I know we're all busy and have days filled with meetings and never-ending to-do lists. But if you don't send the elevator back down, it's going to get lonely at the top. Here's why you need to carve out time for mentorship.
When I was in the second grade, a bully named Lionel put a tack in my desk chair...and I sat on it. As Mrs. Tonema was pulling the tack out of me I caught Lionel snickering from the corner of my eye. My embarrassment turned to fury as I looked at him and mustered up the biggest threat I could imagine: "I'm gonna go get my daddy!" During recess I left the school grounds and ran a mile to the church where my father worked as the pastor. He used the handkerchief from his suit pocket to wipe my tears, then he walked me back to school.
In the end, I was disappointed that I only got to see my father talk to Lionel's parents and a bit miffed that he scolded me for running away (he said it was dangerous). I would have much rather seen him kick Lionel's butt. But the point is that for my entire life, whenever I'm threatened, my first impulse is to run to daddy. Of course, I don't anymore. He taught me how to kick butt myself. But the fact that his devotion and protection of me has helped me be brave in the world is why I'm forever indebted to Harrison Gaston. It's also an important reason for women to drop the ball, so that men can meaningfully engage in their children's lives. This week I was thrilled to wish all of them a Happy Father's Day.
Send updates! To your former bosses, colleagues, interns, you name it—that's the secret to networking. We all meet and work with hundreds of amazing people, but the people I never forget are the ones who put themselves at the top of my inbox and let me know what's going on in their lives.
Judy Joslow Quintana should write a book on how to be the best Mentee on the planet. We've been working together for over a year (we were assigned to one another through a formal mentorship program) and it has been the most rewarding Mentor experience of my life. Let's start with the fact that her first task was defining the relationship: She would solicit my insight over Google Hangout once every other month for 30 minutes. "Great! I can totally do that," I thought. Since then, she never clutters my inbox with requests for us to meet. She goes directly to my scheduler and her name just appears on my calendar. I love this.
Next, Judy is relentless about soliciting the tough feedback she really needs to hear and not just the flowery feedback she wants to hear, so I can be completely transparent and honest with her. This makes me confident that we'll get a return on the investment we're making and that our 30 minutes is being used in the most effective manner possible. Finally, there are the agendas that she sends 24-48 hours in advance of our Google Hangouts that are broken down into two sections: "Updates since our last conversation" and "For discussion." It reminds me the past advice I've given her and helps hold both of us accountable to ensure she's progressing. But here's the thing. She's managed up to me so beautifully that I feel like I'm progressing too! I'm telling you ladies, the best way to snag a Mentor is by being the kind of Mentee any Mentor would die to have.
When I asked a group of interns what they wanted to get out of their summer internships, the majority responded with vague answers about new opportunities. But one intern stood out and caught my attention: She stated her specific goal and told me exactly what she wanted next. I happily helped her make it happen, and it made me realize this: If you want specific help, make a specific ask.
Have you ever set a goal that was so audacious you didn't tell anyone for fear that other people would know about your likely failure? As a female empowerment enthusiast, I'm embarrassed to confess I did this two years ago. Disenchanted by my newfound experience with the lack of diversity in the publishing industry I decided that I would do my small part by connecting aspiring female authors with female literary agents in my network. My goal: cultivate enough positive matches to collectively generate $1MM in book deals for women. I'm elated (and a bit stunned) to announce that we did it. Libby McGuire recently negotiated the sale of Elizabeth Wallace and Hana Schank's forthcoming book to Viking Press. It was the final deal that took this experiment over the million dollar mark. While you're patiently waiting for Elizabeth and Hana's literary masterpiece, be sure to check out "The Ambition Interviews," a series of essays they wrote for the Atlantic that the book will be based off of (like the one pictured below). And remember this: audacious goals are probably worth shouting from the rooftops.
This incredible quote from Harper Lee stuck with me: "People see what they look for and hear what they listen for." When you change your lens, the world changes with you. Watch and learn.
I haven't yet finished the final chapters of Tasha Eurich's Insight, but I'm already certain it should be required reading for every human being that will be expected to interact with other ones in their lifetime. The subtitle reads "Why We're Not as Self-Aware as We Think, and How Seeing Ourselves Clearly Helps Us Succeed at Work and in Life" and the content delivers on this promise. I love books with integrity.
Reading Insight ten years ago would have made my drop the ball journey so much simpler because I would have known the questions to ask myself to better manage my overwhelm. I eventually discovered two important ones: What matters most? and What is my highest and best use? but not until reading Insight did I understand the importance of these being "what" not "why" questions. According to Eurich, "why" questions help us understand our environment whereas "what" questions help us understand ourselves. Insight is an incredible read for anyone who has the appetite and the courage to jumpstart her own evolution.
Other people usually see us more objectively than we see ourselves. Even when they're not the perfect messenger, understanding someone else's perception of us can often lead to important insights. Watch and learn.
As I've said, my village means everything to me. I have only gotten to where I am because of the sage mentors, mentees, sponsors, peers, friends, and family who surround me and help raise me up. Every month, I will be highlighting one of these incredible women, my fellow drop the ballers, who are achieving more and recognizing the need to do less.
Gretchen Rubin is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Happiness Project, a wife, mother and the real deal when it comes to women elevating other women. After reading Drop the Ball she featured me on her blog and invited me to her home for a FB Live soon after its release—an enormous demonstration of support from a woman who already has a lot on her plate.
One of the things I love about Gretchen is her authenticity and honesty about the things on her list that don't get done: "I consistently drop the ball about making appointments—doctors, the dentist, hair cut, and so on. I have used all kinds of strategies to push myself to do this (not difficult) task, but it’s a struggle every time. For some reason, I dislike making the appointments even more than I dislike going.” We hear you, Gretchen. To get a jump start on understanding why you might drop the ball on some things and not others, be sure to preorder The Four Tendencies, Gretchen's forthcoming book, which is sure to be another bestseller.