I was fifteen when I got a job working at the Beverly Theatre in Beverly Hills. My boss, Myron, the theatre manager, looked and acted like Tony Soprano on The Sopranos. One day I came into his office with a question, and he told me,“Man up, stop acting like a kid who’s caught his dick in his zipper and take care of business.” He didn’t know it but he was one of my first mentors. That crude and direct “manly-man talk” brought me into a man’s world; it meant “grow up or get out” and catapulted me from Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood to the jungle of potential battle in the work place.
The way Myron talked to me was shockingly clear, direct, and without sugar coating, but instinctively I knew he was mentoring me and I took his in-your-face advice to heart.
I was in my 40’s when Dr. Miriam Solomon, a wonderful therapist, introduced me to the concept of mentoring others as a way to work out the parenting skills that had eluded me. Back then I was married for the second time with two daughters from my first marriage and a daughter and son from my second marriage. We were in the hurricane of a blended family chaos. It was easier for me with my daughters, but when my son was old enough to challenge me I felt like I was in a constant war zone of kid problems.
Dr. Solomon explained that there comes a time when most boys need to separate from being their father’s child to being his son the MAN, and this usually comes with a kind of drama. I view it as having parallels to when the Alpha Male in a wolf pack is replaced by a challenger who takes the Alpha on, backs him down, and takes his place as the new Alpha leader of the pack. I missed out on that experience with my Dad due to his early death when I was a child.
Dr. Solomon suggested that I start mentoring people because mentoring relationships are parent-like relationships in that you’re being supportive of other people and giving them guidance but without the complex issues that parenting involves.
I’m very happy that she made this suggestion. As a mentor, I contribute to younger people’s lives by sharing life lessons I’ve learned professionally and personally.
The people I mentor are generally in their late 20’s or 30’s.
Typically, they ask me, “How did you do it?” And I will ask, “Do what?” Almost invariably I find from their answers that they think success is the prize and that it’s measured by money and the material symbols that come with it.
I usually set that aside and ask the mentee, “What is your goal in life?”
This is where the life lessons generally start. Up until then, most of the young people I mentor simply want to be rich; I try to bring the conversation into practical reality. I ask questions like, “When you’re 50, what do you want your life to look like? I ask them specific questions such as:
“Do you want a family?”
“If you do, how many kids do you want?”
“Where do you want to live?”
“How big a house do you want?”
“How much do you think the house you want to live in will cost?”
“How many hours a day do you want to work?”
When I get their answers, I usually ask additional questions, such as “Do you want your children to go to private school or public school?” and “What do you want your vacations to look like?”
I’ll then start working with them to figure out what that lifestyle would cost and ask them, “Do you really think you’ll be able to make that much money?” I also ask the most important question: “Is that picture what you really want in life with all the work and responsibility that comes with it?”
I’ve found that usually young people want, even expect, a lifestyle like that of their parents if their parents are affluent and if their parents aren’t affluent, they want a “celebrity” lifestyle. Most have no idea what that lifestyle costs let alone how to make the amount of money needed to support it.
I talk about what they would have to do professionally to earn that money,and I explain the kind of working life that is generally associated with that level of career, and ask, “Do you want to work 24 hours a day?”
We talk about the emotional cost of living the professional life necessary to get their picture of a “celebrity” lifestyle and the picture becomes far less glowing. Then I bring the conversation around to talking about quality of life, which is what I believe truly brings happiness.
When I started building my business, I thought that money was the answer to everything, and I was willing to do whatever it took to get it. Back then I was in my early 20’s and I didn’t have an understanding about my own inner world let alone other people’s.It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s and had achieved my success and was still unhappy that I embarked on the search for inner contentment.
One amazing phenomenon I find is that many young people have chosen career paths that are actually counter to what they really want.
When I was their age,I had no idea that eventually I would be an artist and a writer. In hindsight, I would have enjoyed an artist’s life, but I’d never been exposed to it and had no idea that it was a part of who I really am. if my mentees don’t express a passion for the work they are currently doing or planning to do,I ask them whether they have needs for creative expression that they have not yet explored and if the professional trajectory they’re on is going to take them to a place of inner contentment.
One of the primary life lessons I’ve learned is that it’s the authentic you that needs to be expressed in order to have a fulfilling life. The authentic you is not just the image that you think you should show to the world. It’s not who you think you should be because others expect it of you or because you expect it of yourself. The authentic you is who you truly are emotionally, temperamentally, and the collection of your actual interests and needs as a whole person. This is the you that must be fulfilled in order to arrive at a life of inner contentment.
A concept that’s especially helpful for me as a mentor is talking about goals and expectations. I mentioned that I start by asking mentees what their goals are. They tell me their goals in specific areas, and I explain to them what I’ve learned about the difference between goals and expectations.
I often explain this distinction by using the example of a car. I’ll ask, “What is your dream car?” Then I’ll ask them, “What do you think will be the best car you’ll ever own?” If, for example, they say their dream car is a Maserati or a Ferrari but they think the best car they’ll ever own is a Lexus I explain that we generally get our expectations but miss our goals unless our goals and expectations are the same.
The primary issues I focus on are aligning my mentees’ professional goals with their expectations and the cost in style of life to achieve their goals, and examining whether that life is the one they really want to live. For example, it’s widely known that the top professional jobs often start out with a 60-70-hour work week that takes precedence over one’s personal life, and that to succeed as a top professional it will probably stay that way for the next 20 years.
I ask, “Are you willing to pay that price?” Sometimes the response I get from people I’m mentoring is a blank expression. They are shocked. The wind is knocked out of their sails. This is when I start guiding them to redefine their goals and align them with their expectations, and I take pleasure in knowing that I am playing a part in helping them chart a realistic path to their future.
- 22 Aug, 2013
- Posted by Steve Fogel
- 0 Comments