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The Indirect Mentorship Project

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Who is teaching? Who is learning?

by Matt Cheuvront

What does the word “mentor”  mean to you? Without question – it’s a word and idea that can mean many different things to each of us, but when I think of mentor, I don’t think of the traditional definition of “teacher or trusted counselor”.

In the old days the mentor-mentee relationship was a much more formal thing, but nowadays, it’s not about seeking out that one person who will “show you the way” but rather, surrounding yourself with people you admire, respect, and recognize as thought leaders.

Who do you surround yourself with?

Enter the “Indirect Mentorship Project” (I swear I should patent this thing). I’ve been a believer in the IMP for a while now, especially the past year. Essentially this “project” involved surrounding yourself with greatness and cutting out the negativity.

You see, our generation is all about finding meaning – developing a meaningful career, integrating work and life into one happy 100% fulfilled lifestyle, and defining our legacy. But you know that? Generation X and everyone else before us wanted the same things – Our generation isn’t “special” – we aren’t the first people to be called “over entitled” – Predecessors have slapped that label on the Generation that came after them most likely since the beginning of the time.

More tools

Where Generation Y differentiates itself is in the tools we have at our disposal. We are the first generation to have grown up with the Internet – and that means we’re able to communicate and share ideas in innovative ways never conceived by the generations before us. With the click of the mouse I can consult with a friend in Paris or bounce around blog ideas with my buddy in Singapore.

The Internet allows us to openly share information instantly with one another. It also allows us to establish connections, make friends, and build relationships easier than ever before. 2009 was the banner year for me when it comes to my “online presence”. I started my blog, hopped on Twitter, and started talking to people. I’m asked again and again what my “recipe for success” has been – and honestly, it’s all about being present in the moment and engaged with other people.

My mentors

What the Internet has also done for me is help me find my mentor, or should I say mentor(s), because there are a lot of them. I am constantly pushed to do more, try new things, think outside the box, and be at my best because I surround myself with other people who are doing just that. We’ve formed an informal “support group” where constructive criticism is encouraged, honesty is cherished, and positivity reigns above all else.

A mentor is someone who focuses on the positive while limiting the negative. They should also be your biggest critic – someone who questions you, challenges you, asks “why” – but also someone who praises your success, and pushes you to reach your maximum potential.

However old you are – whatever generation you happen to fall into – we can all benefit from surrounding ourselves with quality “mentors” – we can ALL learn a lot from EACH OTHER. Just as I seek to build relationships with people much older than I who can coach me toward success, there is a lot the “older” folk out there can learn from these over-entitled Gen Y know it all’s like me. The Indirect Mentorship holds no boundaries.

What does “mentorship” mean to you? What do you look for in someone you consider to be your “mentor”?

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photo credit: Ezioman

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Tim January 4, 2010, 8:16 am

    Hi Matt:

    I enjoyed your post and agree with you on the IMP. Since I started reading blogs, I have visited people that I admire – people who do great work, have great ideas, and express themselves through great writing and/or speaking. I agree that we have so much to learn from each other and I have learned a great deal from young and old alike. Thank you for a great thought-provoking post!

    • Josh Hanagarne January 4, 2010, 10:22 am

      Tim, Matt’s blog is definitely worth checking out. He’s really, really smart.

      • Matt Cheuvront January 4, 2010, 10:36 am

        Thanks for the comment Tim – for me it’s all about surrounding myself with as many people as possible who push me to be at my best. You can never have enough “mentors”.

        And Josh, thanks for the kinds words sir.

  • Emily Jasper January 4, 2010, 10:14 am

    This practically needs to be sent to all HR departments who have mentor programs. You really get it…you really do.

    • Josh Hanagarne January 4, 2010, 10:21 am

      Emily, not practically. I think it should be mandatory. I’ve seen the dark side of HR and mentoring:)

      • Matt Cheuvront January 4, 2010, 10:38 am

        Thanks for the comment Emily – I really get tired of all the “Generation Y/Generation X” labeling – in my book – we’re pretty much the same, just in different circumstances and with more tools at are disposal. If we take a step back, there’s a lot to be learned across generations and demographics. Knowledge and expertise really holds no boundaries.

  • Heidi Howes January 4, 2010, 10:40 am

    I have been blessed with some amazing mentors in my life in the past 10 years, and as a teacher to many students myself, I hope to embody some of the best qualities of my mentors.
    My greatest challenge is to instill my students with the tools they need to transform from within, and get my own self out of the way by showing them the best parts of myself consistently even when I am in doubt. I think this is what my mentors gave me . . .the desire to overcome and continue striving for peace. They show integrity, honesty, depth and a resolve to serve. I am looking for some online mentors as well as I begin my blogging journey!
    I just found you via kelly diels and I am enjoying your stuff so far!

    • Matt Cheuvront January 5, 2010, 8:48 am

      Beautifully written Heidi – thank you so much for the comment. I think the ideal mentor is someone who will be there for support and guidance, but doesn’t hand-hold – they give you the tools to go out and succeed on your own.

      Look forward to chatting more – thanks again for coming by.

  • Srinivas Rao January 4, 2010, 12:21 pm


    I love the idea of mentors. One of the greatest things we all gain from blogging is a whole army of mentors who can help you to grow personally and professionally. In fact I think the most successful people in the world have mentors to help them in areas of their life.

    • Matt Cheuvront January 4, 2010, 3:38 pm

      Exactly – and it doesn’t have to be an “official” relationship – it can be this “indirect” style of mentorship, surrounding yourself with positive, forward thinking people, that can really have a huge impact. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Doug Shaw January 4, 2010, 3:11 pm

    Amen to that. As a long time mentor and mentee I love the mix of surrounding myself with both new and established. It’s exciting and I agree with Matt’s little list, to which I would like to add “forward looking”.

    Good work

    • Matt Cheuvront January 5, 2010, 8:48 am

      Forward looking – well put sir. Thanks for the comment!

  • Amanda January 4, 2010, 4:34 pm

    This post was exactly what I needed to read. Before I moved away from my hometown, I mentored young people involved in theatre. I miss mentoring and having a mentor. Perhaps it’s time to get my head back in the game.

    • Matt Cheuvront January 5, 2010, 8:50 am

      I don’t think you are ever really out of the game – the point I was trying to make here is that mentors can be anywhere and everywhere – it doesn’t have to be a formal relationship – carrying yourself in a way that is opening and helpful to other people is being a mentor in it’s own right. Cheers!

  • Cali Harris January 6, 2010, 2:39 pm

    Matt, I hadn’t considered “indirect mentorship” before…though the concept puts a name to the role of many of the mentors in my life. I appreciate the way you’ve framed it.

    I’ve tended to seek out people who won’t tell me what I want to hear; as you said, those who will be my biggest critic. And I sure don’t say that proudly…it’s difficult for me to take a challenge/project/situation to someone I look up to, knowing they may tell me it stinks. Of course, there’s a balance in pushing [constructive criticism] and supporting [rah! rah!]. Some of my mentors have made me mad as hell. And I thank them for that. 🙂 They’ve pushed me in ways I didn’t know I was capable of moving and growing. And when I’ve fallen on my face, they’ve helped me up…or, at least, suggested HOW to get up.

    I’ve been fortunate to have taken many of my online indirect mentors to in-real-life relationships. As I find my way around and introduce myself to compelling and fresh communities on the social web, I’m realizing the (big!) potential for more indirect mentorships. I feel so fortunate to have recently come across people like you, Matt, and Josh Hanagarne, etc. And in thinking about mentorship, I hope that one day, I can reciprocate at least a wee bit o’ karmic mentor-y goodness. 🙂

    And…I love that you’ve exploded the ideas around age/generation and mentorship. I agree that mentorship works in many different directions, on many different layers.

    • Matt Cheuvront January 6, 2010, 6:51 pm

      Thanks for coming by and sharing your perspective Cali – it’s really all about surrounding yourself with people who inspire you to be great – so that feeling of being fortunate to meet is completely mutual. And here’s to hoping it translates into a “real life” relationship before too long!