Trade-offs and Triumphs 26 by @jennykim

Issue 26: Being an Effective Mentee and Transitory Mentors; Returning to Pen, Paper, Envelope, and Stamp to Build Relationships; Resources for the Week; Closing Thought

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Welcome to issue 26 of Trade-offs and Triumphs - a newsletter of resources and thoughts about how to balance trade-offs in life to find and celebrate the small triumph; every decision point requires thinking through trade-offs and not just immediately aiming for the “solution.”

How was your week? What were your trade-offs and triumphs?

The best part of the week probably will be conducting training using - what else - Yogi Bear and Gang.

This week we will hit on:

  • Being an Effective Mentee and Transitory Mentors

  • Returning to Pen, Paper, Envelope, and Stamp to Build Relationships

  • Resources for the Week

  • Closing Thought

For a quick oral summary of Issue 26, hit ▶️ below:

🐕🧑‍🏫 Being An Effective Mentee and Transitory Mentors

  1. Being an Effective Mentee - How to Build a Meaningful Mentoring Relationship as a Mentee

You are a potential mentee, and now you have acquired a mentor.

What should you do?  How do you build a meaningful mentoring relationship?

First, take a deep breath. Remember that all relationships will take time, intention, and good faith to build.  A productive mentor-mentee relationship will not happen overnight.

Then take out a sheet of paper and start writing down why you want a mentor.  Don’t think too much about what you are writing (or sketching) down - allow the first thoughts from your mind drop directly onto this sheet of paper.  Review your raw objectives.  Don’t edit them. 

With your raw objectives in mind, start conducting research on your mentor and write down interesting facts.  

What are “interesting facts”?  Anything that strikes you and helps you weave together a potential narrative about this mentor’s story so that you can develop questions.  

  • What are the hidden gems within this mentor’s story? 

  • What are some missing links?  

  • What do you want to better understand about your mentor so that you can develop more self-awareness?

Now, examine yourself and your capabilities.

  • What are the stories that motivated you?

  • What are the stories that have held you back?

  • What have you been teaching others?  What other subjects can you teach?

  • Have you identified any problems that you could potentially assist your mentor with?

Any relationship is a two-way street - for any relationship to flourish, you must be ready to offer your capabilities and observations.  You must be as ready to teach as you are to learn.

  1. Transitory Mentors - The Value of Transitory Mentors With No Answers

Wise and faithful counselors are out there for everyone - but you have to do the work to sift through and to find them.

Sometimes, we just need a bridge, a sounding board for the next steps in our lives, especially when uncertainty abounds.

Enter transitory mentors.

Society has conditioned us to think of mentors as long-term and permanent.  If we are fortunate enough to acquire mentors, then we are supposed to consult those same mentors for the rest of our lives.  We assume that we will never outgrow our mentors. This also assumes that our mentors will evolve continuously throughout their lives so that they can remain our mentors.

In a linear world, these assumptions may be valid.  But we do not live in a linear world.  Personal and professional developments progress in a zig-zag fashion.  The next step is not clear.

When the next step is not clear, you actually do not need people with answers, because they may have answers to irrelevant questions. You probably do not know what your core questions are. Instead, you need good sounding boards who can help you brainstorm a list of questions that potentially will be edited down to your core questions that you  need to ask to prepare for the next steps.

It is as if you are searching for and collecting items in the dark and then bringing them out for closer examination.  

  • Do I want any of these objects?  

  • How do I know?

  • How do I know that I know?

These random questions ran through my mind when the law firm partner who recruited me suddenly departed nine months later without a word to me. This law partner did not provide me notice - other people informed me that she would be leaving the firm. I felt as if I were living through the lyrics of Jewel’s song, “Am I Standing Still?”  

I had to figure out my path quickly.

During that turbulent period, I had started working on odd projects with another counsel.  In between talking about work, we just fell into talking about planning for our respective careers.  He had to figure out how to balance his family and career interests, and also whether Washington, DC was even the right place to raise his family.  He mused about these subjects out loud.  

As I listened to his musings, I realized that I needed to answer the following:

  • Did I still want to practice law?

  • Did I want to move to another firm?

  • Did I want to move in-house?

  • Did I want to stay in Washington, DC?

  • What did I want to do with the next 5 years of my life?

  • What current activities were contributing to my goals?

  • What new activities did I need to take up?

  • Did I want to get married and start a family?

  • What were the goals of my parents and my brother - my immediate family?

  • Who else did I need to speak with to discover opportunities and test my theories about what I thought I wanted to do next?

Our meandering conversations enabled me to write out these questions.  I realized that I needed to seek perspectives from various people, not answers.  

Because the answers rested within me.

✨How did transitory mentors help you develop the questions to find temporary answers?

✨How did you add value for your mentors?

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✍👨📝📘 Returning to Pen, Paper, Envelope, and Stamp to Build Relationships

This past Saturday, January 23, was National Handwriting Day. Whether your handwriting preference is print or cursive, taking the time to handwrite a note and sending it to someone is a timeless tradition. Many have written about the importance of journaling, but adopting the habit of letter writing may be important as well. At least once a week, I make the effort to handwrite and to mail a letter to someone on my long list.

This tweet by Greg Frontiero of NooWave coffee made my day last week:

✨Who does not experience a secret thrill when you receive a handwritten note?

✨Who needs to receive a handwritten note from you?

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​✊​⚒️️​🧰​ Resources for the Week

HBR’s “What Mentors Wish Their Mentees Knew” (h/t Dan Greenwald)

  • Clarify what you, as a mentee, need - a coach, sponsor, or connector?

  • Choose wisely.

  • Underpromise and overdeliver.

  • Mind your mentor’s time.

  • Beware of pitfalls and manage up. Don’t “ghost” your mentor or be a time “vampire.”

  • Be engaged and energizing.

✅ Why Your Perfect Mentor is Your Future Self - by Bryan Lee

"Imagine that you're suddenly the older version of you - 5, 10, or 15 years in the future. If you sat down over wine or coffee with the current, younger you, what advice or observations might you offer?"

✅ How to Enjoy Boring Tasks - by Roxine Kee

Ultimately, learning to enjoy innane tasks like taking dishes out of the dishwasher are all about ordering our attention and intentionally using them to control the chaos within each of our own minds.

✅ Interested in improving your negotiation skills, and going from education to application? Check out the #NegotiationTribe led by Allan Tsang and Dan Oblinger

  • The Negotiation Tribe is a community of diverse professionals - sales pros, executives, procurement specialists, police hostage/crisis negotiators, mediators, business executives of all stripes, solo entrepreneurs, small business owners, and community organizers. 

  • Everyone shares the need to negotiate. Everyone thinks that a peaceful settlement with mutual consent is just what everyone needs.

  • All participants value negotiation, not as a gimmick or tactic, but as a craft.  An artform in human performance.

  • If any of this sounds appealing, or if you are interested in pursuing excellence in negotiation, then check out this link: - First Friday of each month, 2pm ET


Closing Thought: It Matters What You Are Doing and Mute the Rest

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Be conscious of your trade-offs. Before settling on any one “solution,” run your fingers through all the trade-offs and decide intentionally and specifically.

And then celebrate your triumphs, no matter how small.

See you next week!