THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Penina Rybak Headshot

Lessons in Mentorship From an Entrepreneur Who Watched the Super Bowl For Its Ads -- Until Now

Posted: Updated:

"I have to juggle multiple hats. I have to be a creative sounding board, putting the right combination of technology, vendors, directors, post houses and music companies together, ultimately galvanizing all these elements to produce something that will be engaging in whatever medium will be used for the final product."

-- Tanya LeSieur, Director of Integrated Production, Saatchi & Saatchi LA, headed the Toyota Super Bowl Ad Campaign, 2012

"Now I'm here....with a lot of fans in the NFL cheering me on, and I can hear them all."
Derrick Coleman, Second Year Fullback, Seattle Seahawks, Super Bowl bound 2014

As an educator turned entrepreneur, I have been an avid observer of human behavior for years. The human condition makes for fascinating study, and there are several times a year when Shakespeare's words really ring true.

"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances."

We're about to experience this on a grand scale, in the 2014 Super Bowl in East Rutherford, NJ, and again in the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. I admit that I'm not that into watching sports (but adore sports movies) and actually watch the Super Bowl for its outrageous ads. Why? Maybe it's because I'm curious, looking for social proof amidst the psychological warfare which companies and brands engage in, fighting for customer loyalty and profit.

Maybe it's because I've learned that economics is more than just the study of mathematical statistics. It is about understanding human behavior and how it affects trends in commerce all over the world, something seen easily in pop culture and commercials.

But I will be watching the Super Bowl this year. Why? Because it's in my neck of the woods and loyalty is integral to the human condition. Because while I'm not into spectator sports, I believe that play is important to the human condition, and a powerful vehicle for learning, also a byproduct of the human condition, something Aran Levasseur writes more about here.

Because the Super Bowl promises to have inspiration, an aspiration of the human condition. Like many, I will be rooting for the inspiring Derrick Coleman, the fullback who has hearing impaired children, their parents, teachers, speech therapists, and friends all cheering, before he hits the field, and especially after he wrote this letter. Because it promises to have inspired ads, some of which you can see here.

We're about to have an onslaught of inspiration that can enrich the Theory of Mind and episodic memory of people in all industries, especially in entrepreneurship, for months to come. How we collectively react to Derrick Coleman, his teammates, his opposing teammates, and the commercials interwoven into this drama will determine many an educational and financial outcome in 2014 and beyond. Human behavior is actually about our pervasive reactions to patterns in the environment; social, educational, technological, and cultural, all of which are essentially an agglomeration of what drives our economy, and our lives.

Are our lives and inner landscapes that enriched by following sports? I don't have an answer, and the debate rages on. Sports, its players, and its analogies are frequently discussed in homes, schools, think tanks, and board room meetings all over the world.Why? Because sporting events have the unique distinction of being the first virtual mentors for the masses. Because its players psychologically and metaphysically travel the proverbial hero's journey and demonstrate grit, something that goes beyond the neuro-cognitive processes and mental gymnastics needed to learn skills to achieve success.

Which brings me to the point of this post.....Opportunities for learning skills and grit are all around us. As James Altucher writes, "Everything is a mentor."

Mentorship is a fluid process that begets leadership, imbues power with purpose, and leverages one's skillset for the greater good. January has been designated as National Mentorship Month in the USA. Many workplaces engage in the process of mentoring new employees and encouraging reverse mentorship, something I've written more about in my upcoming book and in my Tumblr blog. I have both given and received mentorship at different points in my life and career as a pediatric speech therapist and then an entrepreneur. It has shaped my outlook and conduct, and my overall learning process. 

Human beings need to be engaged in learning; about themselves and others, to forestall inertia, boredom, arrogance, and stagnant thinking. That's why we need mentors, and to be mentors for others. Education of oneself, and educating others, is predicated on the idea of scaffolding previously learned skills, and applying them to new situations/events one experiences, something Derrick Coleman exemplifies to all his fans.

That's why entrepreneurial mentorship today is not just about learning from others in Real Time, something that will hit home as we watch this year's Super Bowl, its commercials, or both. After going through my own entrepreneurial journey, reading about Coleman, the new trends in marketing, and the impact of previous SuperBowl ads, I've concluded that virtual mentorship is alive and well despite its detractors.

So where does an entrepreneur begin the learning process? By actively seeking out mentorship, real or virtual, using this list I created.

Ten Mentorship Traits to Look For -- In Descending Levels of Importance:

1. Accessibility: physical and emotional
2. Diverse background and thinking (to help you see other viewpoints)
3. Solution oriented constructive criticism
4. Detail oriented approach to mentoring (follows "the script" and provides guidance for both the basics and minutiae of the process)
5. Well connected and well respected in chosen field
6. Ability to Improvise
7. Sense of humor
8. Initiates/asks questions about your service/product, philosophy, and timeline
9. Collaborative: admits mistakes and "shares the glory"
10. Technologically aware (doesn't need to be savvy, but needs to be aware and somewhat knowledgeable so as to share common language/ground with you)

It will be interesting to see which Super Bowl ads and related social media posts/blogposts will exhibit these traits. I will have my Pocket and Evernote Apps ready for the action. But I will probably be too focused on watching Derrick Coleman in action, a first for me!