Mentoring Is a 4-Way Street: Let’s All Meet at the Intersection

I teach them business, they teach me life

I’m in the post office the other day with my wife Stephanie to send copies of a book I’ve just authored to a few people. There’s a friendly woman who works in the post office, Paula, who entertains customers waiting in line by singing to them. Only in New York! 

Paula asks me about the book, called Fisch Tales: The Making of a Millennial Baby Boomer (ForbesBooks, 2019). 

I tell her that it was written with input from a Millennial Advisory Board I formed, and that part of the book’s premise is Mutual Mentoring. It’s a concept that I strongly advocate and practice. To explain what it means, I show Paula the cover of the book, where it says, right under the title, “I teach them business. They teach me life.” 

Well, all of a sudden friendly Paula digs in her high heels, and offers a difference of opinion. She says she loves that cover line, but explains that her experience with her Millennial entrepreneur daughter is the reverse: “I teach her life,” Paula tells me proudly, “and she teaches me business!” 

We both laughed at what we instantly recognized as a micro-moment of Mutual Mentoring that we had just shared. Both Paula and I loved hearing and learning each other’s perspectives! That’s exactly what Mutual Mentoring is about. 

That bonding experience also made me realize that Mutual Mentoring is more than just a two-way street. It’s a four-way street (at least). 

Consider these avenues…

  1. I teach them business
  2. They teach me life
  3. I teach them life
  4. They teach me business

Even though it may sound two-dimensional—“You help me. I help you.”—Mutual Mentoring has the power to reach way beyond that. It is omni-directional: it can be used to navigate uncharted territory that benefits the business and personal lives of people across all generations. Much like what Paula and I learned from each other and what Paula learns from her daughter.

In fact, without having met Paula’s daughter, I could tell she’s doing an excellent job teaching her mother the finer points of selling. After assuring me she was going to buy the book as soon as she could, Paula said, “By the way, you should put my daughter on your Millennial Advisory Board.” 

This woman’s infectious energy and thirst for knowledge even got me thinking… maybe I should start a Baby Boomer Advisory Board and put Paula on it. 

After all, what author wouldn’t want to have the singing post office lady’s “stamp” of approval?


Originally posted on Forbes.

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