I recently reached a point where I seem to be second-guessing everything I do. I reached a point where I felt like giving my best no longer cut it. It just simply wasn’t good enough.
Here’s my story in a nutshell: I work with a group of friends who are all in completely different fields (engineering, finance, architecture). We’re all self-employed and we’re handling polarized job tasks. There’s no comfort of having KPIs set for me, or existing company systems to use that have been created by the bosses before me. Yes, being self-employed has many perks, but it certainly does have its set of difficulties as well.
I have found that the MOST difficult thing to deal with is lack of guidance. Basically, it’s your job to figure it all out and get it done. There’s simply no one else to ask in the company itself. You set the benchmark. And you break it.
After a period of moping around, wallowing in self-pity (don’t worry! The self-pity talk ends here) and generally being terrible company, I decided to sit down with my team to talk about this. It turned out that I wasn’t the only one going through this period of questioning, but everyone had been through it, or was going through it as well. So we figured that we if didn’t know what to do, we’d better find someone who does.
And this is how we came up with THE KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE! These Knights are mentors in various areas of expertise who often come in to share their experience with us, guide us and sometimes even save the day.
We realised that we were running on fumes, relying on our own prior experiences and regurgitating whatever lessons we had learnt in the past. Now, personal experiences are GREAT and they’re IMPORTANT, but sometimes it also means we’re limited by what we know (or what we think we know) and this in turn limits our course of action.
A few years ago we had a brilliant consultant visit our office and give us free advice. He blew us away with all his knowledge, and kind of kicked our asses around because there was so much we overlooked. But rather than feel overwhelmed and uselessly untalented (OK, we definitely felt like that for a good day or two) we also felt incredibly empowered: LOOK AT ALL THE THINGS WE DON’T KNOW BUT CAN LEARN!
But then we realised that we can’t just learn this stuff from anyone: it has to be from this man in particular. Apart from his wonderful brain, he had all the qualities we admired in a person: positivity, character, honesty, courage. Which brings me to point #1:
1. Who you spend time with influences the person you become
Someone once said to me “if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” The logic is simple: the smarter the person is, the more quality knowledge and skills can be transferred (along with favourable characteristics!). The word smarter may be objective, but you’ll definitely know when you’re impressed by someone’s brain: for me, the dumber I feel, the more I want you on my Table. I’ll pack my ego in a bag and shove it under my bed for a month of awkwardness as long as I’m learning!
The second thing I find extremely valuable is experience. As mentioned earlier, we operated based on what we recalled from our past and what we know.
2. Gain access into years of mistakes and experiences, without having to make them yourself
I don’t think I can even count the amount of times I’ve been steered away from a potential disaster thanks to the foresight of a mentor. Having someone who’s made mistakes before you have, who’s been there and done that definitely helps open our eyes to situations and scenarios we never could have imagined before.
Now, this doesn’t mean I won’t make the same mistake they did, or won’t ever make a mistake, but it just means that there are opportunities to learn faster when making a mistake because there’s someone there to guide you and show you what options you’ve got ahead of you.
I’ve heard that the fastest way to learn is to teach. Personally, I’ve tried with people who’ve worked with me, and it is not easy. That’s truly when you realise your shortcomings, your ability to converse and communicate clearly, the strength of your word and commitment, and your ability to lead.
3. Mentorship is a two-way street.
As a “student”, we test our mentors in ways we can’t imagine – you’re not just taking, you’re also giving back. I’m a big advocate on mentorship and investing my time and life in another person. It really is a transfer of knowledge – you learn so much more about yourself mentoring that you would have thought possible.
The Knights of the Round Table has made such a profound impact on the way I work, that I can’t help but actively recommend that EVERYONE start their own Table – and not only that, but sit on Tables as well.
Shape your life by choosing who you are with. Choose the best of the best, spend time with them, learn from them, and test yourself by mentoring someone while you’re at it. You’ll be amazed with the results.
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