Now that I’m well into my 50s, I’ve come to appreciate the value of mentorship. At this point in life, you — and I mean any of you — have so much wisdom to offer to someone younger. You can share any kind of learning, and I don’t see mentoring strictly as a professional thing. Mentoring is about sharing all kinds of life advice & skills with a younger generation.
And importantly, mentoring goes both ways. I have as much to learn from those younger as they do from me. I’m communicating one kind of knowledge in their direction, and they’re volleying back an entirely different point of view to me. That’s the beauty of mentoring: the more you do the more you learn.
We can be a mentor at any stage of life, and there’s no need to wait until we’re middle aged. If you have kids, you’ve probably seen 10 year olds mentoring 8 year olds. Or high school seniors teaching freshmen. And so on. Mentoring is something that starts early in life, and there’s no reason it should ever end. You have important lessons (probably many more than you realize) to teach at any age or stage of life.
I’m not alone here, and if you want to read more, it’s worth listening to this podcast interview with Chip Conley, author, entrepreneur and mentor to mentors.
When I was younger, I did not fully appreciate the value and upside to this process. I was too arrogant and did not take enough time to learn from others who had been there before me. Honestly, I could have avoided some huge mistakes had I been more open to learning. Now I know better, and I frequently seek counsel from others, on many different subjects. And in turn I spend a lot of time with those younger that I can help. Now that I’m open to the idea of mentoring others, many younger people — college students, young professional athletes — reach out to me for advice. They can intuitively feel that I’m here to help, and also to learn from them.
Here are three ways you can start the mentoring process:
- If you went to a university, join one of their organized mentoring programs. I went to UCLA, and I’m part of their UCLA One program.
- At work, make yourself available for others (younger and older) and be a resource.
- Get involved with a non-profit and use your professional expertise and life experience to help them get better. I spent years on the board of environmental group Heal the Bay lending my marketing expertise, and I’m currently on the board of professional running team HOKA NAZ Elite, where I work with team management and athletes.
I find this experience to be enormously satisfying, and I highly recommend you try it out yourself.