Finding your way through the business maze.

Getting a consistent, alternative perspective on your work is priceless

This is an article by Jon Torrens, published on LinkedIn on June 5, 2018

As a self-employed/one-man army/freelance hero, I do everything for my business: marketing, accounts etc, as well as delivering my top-notch training and making sure it’s fresh and relevant. I believe that the reason I’ve managed to build my business into what it is – without losing my mind – is down to two things:

  • Heroic dedication*
  • Ann Hawkins, my mentor

Need Guidance? Get a Good Mentor

Having a mentor has been incredibly helpful for me in terms of keeping on track. The way my brain is wired means it doesn’t store information in a particularly useful way, and I easily get excited about cool, new ideas at the expense of remembering other, slightly more important things.

Ann steers me back gently to the most productive path e.g. reminding me of the things I got excited about the last time we spoke and did precisely nothing about. “Oh yes, that” I admit, sheepishly. She points out the real priority and I’m back to it (work smart, not hard). Similarly, she’ll point out that the important client (who I’m worried about not hearing back from) doesn’t hold me at quite the same level of importance – and that’s fine. “Don’t worry, keep going.”

It’s occurred to me that Ann’s perspective on my business decisions is like someone guiding me from above as I navigate a hedge maze: she may not be able to see a definitive path (this metaphorical maze is too large to see as a whole), but she can easily see the immediate future at junctions, dead-ends around the corner, and dead-ends I’ve already encountered but forgotten. She saves me lost time and a lot of stress, which makes her a highly valuable ally. Having someone to reassure you and cheer you on is also vital: a timely “Don’t worry, keep going” helps maintain the momentum if I’m feeling demoralised, and a or “Great job, do it again” capitalises on the positivity when I’m feeling rather pleased with myself. And ultimately, her objective is for me to develop to the point that I don’t need her help any more, which is a good end goal.

My mentor:

  • doesn’t claim to be infallible
  • is proud of the fact that she’s not for everyone (‘marmite’ rather than ‘vanilla’ – a very good way of putting it)
  • has a sense of humour
  • is brutally honest
  • has no egotism

This excellent combination makes an ideal guide through what can be a pretty terrifying challenge: being your own boss.

* overwhelming fear of failure

This isn’t meant to be an advert for Ann (even if it’s become quite a good one), but for getting a consistent, alternative perspective on your work: your next presentation, a new project, or a new business idea. Having someone credible to confide in is incredibly useful for your communication in particular (get them to check over the email before you send it, to watch you deliver the presentation before the day itself, to comment on that business proposal). Their opinion – even if (or because) you completely disagree with it – is a vital perspective that can guide you through some very confusing and stressful situations.

Jon Torrens
An introvert who teaches speaking confidence.
Coach, TEDx speaker, storyteller, presentation expert and compere.


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