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True Mentorship Goes Deeper than You Think

True mentorship involves coaching on behavior, professionalism, accountability, and maturity.

09 January 2014

As a writer, I value the editors in my life. They find my errors, recognize when I need to clarify, and push me to be better. An excellent editor approaches the task without self-involvement or ego - she seeks excellence for the sake of excellence.

Back when I was first studying the craft of writing, my professors drilled into me the importance of loving - and not resisting - the red pen of the editor. It wasn't easy at first, but as I began to see how much better the edits made my writing, my appreciation grew.

Once editing is an essential part of your life, you seek its benefits in other areas. We all need the impartial eye of someone we can trust, someone whose discernment is impeccable, to bring us thoughtful critique. A trusted life-editor - a mentor - can help us recognize when our judgment is off, when we are exhibiting less empathy, more ego, or reduced awareness of how we are behaving. Truly honing the self requires the insight of others.

Of course, not everyone can be trusted with this role. If you've ever had the experience of someone criticizing or manipulating you to do something 'for your own good' when clearly they were driven by selfishness, greed, or insecurity, you know what I mean.

When we look for relationships in life, this quality should be part of our consideration, and building the trust necessary to give and take the editing should be part of the commitment. This is also true of the mentors in our professional lives. We often perceive a mentor to be someone who coaches us on skills, but the best mentors coach us on behavior, professionalism, accountability, and maturity.

I have been blessed with excellent editors in my personal and professional life, and as the decades go by, their advice and guidance has become better and better. If you do not have these editors in your own life, its time to seek them

The process starts with you; you must evaluate your ability to accept feedback and work on your 'editability'.  We can only lay the groundwork by ourselves though, cultivate the willingness. The sometimes painful, sometimes revelatory, always challenging work of being edited is something we hone over time, and only with practice.

Of course, no successful relationship is one-sided. It is essential that we cultivate the ability to be a thoughtful, not self-interested, non-judgmental editor for others as well.

I've learned to love the red ink in my life, though on occasion it can still be hard to embrace in the moment. But at the end of the day, as my self-review rolls by in almost cartoon form, with red scratch-outs, redirects, and suggestions appearing in the margins, I enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing that, though one gets no re-dos, one need not suffer from repeats.

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