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Perspectives on Mentoring

 

Welcome to our bi-monthly blog where members of the WISE Within community share insights and their WISE Within experience.


 

April 1, 2011

Wisdom Is Knowing You Know Nothing


Socrates once said, “The only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing.” As a mentee in the aptly titled WISE Within program, I’ve only recently come to fully appreciate that sentiment.

After working in the events industry in some professional capacity for five years, I thought I was doing pretty well. I knew how to handle the last-minute curve balls that are inevitably thrown around in this business. I could handle a crew of union guys and teach some interns a few tricks. I figured I was well on my way to “running the show.” But it wasn’t until I sat down with my mentor, and her 20 years in the industry, that I fully understood how little I knew.

In the gentlest, most respectful way possible, she was essentially saying, “You have much to learn, young grasshopper.”

Especially in an industry that is historically dominated by men, often referred to as “an old boys club,” these are women who have let their skills speak for themselves and have risen to the top. It would have been easy for them to sit upon their well-earned thrones and watch the rest of us fight it out. (Let’s be honest, we all know people like that.) Perhaps I was too cynical at the start of this process, and thought cracking into that exclusive circle would be like Indiana Jones’ adventures in the Temple of Doom — you know, pits of snakes, etc. Perhaps I would be found unworthy, or I would be unable to run the gauntlet laid out before me. I have never been so happy to be so wrong. In a day and age where we are constantly bombarded with images of women tearing down other women, both personally and professionally, I have been awed by the level of generosity from my mentor and all of the women with the WISE organization.

As a mentee, I aspire to their level of success and I have found nothing but support from people who could very easily shut me down. It goes beyond a simple, “Here’s what I think you should do in this situation.” They extend to, “Let me reach out to my extended network on your behalf.” Rather than telling me, “Slow down there, buckaroo, and wait your turn,” they said, “Let me make a call, and see what I can wrangle up.”

Most importantly, though, they have shown me all the things that I truly don’t know. I think I’ve worked hard. But there’s always an event that works you harder. I think I’ve gotten the short end of the stick. But it can always be shorter. These wise (and WISE) women have given this grasshopper the wisdom to know that she knows nothing, and that’s OK. They have also set an amazing example of what I aspire to: Not only to be a rock star in my field, but to be generous with my time, skills and resources. That is one thing I definitely know.