Most of My Mentors Are Half My Age

To better navigate our new world, it sure helps to get to know the people who were born into it


My tipping point in my writing and online coaching career happened by accident. I was reading an article by a 24-year-old blogger and immediately saw a lot of myself in his words; albeit a much younger self. For once, instead of letting the feeling pass, I shot him a message and a week later we got on our first of now many calls.

If you’re like a lot of people, when you think of the word “mentor,” you envision someone (usually with a white flowing beard) sitting on top of a mountain sharing their wisdom to all who will listen. And don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of value in having mentors in the traditional sense of the word.

That first call with my friend Tom Kuegler though opened my eyes to the importance of flipping conventional wisdom on its head. We live in a new world. It’s mega fast-moving and super tech-driven. Doesn’t it make sense to link up with people who’ve been operating in this new world from day one to not only better navigate change but also learn how to lean into it?

Tom got me hooked. I was buzzing after his call. Shortly after we talked, I went down a rabbit hole of getting on calls with twenty-somethings and early thirty-somethings and then pulling them together to form different mastermind groups. Today, despite still being tech-slow, my career is moving fast. Below are a few reasons why younger mentors have been good for me along with a subtle sales pitch as to why they can be good for you too.

They‘ll save you a ton of time and therefore money

I was once told to not waste my time watching the news and instead ask smart people what’s happening in the world as they’ll quickly sum up what matters while not bogging you down with what doesn’t.

When it comes to navigating the constant change and advancements of operating online, the same rule applies. You can either spend your days trying to figure out which tools are valuable and which trends are worth following while juggling work in one hand and kids in the other, or you can just ask fast-moving upstarts what’s worth investing your time, energy, and money in.

My dad’s a smart guy. But if asked which apps make his life easier, he’d say a nap. Even though that’s a great answer — perhaps the best — no matter how much you may not want to do it, you gotta keep up to date. After all, it’s seriously hard to do anything valuable if you don’t know what other people value.

Their words are followed by action

I love wisdom. I could listen to people walking their second mountain talk all day about their stories and learnings. These conversations are great. They provide clarity regarding our “why” and can help us better focus on “what” is important.

But older mentors are not there to help you learn how to effectively set up a landing page. The same goes for asking any variations of the words “how do I do that?” as it’s not an effective use of their time.

“It’s almost always better to learn from peers who are 2 years ahead of you than mentors who are 20 years ahead of you. Life evolves and most insights get outdated.” — James Clear

“Is this person the best person to answer this question?” Remind yourself of this when seeking advice. The second you ask older mentors about things that many people can answer is the very second you’re putting that relationship at risk.

Younger mentors, however, from my experience love to not only teach, but also dig in to help me better execute on their words. The trade-off of being able to help them navigate bigger life and career questions for their perspectives and tactical help creates not only an even trade — but a solid one — as we’re both doing what we can with what we have to make the other person’s days better and lives easier.

They‘ll jack up your energy

The mere presence of twenty-somethings and people in their early thirties in Slack groups and group calls light people up as they’re seriously motivated to learn and make an impact.

Think about it for a second and imagine you were on a brainstorming call with forty or fifty-year-olds when you were twenty-five. Would you spend your time complaining? Or would you make the most of every second?

This isn’t to say friends my age and older aren’t energetic. And it certainly doesn’t mean they don’t dream. But between family obligations, managerial tasks, and normal life changes energy can be spread pretty thin. When it comes to feeling young it sure helps if you’re hanging out with people who are younger than you.

Without even trying, their perspective is different

Imagine you wrote the numbers one through hundred vertically on your wall. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that each mark holds a different view.

In the fast-changing world we live in, the person with the ability to suspend their ego and learn from the varying perspectives around them wins.

The bottom line is the world isn’t only shaped by those who dance on the edges or as Steve Jobs famously said “The crazy ones!” It’s also created by those who know how to bring that “different edge thinking” together to move the middle. Those who take the best of the young and the best of the old to create a better now.

And sometimes that doesn’t have to be so complicated. Sometimes the best way to dance on the edges and innovate is by simply surrounding yourself with people who by default, have a different view.

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Co-creator of 2 cool boys with an equally cool woman • Career Coach • Business Insider, Fast Co., Forbes • Follow along for career tips and life reminders.

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