personal practice: being mentored and mentoring

the more people i meet, the more i realize that i have a set of practices that are really different from most. i’m not exactly sure why i’m like this nor do i ever want to boast about it. that said, when i share them, people tend to appreciate it. so here’s to sharing.

one of these practices is to always have a mentor and to always be a mentor.

i think this started in the tallahasee christian youth group scene. from a very young age i remember being in bible study groups taught by older people (mostly men). and then as i got older, i was tasked with teaching those same groups i had gone through. it started slow; sometimes when an established teacher was out, they’d ask one of the younger of us to step in. and then, over time, we got asked to lead/teach more regularly.

and then i realized there was a whole web outside of the formal structures (sunday school, bible studies, sunday night group). there were a set of older guys (roshad, ben k, stuart, the same crew from which i learned the importance of hugging) who had a cadre of guys that they mentored. it was always an honor (cool) to be close with (discipled by) one of those guys.

then, as the guys in my age group got older (especially once we got cars), we were encouraged to start and deepen those same types of relationships with guys younger than us. we would pick them up from school or give them rides to the church when their parents couldn’t or whatever. it really was a great time in my life.

the lessons i took away from that time are really what was important for me. and they are two-fold:

  1. being mentored helps you learn.

    having someone to talk to about life and give you advice as an amazing benefit (and as james altucher says, “advice is autobiography”). additionally, explaining what you’re going through helps you realize that you’re not the first to go through stuff. this had the simultaneous impact of making me realize that i wasn’t special but also that because i’m not special, neither are “they” (the cool kids/my role models), and i have the same potential to have impact as “they” did.

  2. being a mentor helps you see that you DO have experience, no matter how much you think you don’t.

    it adds validity to your experiences. being able to help someone else go through a difficult time based on lessons you’ve learned makes going through even the most terrible of situations feel valuable.

of course, finding people to mentor or be mentored by is a totally different topic (maybe for a future post). it’s also surprising over time how relationships shift with mentors and mentees (that, too, is maybe writing for a different post).

so yea. i genuinely believe that my practice being mentored and having mentors helps me have a perspective on life that keeps me grounded and needed. and given that i think we’ve forgotten how important it is to need and be needed, i think this practice will really help if adopted by more folks. it also adds connectivity to our societies and we need more of that, too.