Mentorship: How Being One – And Having One – Can Give You A Creative Edge

I'm excited to share this guest post from Walter Bond, speaking on mentorship and creativity, which is a great segway into our next post!

We live in a very “me-focused” society. We live in a world of selfies and social media accounts designed to constantly remind our peers about how great we are. We like to stand out. We like to work hard and be acknowledged for our successes. But in an age where we are constantly reaching for new growth, working towards that new promotion, and pushing ourselves to be the best, it can be easy to lose sight of one of the most important elements that connect us as human beings: helping each other.

Mentorship seems like a lost art in the business world. Too often, we’re so focused on our goals and our dreams and our strategies that we don’t look outside of ourselves for help, encouragement, or guidance. We see asking for help as a weakness. We think that if we admit that we don’t know it at all, we have failed. But this could not be further from the truth. Even in creative spaces, reaching out and connecting with people who know more than you, earn more than you, and do more than you can only benefit you. So why are we so worried about reaching out and finding a mentor?

Many young professionals assume that having a mentor means having another boss. And the last thing a young, fresh, hungry, entrepreneurial-minded person needs is another boss. But a good mentor is not a boss at all. It is someone who has been where you are and is doing what you want to do and can help you learn from their mistakes. They’re not there to tell you what to do or how to do it. They’re not there to make it easy. They’re simply there to tell you the truth with grace, guide you in the right direction, and be there when you fail. They are a listening ear, a source of wisdom, and an extra set of unbiased eyes and ears on a situation where you may have tunnel vision.

It seems like forever ago, but back in the day, I played for the NBA. And when I look back on those days, I can clearly see a difference in my mentors and in my coaches. My coaches were there during practices and game days, giving me the skills and techniques I needed to be better for each game, and in each season. When my team has changed, my coaches changed. When my situation has changed, my coaches changed. This is how it is in life as well.

When you seek out a professional coach, they are designed to help you with specific tasks in a specific season of your life. Whether it’s a fitness coach, a business coach, a public speaking coach, they’re all designed to help you in one aspect of your life, usually with an end date in mind.

My mentors were completely different. They were the men who were there when basketball was great and when basketball was not. They were there when relationships were great and when relationships were not. They were there when finances were great and when finances were not. These mentors came into my life to help shape and mold me as a person. Not as a basketball player, but as a person. There was no end date discussed as these relationships were being built. This was a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship where I surrounded myself with people who were smarter, wealthier, and more successful than I was. These relationships dramatically changed the trajectory of my life. I am a better man because of the mentors in my life.

It took me a long time to realize that mentorship is a two-way street. It wasn’t until I started to mentor entrepreneurs myself that I realized it is a mutually beneficial relationship. Being a mentor meant a lot of self-reflection on my end. It meant a careful analysis of what I did and why I did it because I knew someone was watching. Many of the people I’ve mentored have given me a fresh perspective on business and life. They’ve helped me remember what it is like to be young, hungry, and eager for success. Having a mentee challenged my thinking in many ways, and made me a better leader. This idea of taking people along with me on my journey to success is what sparked the idea for my book Swim!

Swim! is about the relationship between a shark and a suckerfish. The shark possesses six key qualities that make it an apex predator. They never swim backward, they’re flexible, they never stop swimming. A suckerfish is a smaller, less experienced creature that identifies a shark, makes a connection, and goes along for the ride. But the suckerfish is not a leach. It’s not there for a free ride.

It benefits the shark in its own way.

They need each other.

They help each other.

They do for each other what they can’t do for themselves. It’s a powerful image, and it has changed the way I approach mentorship in business.

Part of being a shark is taking people with us. We have to be aware of those around us instead of staying stuck in our selfies and our personal successes. When we intentionally make room in our lives for others, we only benefit. And in the areas of our lives where we are suckerfish, we have to deliberately seek out sharks who are willing to guide us through the waves.

While everyone can benefit from a coach, those of us in the creative space may benefit more from a mentor. We don’t need someone telling us how to do our craft; we just need someone there who understands it. We need someone who has already reached the place we’re trying to go and stands by us as a source of wisdom and support on our journey to get there.

Having a mentor and being a mentor can give you a creative edge that you can’t find anywhere else. It can open your mind to new possibilities and opportunities. It can challenge you in a way that fosters growth. And sometimes, if you’re really lucky, a mentor-mentee relationship can blossom into a beautiful friendship.


About Walter Bond

Walter Bond with SWIM small

Walter Bond is a renowned business coach, author, motivational speaker, and former NBA basketball player. His time in the NBA taught him the fundamentals every team needs to be successful, and today he shares his knowledge with global audiences to help entrepreneurs, business leaders, sales teams, and employees get to the next level.