First of all, what is mentoring right?
According to the Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, the definition of a mentor is someone who “teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person”.
For the past year, I’ve been mentoring a young man through my non-profit organization, 20/30 Enterprises. I met him when I was working as a manager at a local community college and since then I’ve worked with him through numerous phases of his life, including his decision to leave school; and now his decision to re-enroll with a clearer focus on what studies he wants to pursue. During this journey of becoming a mentor (which took quite awhile for me to admit that that’s what I was doing), I learned quite a bit about myself as I was attempting to impart what little I felt that I knew for sure at that point in my life, to this bright and promising young man.
I had an opportunity to reflect on what I’ve learned and how I’ve grown.
My mentee and I would typically meet either bi-monthly or quarterly, depending on our schedules. As he would share with me things that was going on in his life, I realized that many of his experiences were very similar to my own life. It forced me to dig deep and examine how I dealt with those times in my life so that I could have some point of reference to show him that I connected with the vulnerability that he was feeling right now. Sometimes we have to be reminded that while we may be a little closer to having it all together now, at some point in our lives, we were a mess and in need of guidance. In an age when we tend to chastise the younger generation for making stupid mistakes, pulling our noses out of the air allows us to get a real whiff of our own s%#! and become relatable to others. And as leaders, we also have to be able to find common denominators to gain support for the work that we do, including from the next generation. People are more willing to support you when they can see your journey.
It helps to set the foundation for leaving a legacy of your life’s work.
At 32, I have no reason to believe that I will be departing this earth anytime soon, but I know that I can’t wait until I’m darn near on my death bed to start building a legacy. The seeds have to be planted now. Because I’m often the youngest person in many of my professional circles, I hear a lot of the older folk lament and complain about how much seems to be “lost” on this generation. They’re disappointed with the lack of involvement in today’s political and social issues and feel that we’ve somehow failed them in picking up the torch. Now, I’m not about to make this into a “whose fault is this?” rant, however, I will just say that this is a partnership deal. Our children won’t develop the same levels of passions for continuing the fight for a particular cause through osmosis. It’s going to take a willing student and an even more willing teacher. So my passion for true equal access to education, in whatever form it may come, has to be determinedly and purposefully passed down to someone else.
How are you investing in the life of a future doer?