5 Things Mentorship

By Nicholas Nesbitt

Nicholas Nesbitt is a Johannesburg based creative specialising in Illustration, Digital Design and Sound Design. These are some of his latest illustrated ramblings. Enjoy :)


1. Finding your Mentor

Fortunately I have had very strong mentor figures in my life. Luckily, I did not have to seek them out, I sort of found them through my general interests, life decisions, and goal of trying to surround myself with good people. Most people think that they have to search far and wide or go back in time to find someone to mentor them but, most often, they are sitting right next to us.

Mentors are more than friends; they are benchmarks, advisors and teachers. Mentors help us sneak forward in life. Mentors give advice and constructively criticise us when our friends won’t.

A mentor might start out as an idol figure but it’s in building a relationship that the true definition of mentorship can be found.


2. Kill your mentor

There comes a time when you outgrow your mentor or life simply takes you in a different direction to the one your mentor might be able to guide you in. It’s very important not to stagnate and stay in a place where you feel safe with your mentor — they should be pushing you beyond your capabilities and boundaries.

Mentors must challenge you, just as you should challenge them. This collaboration is key to learning new things and getting the most out of this relationship.

A good mentor will not hold you back and will let you explore the things you need to. So when it’s time to say goodbye, don’t feel bad, take the red pill and find out how deep the rabbit-hole goes.

It has been said that if mentored well, a student should surpass their mentor. A mentor should take this as the ultimate compliment and a student should not be afraid to do this.


3. Become a mentor

You can’t become a mentor without having been a student or a young padawan first. Gone are the days when you had to rely on a mentor to guide you through an apprenticeship face-to-face.

Now we have the Internet and we are able to connect with our mentors all around the world, in more informal ways and sometimes without the ‘mentor’ even knowing that they are doing this job for us.

One day you might find yourself wearing the mentor hat. That is a great honour and you should be aware of your actions and responsibility in this role. The work you put out into the world is constantly inspiring, informing and educating people all around you.


4. Mr. Miyagi vs Hero

Don’t be confused, your heroes are not your mentors.

I try never to meet my heroes. The importance of a hero lies in their myth and when you find out your hero is just a normal guy that kind of smells weird it can be a major disappointment and really destroy the important belief you have in them… as your hero.

There are many creatives that I aspire to emulate. In never meeting them, that inspiration they give me remains potent and sets the bar for personal future projects. Your hero should inspire you but also be a little out of reach.

Your mentor should not be untouchable. You should have a reciprocal relationship with your mentor that grows over time. A mentorship is a relationship that, in order for it to be successful and rewarding, it takes hard work from both sides.

Sometimes your hero can cross over and become your mentor. I believe for this to happen there must be a collaboration and the interaction can’t be one-sided.


5. Take only what you need

Nobody is perfect and there are aspects of the people I regard as my mentors that I try not to become. Sometimes people make the mistake that they should become their mentor, but this is a trap. A mentor that does not let you follow your own path is not a mentor, they are a Shredder.

Take what you want from the guidance you receive and discard what is not core to you, or in the best interest of your own process. You are not expected to become a carbon copy of your mentor, only an enhanced and greater version of yourself.

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