Mentoring Generations — How to make Them See — DP Mavia
Mentoring is slowly but surely becoming a marketplace by word. Mentoring is important but modern-day market spaces have easily turned it into more of a product or a program than a necessary component of cross-relational value. The most common narrative of mentoring is the old versus the young. It is seen as a transference of curated wisdom to make it easier for the coming generations to thrive and prosper. Mentoring is becoming a learned skill set, meaning there are ways and methods acquired that can help a Mentor be a skillful disseminator of both virtue and value to a mentee.
The Lateness of History
I remember the tales of my Father on how he grew up. The narrative was likely the same in every African household. There is this unannounced trophy to fossilize their growing days in the embalming of suffering — how far they walked, not having enough money, the work ethic of muscle and grit. Our parents fostered us on the recipe of their selflessness and easily considered the days we are living as easy. The problem though was that history is one side of time, there are realities our parents never prepared us for. It was not their fault but they were not broadly enamored with information about the skillsets and the tools of the future. Most of our parents worked hard at duplicating themselves in us instead of anticipating a hideous future and preparing us for the same. Their articulate pride in history was slowly becoming a latecomer in engaging the future. My Father has now the courage of letting me know that I am living in tougher days than he did.
The Compression of Generations
So here I am ‘growing up’ as time rolls by. Between my son (who is eleven) and I is thirty-four years. How many generations are those? If I use my family History I will say he is the next generation after me, so it looks like only one step. If I use the boundary of tens then we have three generations from my son to that ends up with me — the eleven to twenty, the twenty to thirty, and the thirty to forty. If I use the boundary of information and socialization I could easily segment the generations into further clusters. There is a revolving and ever-changing definition of what a generation stands for. Most of us are schooled around the linearity of generations — that’s the default. History is continually being governed by exposure to information and therefore our ability to mutate in between the novelty and experience of information, data, and experiences can cluster you into the understanding and participation of trans generational spaces. I might be one step from my son generationally but I have to intentionally learn how to be continually transformed to relate to him across three generations.
Choreographers of Experiences
Mentoring therefore is also mutating with the change of times. I have to be better at anticipation than my parents. I have to learn how to choreograph experiences. Beyond the borrowed definitions we have had of generations from boomers to ‘Exers to Y’s and Millenials to Z’s and all, what changes and at the same time remains the same in all these generations is experiences and how they are curated to benefit the Mentors and Mentees. Choreography is the art and practice of designing sequences of movements. Mentors are designers of movements and sequences they can use their goodwill to steer the river of the spirit of the age to make the baton of histories and time easily or meaningfully transferable. To paraphrase Frantz Fanon to take part in a revolution it is not enough to write a revolutionary song but you must first fashion (choreograph) the revolution with the people (generations) then the songs will come by themselves. There is the content of Mentoring of generations and there is the Text or Structure that enables that content to be created and passed on.
Proper Mentoring needs the Structure of the Revolution before the Song (Content) of the Revolution.
Challenges, Contexts, and Seeing
I have come to redefine Vision as not just what you see, but how you see. The ‘What’ of Vision in my view is determined by the training vested in the How of Seeing?
Case Study One
The story is told of John Amos of Aflac a U.S. Health insurer he attended the Japanese world fair in Osaka in 1970. He noticed how many of the Japanese affluent people wore masks to protect them from getting the flu. Out of that experience, he made a connection — the Japanese are Wealthy but risk-averse. It took him four years to get a trading license in Japan but when he got in, the market accounted for a multibillion-dollar business for his company. How do you mentor young people to learn how to translate masks into a billion-dollar business?
Case Study Two
John Naisbitt the author of Megatrends recounts an incident that happened to him when he just was starting his company. He was watching television President Lyndon Johnson was giving the State of the Union message in which he declared war on poverty. He had in mind the hard-core unemployed meaning the black ghetto unemployed. John began piecing the information that was reeling in from his television. He knew from his experience working in Washington probably the President had no concrete plan or training program in mind. He began immediately writing a proposal for a training manual for the hardcore unemployed. In a day he finished and went to entice the Ford Corporation to fund the program because he knew the bureaucracy of obtaining government funding for the same. His proposal was funded in 24 hours of his presentation to Ford Corporation. How do you turn a random presidential speech into a funded proposal to help change society?
Mentoring for Sight
Both Studies leave us with a lot of lessons to learn from.
- The big take away is mentoring the next generation not only to solve problems but also to have an eye to identify opportunities. If a skill-set like that can be ingrained in mentees, there is not a problem or challenge they will encounter that they will not identify opportunities to harness in solving them.
- Every Context is an opportune context. A simple Trade fair in Japan and an unassuming State of the Nation address, whether it be far or near, the ‘genius’ to be able to see and act is what is worth passing to a mentee. I am from Africa it would then mean with our ‘myriad’ of challenges and problems ours might be also a seeing problem.
- Resources await those who creatively find a cause that will transform society and who are persuaded to circumvent prevailing bureaucracies to spread their believability.