If you know me at all you know that my life revolves around two things: food and the startup scene. Imagine how chipper I was to find myself at Isabella’s Wednesday night surrounded by young entrepreneurs and innovators from NYC whilst chowing down on some of the best salmon I have ever had.
I spend so much time going from my computer to the gym to the kitchen (enter sexist joke here) and back to the computer that sometimes I forget to set aside time to spend time with the awesome young people in the city I live in. Huge mistake. There is nothing more invigorating than to hear about someone else’s inspirations, endeavors, and successes. It’s a multifaceted recharge. The food sets the scene but by the next day it is quite literally gone. The conversation and friendships are less tangible in the moment but more lasting in the long-term. I know, whether we talk once-a-week or once-a-month, that if and when I need guidance I can look to the people at that table and find both peers and mentors.
Having these types of gatherings has made me redefine mentorship altogether. For a while when I thought of ‘mentor’ I came up with a list of physical and career-based attributes including older, in the work force longer, and being my superior or in a position higher than my own. While those are true for many of my mentors, they are exclusionary and do not account for how much we, members of the startup community, whether on your first or your 30th, can learn from and teach each other in both formal and informal settings.
In many way’s the dinner table at Isabella’s was a classroom. The lesson was free form, rambling, and prone to tangents but was a lesson nonetheless. There was no administration or teacher. We all play a duel role as a student and an educator. To me, the magic of this is that we formed organically. A post was put up on a Facebook group called ‘Ballers’ asking if any members would want to do a dinner in NYC – it was self-selected rather than assigned.
I have found that the crux of creating an atmosphere that fosters friendship and mentorship between likeminded individuals is figuring out how to curate the community rather than control it. Too many ‘networks’ today hold the reigns – controlling everything from who you sit next to at a dinner party to assigning you a mentor for a conference. Maybe that works for some people. In my personal experience it makes me feel stifled. It was a blessing to be surrounded by people who truly wanted to be at that table sharing great food and even better conversation.
Here’s to organic communities, perfectly cooked salmon, peer mentors, raspberry mousse, and making the impossible happen.