Sisyphus has a good post up in the Lessons for Girls series about insisting on asking for help, part of a response to Historiann's post about mentoring. Sisyphus talks about her friend Brilliant Grad, who in addition to being brilliant has had a whole lot of other gifts heaped on him, in part because he meets people and "thinks about how they could help him," which she's too kind to call a utilitarian view of human relationships (so I'm saying it here).
Although this is in part a gender issue, it struck a chord with me because it's really a class issue, too. In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell talks about the class dimensions of learning to get what you want, using the example of J. Robert Oppenheimer (who was able to talk his way out of attempting to poison his tutor) as an instance of a kind of social intelligence that's necessary if intellectual intelligence is to result in success. That social intelligence comes in part from class privilege, which teaches you that the world is there to serve you and also teaches you how to talk to people to get what you want. Remember Cher in Clueless, who was so proud to have argued her C grade up to an A? I don't condone that kind of grade-grubbing, of course, but the attitude she showed about shaping the world was exactly what Gladwell was talking about.
As I said in a too-long comment over at Sisyphus's blog, if you were raised with working-class values (as I was), you thought that when someone told you the rules, they were really the rules. You didn't realize that you could argue your way out of them and convince people to do your bidding, because that's not how the world works for you if you don't have class privilege to back it up. And then, when you saw others sail past the rules that you'd abided by, you felt angry and betrayed, because you'd played by the rules and they hadn't.
If you let the rage define you, you're stuck with that outlook forever, always blindsided and hemmed in by rules that may or may not have a good reason for existing. But if you use that rage, turn it into observation, and study what others privileged by class (or gender) are doing to remold the world to their advantage, you can learn from it. The most valuable thing anyone learns in this position is that there's a difference between the Official Rules and the Real Rules. If you're born with class privilege, you know this already. If you're not, you need to figure out where that gap lies and what its parameters are.
And you can pass it on. That's mentoring.
Update: Dr. Crazy has some good advice on this subject:Reassigned Time: Scripts for Getting Mentorship: Crazy's Version, as does Historiann.