Humble lessons from my 10 month old Mentor

This month I acquired a new mentor and she’s not my usual type. She has very little traditional industry experience and limited hindsight I can leverage. She has never excelled at a formal education environment but perhaps that’s because she hasn’t yet given it a try.

You might be surprised to learn that she is 30 years my junior. Nonetheless, she has taught me some incredible lessons in life during the brief time since we met.

Who is this impressive new mentor you might ask? She is Zara Perfect Parker, my 10 month old daughter.

Here are five valuable lessons my new mentor has taught me so far about success:

1. Ignoring technology won’t kill you. Despite her never checking emails or voice mails, Zara is still very much with us. Yet when it comes to grownups, as researchers from the University of Glasgow found, half of the participants in their study reported checking their email once an hour, with some people even checking as frequently as 30 or 40 times an hour.

An AOL study revealed that 59 percent of mobile device users check every single time an email lands in their in-box and 83 percent check email every day on vacation.

I decided to follow Zara’s lead. I detact myself from regular scrutiny of office and phone messages. I disabled automatic updates of my email in-box, and I simply stopped checking it except for at specific times that I decided upon. I’m still here too and more focused than ever on what I really need to be doing, rather than chasing every shiny new email.

Action: Take the time to be conscious of your addiction to technology and the impact it might be having on your life and productivity.

2. Speak less, listen more. We all know this, but do we practice it? Granted Zara doesn’t have much choice but to listen. Yet her behavior has reinforced a valuable lesson for me. Studies show that babies whose parents speak to them more often (meaning the babies can listen more) proved to be more advanced in their processing skills than their peers.

This got me thinking: Why should I spend so much time at work having monologues in the presence of others when I could be listening more and absorbing more information to help me expand my potential? I’ve also noticed that by listening and carefully observing, I pick up on Zara’s nonverbal cues, which help me define solutions to her problems. This is insight that’s highly transferable to my career.

Action: Take some time to talk less and listen more. Continue absorbing new information rather than simply reiterating what you already know.

3. Be laser focused. Zara is very precise and focused about pursuing what she wants. When Zara wants milk, I have seldom seen her write a business plan of attack, prepare a mug of coffee or check email to procrastinate first.

She knows what she wants. She knows how to get it. She communicates the fact she wants it and she doesn’t settle until she gets it.

Action: Recall a time where you were focused and unrelenting in achieving the things you wanted to achieve. Somewhere along the way we all become conditioned to settle; don’t do it.

4. Embody zero-based thinking. Zara doesn’t have a past or any baggage (apart from any mischief I passed along) and she has the potential to develop into whoever she pleases. The sheer excitement and intrigue of this forces me to think continually in a zero-based thinking manner.

It gets me wondering if I were in her position, where would I go, what would I do? Then I start bringing this together with what is possible. This relates not only to my career itself. I’m even thinking like an intrapreneur and questioning the status quo within my existing career and entrepreneurial endeavors.

Action: Spend time pretending you are a baby — but with less focus on the crying and feeding part and more on regularly testing assumptions about where you are headed with your life.

5. Do it now. Granted in this particular matter, it is me who doesn’t have much choice in the matter. Zara has taught me that procrastination is no longer a possibility. She throws so many challenges at me, that if I were to slow down responding to them, I would end up submerged under a pile of tasks needing immediate attention.

I also don’t have a choice but to be highly focused and prioritized on getting these things done. I must make sure I do the things strategically that will have the highest impact on her and our future together, with the abundant nappies and crying serving as (mostly) a metaphor for all that the real world can throw at a person.

Action: Be conscious of continually making sure you focus and spend time executing the things which will drive you toward success.

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