Do You Know the Difference Between Limited Mentors and Anti-Mentors

As a parent, I see the value of doing the right thing every day. I am intensely observed, even when I do not think I am. I am.

The picture above shows the desire of a child to observe a parent. I see my little one putting on her mom’s glasses the same way she puts them on. She even has the cute crinkle of her note while she is doing it.

Workplace and hobbies are no different. We tend to copy what we see as a mechanism to get to excellence faster. It is a human instinct.

BUT we need to be careful. We need to label people for what they are an expert in and to the best of our ability use them as mentors. BUT they have to be limited mentors for that skill. No person can be an overall mentor. They can help only a specific area we need to work on.

This is where we fail. We see someone successful in an area as a mentor BUT we do not narrow their scope to just that area. We consider them as life mentors by making it wider than it needs to be.

For example, if I am interested in developing a martial art skill I might sign up to study under a teacher. That teacher might have black belts with which I will work more than the teacher. Those would be my mentors. They are limited to helping me with my technique and understanding. Limited.

The title of this article also mentions anti-mentors. What?

Just like we can use people to model ourselves after someone we want to emulate, we can choose actively not to be mentored by someone. Someone who does not fit our needs.

What does that mean?

Imagine you are interested in learning to play tennis. Well, a martial arts instructor would be of limited use to mentor you in tennis. They can help you with balance and coordination but not with particular skills related to your front or backhand.

What about anti-mentor?

Imagine in a business setting, you are observing someone who is a backstabbing individual and conclude that they are playing a different game. You are in the performance and collaboration game. They are your anti-mentor. You will not judge yourself by their standard.

In life, we tend to compare ourselves too much with others. There is even an expression like the Joneses to indicate that often neighbors will compare themselves to their neighbors. Whose house is bigger? Whose car is newer?

That is the game that many fall into. Maybe you like having a minimal house with no car. Maybe you send your kids to public school while everyone sends theirs to private schools. You are using them as anti-mentors. They are playing a different game and you can choose to recognize that and move on to playing yours.

It is uncomfortable to stand out as different. BUT if you are going on the path that you chose and doing the things that you choose then it becomes less uncomfortable.

Not everyone can be your mentor. Nor should they. NOt everyone is playing the same game that you are.

My four cents…

NOTE: The ideas in this column are based on ideas I extracted from William Irvine's interview on a Knowledge Project podcast.



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Robert Trajkovski

Robert Trajkovski

I have led people and projects in Steel/ Power, Refining, Chemicals, Industrial Gasses, Software, Consulting and Academia. I have instructed 73+ courses.