No, I haven't boiled any bunny rabbits lately. My particular brand of stalking has nothing to do with my romantic life, although it is all about passion -- my passion for my career, and for the industry that I work in.
You see, I don't stalk ex-boyfriends or old high school friends -- at least not that often, and never without a few glasses of wine in me first. I do, however, regularly stalk strangers. And by strangers, I specifically mean people I consider to be mentors. Now, I've never met most of these mentors, and the ones I have actually met have generally been via brief handshakes against the background of a loud, crowded tech conference, which isn't exactly prime real estate for establishing a deep, involved relationship.
Even though I'm not personally in touch with most of these mentors, I do maintain a strong personal relationship with them. Their successes are inspiration for my future successes. Their failures are lessons I learn for myself. And, their blogs, tweets and posts about these topics are the conversation that keeps me learning and growing from their example -- however one-sided that conversation may be.
Her post -- a timeline of the process to take her idea from conception to full-blown company creation -- is a blueprint for me, not just in terms of the specific steps she took, but in terms of the way she was thinking and feeling while taking them. It's not just about following in her footsteps, it's about understanding how and why she decided which steps to take in the first place.
I feel the same way about my other mentors. That list -- and yes, there is an actual list I maintain on Twitter as well as a list of blog and Facebook bookmarks in my browser -- includes Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer, Joel Spolsky, Leah Culver, Molly Holzschlag, Rand Fishkin , Gina Bianchini and Bethenny Frankel. Yes, Bethenny Frankel. I may not necessarily want to emulate all of my mentors' careers. But, I do learn an awful lot from following their day-to-day thoughts and actions via Facebook, Twitter and the blogosphere. In fact, that's where most of the value of my mentorships comes from.
That's why we love social media in general -- it's a voyeuristic look inside someone's day to day life, a sort of Rear Window in 140 characters or less. And, it's why social media stalking makes for such great mentorship. Not only do I get to follow what people I admire are doing. I get to follow what they're thinking while they do it. Which, by the way, makes me feel much better about my own doubts and decisions, and helps inspire me in countless other ways as well.
Now, some people might not call my particular brand of 'aspirational social media stalking' mentorship. They may say I don't have mentors, I merely have role models. Or people to look up to. But, the dictionary defines a 'mentor' as "a wise and trusted counselor or teacher." In contrast, a 'role model' is simply "a person regarded by others, especially younger people, as a good example to follow."
The difference is clear. A mentor is someone who counsels and teaches, not necessarily by being a paragon of perfection as a person or professional, but simply by being someone with wisdom worth listening to. Often, the best of that wisdom comes from the moments when a mentor is being the opposite of a good example -- the times they take risks that don't work out, make decisions they regret later, or accidentally admit to something they probably shouldn't have. That's when I learn the most from my mentors. They're not role models, and they're certainly not perfect. But they are teachers. Even when they don't know it.
Mollie Vandor is a startup junkie who just can't kick the habit. She's currently getting her fix as Product Quality Lead at BetterWorks. Mollie helped launch data-driven UGC site Ranker.com in 2008, During her time at Ranker, Mollie learned to speak fluent 'Engineerese', and developed a passion for living in the liminal space between Product and Engineering. She went on to serve at Cooking.com, where she worked on mobile and desktop sites for clients like Epicurious, Food Network and Calphalon. Mollie currently writes for sites like Mashable, Lalawag and Women 2.0, where she is the LA Lead. Find her @mollierosev.
Read more from The Levo League and join our community's Mentorship Match program:
The Many Modes of Breaking Up, Courtesy of Technology
Mentorship is the New Black: A Look at the New York Times
The Resume Advice You Need to Hear that No One is Telling You
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