing guy, very successful, and they found out that he comes to London every Wednesday by a 2 o’clock train. They found it. They decided, “This is the only way. How do we get in touch with him?” So they went to the train station and held his nameplate and said, “We are here to pick you up.” He was like, “I didn’t order a cab today. Who are these people?” He just laughed and they introduced themselves, “We are entrepreneurs and we love you,” and he said, “Okay, I’ll come with you.” So he drove with him, those two people, and had a good conversation and this guy made an investment in the company and also he is an active mentor and this guy, apparently, makes a million pounds a month or something like that. What a creative way to do this, right?
Rajesh: Yeah. It’s an out-of-the-box way of finding a mentor. That’s what it takes. We are about 12 or 13 minutes already, Ravi.
Ravi: Yeah. We can keep talking on this topic forever. We talked about the importance of earning the mentorship, we talked about it being very mutual, and you don’t go searching for mentors, you don’t go to Google and say, “Where is a Starbucks? Where is a mentor?” that’s not an attitude. It’s almost like finding the right person or persons with whom you want to have good conversations and it’s not that you feel that you’re having a good conversation; it has to be mutual. If the other person is not responding, is just being nice to you. Another tip that I want to share is some people are just being nice to you because they don’t want to come across as rude or, “I have it all, so I don’t need anything.” So being nice versus genuinely giving you access to their network, genuinely responding to you, and really listening to you is a good indication to separate out the people that are being nice and the people that are actually caring for you.
Rajesh: I totally agree with you. I think, in closing, what I can always say is my life has changed because of the mentors and the conversations that I have had and I have heard so many people saying, “I met my mentor and my life changed.” I’m sure you can relate to that as well. My thinking is that if somebody has not experienced the power of mentorship, they are missing something and they will not even know what they’re missing.
Ravi: Absolutely. We live in an age, Rajesh, that people are experiencing the advantage of a good friendship. Facebook has made now friendships so global, open. And acquaintances, because acquaintances help us get jobs, get business leads and so on, and LinkedIn has made that possible. The next step in this revolution that we’re seeing in the Internet world is having those friendships that are genuinely going to uplift your career and those are the mentors. So making mentoring a part of how you approach, I think, is a very critical component for people to be successful as well as for people to leave a strong legacy for themselves.
Rajesh: Beautiful. Maybe you can share where they can find more about you and then we can…
Ravi: Yeah. I blog regularly, they can go to our website, mentorcloud.com, to learn more about what we do. But I encourage every listener to just reflect and say, if they don’t have a mentor, they should start looking for one using the tips we shared and, if they’re not mentoring, they should really make time in their day and 15, 20 minutes is all it takes to change somebody’s life.
Rajesh: Beautiful. And this is Rajesh signing off and you can read more about me on my own blog, rajeshsetty.com/blog. Until next episode, I wish you all a fantastic weekend.
Ravi: Excellent. And I’m really enjoying this and please provide feedback, which is spontaneous feedback, like we’re having these spontaneous conversations.
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