Being mentored while mentoring

I just came back from Cracow (Kraków) where I participated in a great startup event called "Startup Weekend Kraków" (#SWKrakow). It was an amazing and humbling experience. I learned and taught. I was mentoring and was mentored. My head almost blew up. I loved it. Here's why it was such an important experience to me:
Swkrakow
Being smart and knowing stuff

First of all, I think I know some stuff. I've been studying productivity for a long time now and I've been running Nozbe for close to 5 years now... and I've had my share of successes and failures along the way. Chances are, you are the same. You know stuff. It's good. It's great. But you hardly ever know enough.

Giving back

That's why I sometimes go to events like this - to give back to young wannapreneurs ("wannabe entrepreneurs") by engaging with them to help them succeed. It's a great experience and it's hugely important to my personal growth as a leader. That's why I decided to be a mentor in this event.

The more I know... the less I know...

That's the kicker - I know some stuff, but there is so much more I don't know. So much I haven't tried. There are simply so many mistakes I haven't made yet. That was the second reasoning for my going to this event - when I saw a line-up of mentors I knew I had to come - there were so many people smarter than me on the list I knew I had to give it a try and connect to at least some of them. The good things about our industry is that most of these guys are truly open and love to share. That's why there's no excuse not to try it.

When you mentor...

... you talk to young, energetic people and by connecting with them you get their freshness and spirit and give them what you consider "words of your wisdom" in return. You appreciate their ideas, try to get some sense into them and train your thoughts to re-evaluate the status quo. You give back what you've learned on one hand, and re-think your own ideas on the other. It's a fantastic and humbling experience.

When you are being mentored...

... you talk to guys who have been before to where you are now. They get your situation and share how they solved it in their case, they admit their mistakes and guide you to help you omit those. They are truly concerned about what you want to do and relate to it and want you to succeed.

It's important to constantly mentor and be mentored

This gives me both perspectives and helps me grow. Seriously, there's still so much stuff I don't know. In both cases I train my line of thought and learn new things. I don't say to the guys I mentor to "follow my advice blindly" and I'm not expected to do the same when I'm being mentored. The only real benefit is to challenge my thinking and to get me to think again. And then again. And then some more.

To grow and to help others grow.
I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Posted on Tuesday, January 24, 2012 (business)

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TesTeq
Jan 24, 2012 09:18
Great insights, Michael! Thank you!
mr_jcb_1973
Jan 24, 2012 13:24
Humble yet inspiring words. One of the interviews I watched had the founder of Square It! commenting how even the 'biggest names' (Onet, Allegro) were approachable, open, and prepared to listen at #swkrakow. My hope is that our region will become known for entrepeneurship as much as top technical talent.
Michael Sliwinski
Jan 24, 2012 17:05
The mentors at the #swkrakow event were amazing - very high-profile folks dedicating their weekend to teach young folks about entrepreneurship and help them with their piece of advice. That's why I was so happy to be among the mentors and could learn a lot from them... while mentoring others as well :-) Thanks for your comments TesTeq and Mr_jcb_1973!