serene ambition™

transforming the culture of aging

Mentoring

Posted by Jim Selman on 12/21/06

I had a great meeting with David Korten yesterday. He is the very inspiring thought-leader I mentioned in a past blog and the author of The Great Turning. His vision of some of the underlying issues that perpetuate the persistence of many of the world’s nastiest problems is brilliant and offers a framework for creating a ‘new story’ of who we are and what’s possible.

Part of his vision and mine is for our whole generation to declare our responsibility for the world and become committed midlife leaders and mentors—to undertake thousands of diverse projects and initiatives to make a difference.

A big part of our thinking is the obvious opportunity we have as Elders to reinstitute mentoring into our communities. This was what the original role of “elder” was all about—passing on lessons from the past to younger generations. The primary difference today is that the world is changing so rapidly that the lessons of the past can sometimes prove to be liabilities and no one knows the answers to most of the important questions.

What Elders do have, however, is typically a more developed sense of “who they are”, an asset which can provide a powerful background for dialogue and co-creative self-expression across the generational divide. Not only do Elders need to keep learning and growing and feeding life-long curiosity, the young must also learn that ‘their’ future is inextricably connected to the rest of us and that they will someday grow older into the same culture/context that we are experiencing—for better or for worse. We all need to learn the humility necessary to confront our blind spots and prejudices and also learn to be grateful for the whole spectrum of life that is available to us.

My own mentors were the men and women who helped shape who I am. I am absolutely certain that without their interest, attention and generosity my life would have been mostly bankrupt compared to what I have actually experienced over the years. I am equally clear that I would probably not have asked for them to be my mentors had they not approached me and shared what they saw as possible. Once I could see myself through their eyes, they became an incredibly important resource for me—they created the opportunity for me to learn and grow beyond anything I could have imagined for myself.

When I became a coach, I learned that sharing one’s experience in a manner that inspires others with possibility and empowers them in action is a gift from those we mentor and a privilege to receive. Imagine what might be possible if each of the 40 or 50 million Boomers made it their business to be a mentor for one or more younger people—the possibility of creating a sustainable world based on what we say we value, a world that works for everyone, might not be far behind.

© 2006 Jim Selman. All rights reserved.

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