One Way to Leave a Legacy is to Be a Mentor

Jann FreedLeading, Learning, Sage-ing Leave a Comment

An important part of becoming a Sage is legacy work.  We all make a difference and the question is what difference do you want to make?  What difference are you making?  One way to make a difference and to leave a legacy is to be a mentor.  Read this post to learn more.

For the past several weeks, I have been participating as a mentor in a program titled Community Connect organized the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute.  The purpose is to pair up people with mentors to learn more about how to get involved in the community.  There are 16 mentors and about 30 mentees organized into small groups.  We meet every other week for three hours and on the off weeks, we are expected to meet in our small group off-site.

While this is the first time I have volunteered for this program, it reminds me of teaching undergraduate students so I am enjoying the experience.  In fact, the six week session is going to be over before you know it.  But intergenerational learning is a key to keeping everyone relevant and engaged.  We can all learn from each other.

One person who is on a mission to integrate generations is Marc Freedman.  He is the author of the new book “How to Live Forever: The Enduring Power of Connecting the Generations,” founder of Encore.org and co-founder of Experience Corps, both dedicated to helping older adults find purpose later in life.  Freedman was one of the Sages I interviewed for Leading with Wisdom:  Sage Advice from 100 Experts. 

Freedman was interviewed recently in the New York Times.  When he was asked what it takes to be a mentor, he said simply, “Showing up and shutting up: Being consistent and listening. You don’t have to be a charismatic superhero. You don’t need an advanced degree. It’s more about the relationship than imparting sage advice. The key is not being interesting. The real key is being interested — being present and paying attention.”

One of my favorite phrases is it is more important to be interested than interesting.

Freedman believes boomers in particular are an untapped resource of mentors in this country who could be utilized to the mutual benefit of mentor and mentee. He is trying to make this happen by integrating not segregating generations.

“Older people are uniquely suited for a mentoring role,” he said in an interview. “The critical skills for nurturing relationships — emotional regulation and empathy — blossom as we age.” People who are retired also have more time to devote to mentoring younger people who could be grandchildren, neighbors or even strangers.

“The real fountain of youth is the fountain with youth,” Mr. Freedman said. “It’s spending less time focused on being young and more time focused on being there for the next generation.” As the developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst Erik Erikson said nearly 70 years ago, “I am what survives me.”

Think about the mentors in your life.  They live on because of the impact they had on your life.  We live on by passing on what matters most to us.  And I know from being a professor, we learn when we teach.

Who were/are your mentors?

Whom are you mentoring/coaching?

How and where could you do more mentoring to help others and to help yourself?

“We can’t be everything to everyone, but we can be something to someone…even a lot of someones.” –Simon Sinek

One of my favorite, but moving scenes is from a movie titled Into the Wild based on the nonfiction book by the same title written by Jon Krakauer.  In this scene, neighbor Ron (Hal Holbrook) has been a mentor to Chris (Emile Hirsch).  Ron is dropping Chris off before he starts his Alaskan adventure.  Ron cares about Chris and fears he won’t come back so he offers to adopt him.  Since Ron does not have a family, Chris would be his legacy as he would live on through Chris.