Mistakes can be brutal. Some consistently float just below the surface and provide a constant reminder of wrong moves or decisions. While other mistakes can sting just enough to plant the seed for future growth. The truth of it is, if not placed in their proper context, our mistakes can plant deeper roots than our successes. What we learn becomes the basis of our experience and how we respond to those mistakes develops the content of our character. The trick, in your leadership journey, is to move forward while learning and capturing valuable lessons, sometimes through colossal ascent and others times through stumbling failure. One of the ways you can better navigate your career and life choices is by seeking the guidance of mentors.
If you are extremely lucky, your parents act as your primary mentors throughout life. Indeed, who knows you better than the adults who raised you and have seen first hand the practical and experienced based DNA that makes you, well, you? For most of us our parents were nurturing, but there is a break that exist once we get into the professional world (unless you have followed in the footsteps of one of your parents). If your career has taken you far from home base and placed in a world unfamiliar to your original Jedi masters, it’s far better to navigate the voyage with someone who has taken an interest in your outcomes than to go it alone.
Mind you, these folks, usually your senior, don’t have all the answers. What they do have is an account of how they may have traversed very similar circumstances. This can be extremely helpful in making professional decisions, especially the ones that seem to take a career in a whole different direction. At their best, mentors can be sounding boards. Someone who is only interested in seeing you succeed, because for him or her there is a reward in passing on what they have learned. The reward cannot be seen, nor touched, it’s only felt in the mind of those who pass on learned advice.
Just as a bit of an exercise (I would be surprised if you have never done this). Take a moment and write down the major decisions that have impacted your life (really changed the course of events); your decision to pick a certain college, your first job, moving to a new city, who you married, etc. I suspect you could narrow your life’s trajectory to roughly five major decisions (those made after passing into adulthood) that have placed you in exactly the position you find yourself reading this short article.
How many of those decisions could have been better ones if you had only sought the advice of a trusted mentor? Even if just one or two of the five were different, you could be looking at a completely different outcome for yourself. So….
- Identify and seek mentors in your personal and professional life
- Become a mentor yourself! Your mistakes don’t need to be repeated. Provide guidance to those who will listen.
Making life’s decisions is hard. There are typically numerous variables involved, especially when you compound those decisions with the existence of a family or other major components of your life. The older you become, the more your decisions impact the lives of others. I suspect this peaks around middle age where you find yourself beyond mid-career, but still far enough away from final retirement that your decisions still can seriously impact a few folks. Seek guidance so that you can make the absolute best decision possible for you and those around you. It can help you avoid making too many wrong turns on this endless journey.
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