Sunday night's 2015 Oscar speeches were filled with passion, more than any year I can remember. So many award winners took their time on stage as an opportunity to speak out against inequalities or to give their voice to causes they believe in.
From The Imitation Game screenwriter, Graham Moore touching upon youth suicide, to Selma performers John Legend and Common standing with those who march for racial equality, to Still Alice star Julianne Moore and Alzheimer's disease or The Theory of Everything's Eddie Redmayne and ALS, to the now-viral plea against wage disparity for women by Boyhood's Patricia Arquette (and Meryl Streep's fist pump)... there were role models and leaders everywhere.
It really got me thinking about mentorship and how, now more than ever, we can find role models everywhere. Our lives are broadcast publicly whether we're a movie star or not, and that means people are watching us. Whatever we do is being seen and it's setting an example for those who see it. We have a responsibility to act in accordance with this new normal. We are ALL mentors, no matter if we're 20-year-olds just starting our careers, or 60-year-olds who have done it all. There's always someone learning from us.
So what do we do about it? Do we need to give our own passionate speeches every time we step onto a sharing platform? No, but we CAN take steps to use our influence to do good in the world. This can mean standing up for a cause we believe in, giving advice to someone who wants to follow in our shoes, or even something as simple as behaving in a mindful way, every day.
I take mentorship very seriously and I try my best to be a positive influence at all times. It is something I am truly passionate about and, to me, mentorship means leading by example.
What if you don't have access to mentors in your life? I say, look to the movies! The Oscar speeches showed us that everyone can be a mentor, and there's no reason why you can't find echoes of your core values in characters on the screen. For me, Working Girl gave me much-needed inspiration. The father in Big Fish has been a larger-than-life role model to many men. We can be influenced by musicians, by business owners, by politicians...there's an endless amount of inspiration out there. And, in turn, we can be influencing an endless number of people in our own lives.
But there's a lot of mixed messages from leaders out there...should we try to have it all or let ourselves be imperfect? Find balance or create integration? Lean in or step away from the office to start a family? Every mentor seems to offer advice for a different definition of success. How do you decide which one to listen to? I believe you need to connect with their core values. Does their life strategy fit within your definition of success? When you know in your gut what success looks like, you can find role models that help you achieve your goals.
There are learning opportunities everywhere. When you do find a role model or mentor, it's important to listen, to take feedback as feedback...and do something with it to be better. Approach relationships with a positive attitude because it will help you be more open and to grow into a mentor yourself. If you don't feel like you're a leader yet - you might already be one! Mentorship isn't bound by age; just look at Malala Yousafzai. Last year she released a new book about her exceptional journey and advocacy in hopes of inspiring activism in others. She's still a teenager but she's definitely a mentor to men and women around the world, both old and young!
Great mentors use positive communication to relay information and they are responsive to how others react. Did you know that 55 per cent of communication is body language, 38 per cent is the tone of voice, and only 7 per cent is the actual words spoken? Think about your everyday interactions -- are you setting a good example with your behaviour AND your words? Even something as simple as doing a good deed on the way to work can create a ripple effect of positivity when the gesture is paid forward. I believe we are mentoring even without knowing it; we need to be mindful of our effect on other people.
And social media has opened doors for all of us to influence others. The words (and images) we share on platforms like Twitter and Instagram are impacting people...even if we don't realize it. Be mindful of the image you project; you never know what people are picking up on. It's okay to let your guard down now and then -- after all, we are only human! -- but I believe we have a responsibility to behave in the manner that reflects our best selves.
Ultimately, the point of being a mentor is to provide a unique perspective on what you're going through. Remember, you're not just sending information out into a void; you're sending it into a world where someone is going to receive it. When Patricia Arquette, John Legend and Julianne Moore took the stage on Sunday, they knew millions of people were watching. They could stand up there and give their usual thanks, or they could add some thoughts about what moves them. They showed us that we all have a voice and we can choose how we use it.
It's like the #askhermore campaign, encouraging reporters to ask women on the red carpet about more than their outfits; everyone knows women have more to say but maybe they haven't felt comfortable saying it? Leading by example is sometimes about stepping out of your comfort zone, so that you can create better moments for someone else. It's about using your voice to speak out. And it's about helping other people live up to their possibilities, just as they help you live up to yours.
"The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves."-Steven Spielberg
Who has been your greatest mentor? I would love to read your stories...please leave a comment or tweet me @natashankpr.
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