“I have some great mentors I meet with on an irregular basis,” he said.
I was talking to Noah (not his real name), a very successful entrepreneur who is also a seeker of advice. He has collected an impressive group of experienced businessmen. When he began listing the names of these people, I was jealous. He has wisdom because he actively seeks it.
“What kind of advice do you seek from these men?” I asked.
“I have a lot going on in my life and my business. I sometimes have big questions, and I rarely am confident that I have the right answer. I am not even sure I am thinking about the subject properly. So I call the mentor I think has the best experience in a particular area,” he said.
This conversation took place after I gave Noah my advice. He called as he is interested in raising money for his startup. He has a great opportunity ahead of him and believes now is the time to raise money. That’s why he thought of me.
I asked him, “What was some of the most interesting advice you received from a mentor?”
“I was told I shouldn’t wait until I am older and successful to begin mentoring other people. I should take time out of my busy schedule and begin doing it now.
“I don’t know if I am making much of a difference because I don’t have a lot of time to devote to it. But I am doing it,” he said. Noah’s statement reminded of a conversation.
Discovering Another Way Out
Five years ago I had a sales manager come to me through the High Tech Prayer Breakfast network. He was looking for his next opportunity. He was a very successful sales executive with an F500 company in the telecom industry and was professionally trained and mentored. He wanted to build wealth and was investigating early stage companies.
I was doing my normal practice of getting deep into his background. I wanted to know where he grew up, his education and how he chose sales as his occupation. That’s when he told me this story.
He said, “I was born and raised in Detroit. My dad was an auto worker, and mom worked in retail. When I was in high school, our teacher brought in an African American man who was in business. I knew nothing about business. I didn’t even know what it was.
“He was an entrepreneur who had created a successful insurance business. He told us about his background, which was much like the life I was living. He broke free of the gang by focusing on his education. He talked about a man who mentored him in business. The story ended with this entrepreneur telling us he was a millionaire. It blew my mind.”
“That is quite a success story,” I responded.
“No. You don’t understand. You didn’t grow up where I grew up,” he said.
“What don’t I understand?” I asked.
“Where I grew up, the only way to be successful was to sing, dance, be great at sports or sell drugs. Those were the only options I knew as a kid. This businessman showed me a whole new way through education and then business. There was another way out,” he said.
I told Noah this story because he wasn’t sure if he was making a difference. Noah is thirty-two and married with two kids. He owns a business. Makes lots of money. He is a Christian leader and a brilliant technologist. And Noah is always working on the next big idea.
“When you stand in front of a high school or college class full of teens and twenty-somethings, you never know whose life you will change. You are sharing your life, and God is using it to open someone’s mind and create a vision for their life just like it did for that African-American sales manager who sat in my office over five years ago.
“You are making a difference. Keep doing it,” I encouraged.
Impacting Your Mentor’s Life
“You are also doing something which is making a huge difference in your mentor’s lives, and you don’t even know you are doing it,” I said.
“What’s that?” he asked.
“When you call on these older men and share your life’s questions, you are changing their lives. By asking their advice, you are making them feel valuable and fulfilled.
“They feel relevant again. I can tell you first hand, it is a gift from God to have a younger man ask me to share my experience,” I said.
“So keep doing it. I appreciate you thanking me for my advice today. But I want to thank you for thinking so highly of me to ask for the advice. You made my day.”
For privacy, certain identifying details have been changed.
Also published on Medium.