How I Found Mentors Who Share My Values

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Joy is the founder of Joy Bennett Consulting, a strategic marketing agency in Cincinnati, OH, a wife, and a mother of four. 

Doing something new is difficult. And the older I get, the less I enjoy feeling incompetent. I have to force myself to accept the beginner stage, embrace failure as an essential step toward mastery and keep trying. It always helps when I can watch someone else, especially when they’re willing to share the mistakes they’ve made and the tips and tricks they’ve learned along the way.

It’s true for little things like driving a jet ski for the first time or learning to play the electric bass (both of which I’ve tried in the last year). It’s also true for big things like making a family, managing money and running a business.

Seeing Women in Business

I don’t think I knew anyone who ran their own business when I was growing up. My exposure to anything outside an extremely traditional “men earn money; women raise kids” model was almost zero. The only women I knew who were working either weren’t married or were past the child-rearing stage of life. All I knew about money was balancing a checking account. The women in my life didn’t handle things like insurance, credit or investments. The path I expected to follow was college, marriage, motherhood.

Once in college, I began exploring ideas and options (which is one significant purpose of this time in life, I believe). I met women with different goals for their lives, and I began to uncover my own talents and dreams. Seeing what’s possible and making it happen, communicating clearly and building others up — these are passions and strengths of mine. I began to picture myself pursuing a career in addition to a family.

Career and Family Ambitions

When our first child was born with life-threatening medical conditions, our only viable choice was for me to set aside my career indefinitely. It would have cost far too much to hire skilled nurses, and my husband’s job had better benefits. I learned to care for our baby and drove her to multiple weekly appointments, got up throughout the night, and made unplanned visits to the ER that often resulted in hospital stays.

I was completely out of the workforce for six years (though I kept writing and volunteering my talents). Eventually, I dipped my toe back in with a part-time job at the hospital where our daughter spent so much of her time. I knew what I wanted, and I knew what I was willing to do for that. I wanted relationships with my family, the freedom to adjust my life around that family and options to choose from. When the part-time job conflicted with my ever-more-complicated family life, I left the job and set out on my own.

Many people claim they want flexibility and family time. As I searched for a community of like-minded entrepreneurs, I found so much of the opposite kind of message: “You can sleep when you’re dead,” “hustle mode,” a mountain of magical thinking and endless glorification of working nonstop for money. Don’t hear what I’m not saying. Working hard, becoming wealthy and thinking positively are all good things. I have decided what I’m willing to sacrifice to reach my goals, and I’ve chosen goals that are less tangible but (to me) more significant.

Seeking Role Models

I had to make a few mistakes as I sought out role models. Buying someone’s promises and then finding them hollow has a way of helping a person develop intuition! I began to learn what to watch for and listen for as I considered coaches, groups, and courses to develop my business skills. High-pressure, edgy sales tactics without any real tangible value is a sure sign someone just wants my money. Those mistakes gave me more than lessons, though — I met people I still work with today.  

Now, when I encounter individuals and groups who truly value relationships and run businesses in a way that makes the world a better place, I pounce. When I find a woman who exudes wisdom about making the complexities of life work without sacrificing people for profit, I pay attention, listen and try to build a relationship. Watching someone who is doing life the way I want to do it is both empowering and enlightening.

My favorite role models and mentors demonstrate leadership, financial savvy, and commitment to their families. I used to think I needed to find women who embody this, but more and more men are changing their approach to life too. Surrounding myself with people who arrange their lives to accommodate family time, take care of their teams and choose good over greed is incredibly powerful. Having a sense of all being in this together is the real power of finding mentors and role models. Many others have faced and overcome similar obstacles, so we can too.