Rethinking your sources of wisdom

I sat and listened intently as my mentor shared with me some pretty amazing wisdom. His perspective and experiences were so different than mine that I needed to stop him every few minutes and ask for clarification.

Not everything he said made sense, but parts of what he shared was exploding in my brain. I’d just never thought of things the way he was describing them.

Have you ever had one of those moments when someone quietly revealed to you a world you’d never known?

My mentor and I both finished our cups of hot chocolate. Then I threw down my credit card and paid for them.

I didn’t buy because he’d been teaching me.
It was because he didn’t have much money. He was 17.

Especially in the last decade, I’ve taken on many more young teachers and mentors. As you get older, you may also find your universe of potential teachers is expanding.

A couple of months ago I got schooled on life by a 6-year-old. I thought I was teaching her to throw a Frisbee, but by the time she had mastered her wrist flip, I was also viewing the world differently.

And a few years before that, a 30-something playwright taught me as much about life as many grey-haired adults did with his Broadway Musical “Hamilton.” You may also remember this goofy 16-year-old who is teaching anyone who’s watching about resilience?

Who will you let mentor you?
The paradigm I’d been raised in was that mentors were supposed to be older and more experienced. The ignorance of youth hopefully becomes the wisdom of maturity.

But as Neils Bohr once said, “…the opposite of one profound truth may very well be another profound truth.” In other words, there is tremendous wisdom in youth.

No, I’m not suggesting you buy everything your younger friends tell you any more than I believe you should listen to everything your elders say. Yet, there are threads of wisdom in surprising places if you’re willing to pay attention.

I will still seek advice from those older people who have traveled more miles than I have when I’m at life’s critical junctures. But without the fresh wisdom of youth, I think I’d have already crashed my life into the ditch by now. Or I’d be bored out of my mind.

How about you?
Who are you willing to let teach you?

The ideal mentoring relationship for me is someone who both can teach me and is willing to learn from me.

No single one of us can see it all, but I want to hang out with the people who are paying deep attention to their world, regardless of age or status.

The world is your school yard, but the people you’ll learn from aren’t always the ones who are labeled as teachers.

Look around. There is wisdom in your midst.

Please make a comment below about someone who surprised you with great wisdom.

  • Scott says:

    Great post David – My boys teach me every day David. Cody, (19) my oldest reminds me of the power of persistence when chasing your dream; Coop (16) coaches me on playing with pain – torn ACL; and Bray (14) can just send me a smile that says “Dad, stop taking yourself so seriously!l

  • Pj says:

    Interesting perspective on mentor/mentee relationships. I would imagine many people go into these relationships to transfer knowledge in both directions and to provide a place to bounce ideas, vent, strategize, and work on communications. If people view the relationship as an opportunity for both sides to listen and learn I would think it will provide a more beneficial relationship. If you go in looking for a one direction learning environment, opportunity may be lost.

    • David Martin says:

      Well said, PJ. The whole notion of mentor/mentee suggests it’s gonna be only a one-way flow of wisdom.