Two Things My Mentors Have NEVER Said

I love the book of Proverbs, a book from the Wisdom Literature. Becoming wise is one of those things that the average person probably doesn’t strive for. But, I love how Tremper Longman defines wisdom…

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While most people might not say, “One of my life goals is to become wise,” most people do want to live life well. We all want to be able to navigate friends, family, relationships, work, and money, well.

The importance of wisdom has been impressed upon me because I’ve had some phenomenal mentors. I would not be who I am if it weren’t for them. Most of them are older than me but they’ve never once given me the impression that they feel superior to me. But, I have been the recipient of advice that left me feeling more frustrated and belittled than anything else. With that in mind, here are two things my mentors have never said to me…

  1. “When I was your age I thought the same thing.”

    This one is usually accompanied by a smirk that screams, “You’re so dumb I feel sorry for you!” No one likes to be made to feel like they’re foolish. Besides, this comment is completely unhelpful because a person’s age is something they have no control over. More importantly, a person’s age doesn’t disqualify them from having a good perspective. It’s possible to be young and right. It’s also possible to be old and wrong. It’s also possible that the younger person you’re talking to is so foolish that it’s difficult not to laugh at them. But, if you want to have any influence over them, the worst thing you can do is make them feel inferior.

  2. “Try not to let your youthful idealism get the best of you.”

    This is code for, “You are so clueless.” It’s also not helpful AT ALL. This statement is verbal bullying at its finest. No matter how much time goes by there will still be the same amount of years between us. So, the person who is older will always, ALWAYS be able to pull this one out as a trump card. It’s definitely a good way to end the conversation and get your way if you’re the older person. But, it’s also a good way to burn bridges, ruin relationships, and snuff out one of the best things about young people…their youthful idealism.

  3 comments for “Two Things My Mentors Have NEVER Said

  1. January 12, 2012 at 10:26 am

    Great post Neil. so true

  2. Russ
    January 12, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    It’s difficult to supervise or mentor individuals who fall into a group (millenials) that seem to, in a lot of cases, have very little respect for experience, tradition and the concept of paying dues. I love the 22 y/o applicants looking for a middle managment position…who have never swept a floor or cleaned a toilet in there life. Not everyone is Bill Gates, Sergey, Larry or Woz. It seems to me that this generation of “you’re special” and everyone gets a trophy, has been done a great disservice. They haven’t ever lost and learned those valuable lessons. They’ve been given unrealistic expectations. Not everyone is cut out to be an astronaut, CEO or inspirational speaker.

    • January 12, 2012 at 10:37 pm

      There’s a balance for sure. A couple of the most important lessons to learn are when to be quiet and when to listen. I’m really thankful to have older mentors in my life who will tell me hard truths when I need to hear them (http://wp.me/p1MyF6-54 & http://wp.me/p1MyF6-5h). So, I’m definitely not suggesting that it’s never appropriate for an older person to be direct with a younger person. I’m sure there are lots of entitled young people out there who don’t want to learn. But, I’m also sure there’s plenty of young people out there who do want to learn, myself included. It’s easy to paint people with a broad brush, especially when you start talking about generations, but I’ve had the privilege of meeting some very bright, hardworking millennials who are eager to learn. I guess that’s who I had in mind as I was writing this post…not the entitled, lazy, and foolish millenials (I’m also sure each generation has its fair share of entitled, lazy, and foolish people. Ha!)

      Thanks for the comment, Russ!

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