Mentors are not magic. Your mentor is not your Professor Dumbledore. Your mentor is a human being. They are allowed to have flaws and personality quirks and you are allowed to not like those things about them, and vice versa.
I personally grew up in a family of overachievers and in an environment that inadvertently taught me (or tried to teach me) that I should enter into all things either a) knowing everything or b) pretending to know everything. The more I grew up the more I resented this kind of intimidating and isolated attitude especially when it came to work or school. As a result, I tend to seek out indirect guidance and education from anyone around me who I think is a little extra special, regardless of whether or not they are my superiors in a professional environment. In hindsight, I’ve found that this one trait alone has given me such an overwhelmingly HUGE advantage in my careers as an academic, a writer, and as an editor/publisher. Because I’ve always unconsciously tried to soak up as much professional knowledge as I can from literally every single person around me, I think I can now safely say that I have a very extensive, advanced knowledge base in my chosen fields that most people who are my age don’t have and that usually only develop over a period of much longer, more complex work experiences.
Most recently, I’ve had the crazy lucky fortune of working super closely with known marketing badass and general all around awesome lady-person Lana Al-Resheed who, if you recall, was my debut Running in Heels interview over a year ago. The actual story of how Lana and I met, got in contact with each other, and eventually started working together would have never EVER happened without this humble blog. If you think about it, it’s a pretty strong and beautiful indication of who Lana Al-Resheed is as a person and how much risk and support she is willing to put into someone she believes in and feels a special connection to–even if it was someone she hardly knew like me. The story of how Lana and I came into each other’s lives is one of my favorite stories to ever tell just because it sounds so wonderfully unreal and miraculously fated by God. But it IS real and it’s goddamned beautiful.
Even after having worked with her for almost an entire year now I still don’t know what the exact reasons were for her choosing me and believing in me as much as she did (I don’t even think she knows exactly). All I know is that Lana loves it when she sees things that other people don’t see and she has told me that ‘you are something I saw that no one else saw.’ And, because of that, all I know is that I am lucky and so is she.
From my own experience, mentoring relationships usually end up being some of the most rewarding and meaningful relationships for both the mentor and the mentored, and they almost always develop into lifelong, family-tight bonds, even after the fact.
So, since I think that everyone on Earth needs to, at some point in their professional lives, find their own personal ‘Lana’ (even the Lanas of the world need their own Lanas), here is but a short list of some of the most important lessons that Lana Al-Resheed has taught me without even realizing it. (I actually tried to see if she realized it and asked her to list six of what she thought were her most important lessons for me and she didn’t mention ANY of these, which is, of course, proof that wisdom, authenticity, and versatility are second nature to Lana Al-Resheed.)
Everyone Should Know How To Defend Themselves
There is no one I’ve ever met who has such an open, optimistic, and SOLID PLAN to change Kuwait for the better and yet who also knows how to navigate Kuwait’s market and Kuwait’s society–in all it’s flaws and risks–like Lana Al-Resheed. In this double-edged ability, Lana has taught me that there is no reason why you should not train yourself for the world as it is while ALSO working to change it. If you let the world destroy you WHILE you are trying to build it you are under prepared, naive, and a little stupid.
You Have No Idea How An Actual New Field Will Ever Be
No matter how much time and planning you think you’re going to put into a project or a business plan, you will never know it until those training wheels come off and you’re out there on your own FOR REAL. Don’t pretend to be all-knowing and invincible because you will likely just end up looking like a chicken with it’s head cut-off: frantic, annoying, and pointless. Lana’s own open willingness to consider (consider; not accept) a million different ideas and helping hands in the field, despite her own firm knowledge base, has taught me this.
Someone Already Hates You, Even If You Just Started
There is perhaps nothing more delusional than showing up as a new face or project onto a field and just expecting everyone to judge you based purely upon your merit or your quality and not who you know or what you represent to them (i.e. a threat). That’s right: in the real world mediocre people get the most accolades, and hard-workers can be ignored or vilified just cause. Them’s the breaks, kid. Friends hire friends (or friends of friends), the people in charge can be irrational and vindictive, and nearly every single field has a toxic troll-type, a secret saboteur, and a magic golden child (and often they are the same person! And they are loved! Because they did one thing that was kind of entertaining that one time!). For this reason, Lana taught me the importance of entering any field or workplace neutrally, but armed with the knowledge that no field is ever what it seems.
Everyone Is Out to Take Your Money
This category could also be called: How To Be An Adult. Really, the amount of times that I have seen Lana catch people who have tried to snake more money out of her than was necessary IS SO NUMEROUS AND SO DELIGHTFUL. Seeing how she laughs off the fact that people are trying (and failing) at taking advantage of her and others at every corner is a lesson in adulthood in and of itself. Figuring out that, when you grow up, everyone in business is trying to make more money off you than they should is not always obvious. But if you plan on being a stable, conscious human being out in the world, it is very essential. Not getting screwed over in the world requires a kind of consumer vigilance and a willingness to advocate for yourself when no one else will (or will for a reasonable price) and this is Lana Al-Resheed’s speciality and her secret super-power. She’s a one-woman-show and she makes sure that everyone knows she can’t be fooled.
The Importance of ‘Red-Teaming’ Any Idea or Situation
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, ‘red-teaming’ is basically when you shoot holes in any idea or plan in order to better see it’s weaknesses and faults. This is a valuable skill to have whenever you are considering taking something new on, whether it’s in life or in work. Red-teaming, essentially, improves the strategies in any plan by recognizing the vulnerabilities in that plan. I’ve noticed Lana doing this with almost every big business decision she makes right off the bat. I actually think she does this so intuitively that she doesn’t have any idea that she’s doing it.
No One Has Any Idea How To Make Any Kind of Relationship Work
Since most human beings are horribly poor at dealing with other human beings it’s important to know what we DON’T know so that we can all cut each other a little more slack. Identifying our own shortcomings and triggers, teaching ourselves the critical cornerstones of healthy relationships, understanding the significance of knowing ourselves, accepting that some conflict is HEALTHY and learning how to deal with it, fighting fair, and the importance of having a shared worldview with those you are closest to is a constant learning process and can be very difficult to master. Lana Al-Resheed has taught me that this process never ends and that no matter how much you know your relationships, they can always surprise you and teach you something about yourself that you didn’t know before.
All my love!