Are you familiar with ranges? No, not golf driving ranges or shooting ranges but navigational ranges. The photos above are of navigational ranges located on St. Joseph Island in Northern Ontario where we have a small cabin. These ranges help big ships navigate the channel down the St. Mary’s River that connects Lake Superior to Lake Huron. It’s important that the ships’ captains stay in the channel as just outside the channel, the depth of the river decreases in places as shallow as 15-20 feet – not good waters for a cargo ship. As these ships approach the island, they line up the ranges so that the range in the left photo visually lines up directly behind the taller range in the right photo – one over the other – like a gun sight. By keeping the ranges lined up, the captain knows that he is in the channel. Where did the ranges come from? They were built by people familiar with the channel, who many years ago, came before today’s captains whom are now navigating the same channel.
This is a beautiful picture of mentoring. Mentors are those older more experienced “captains” who know the waters that the younger “captains” are trying to navigate. Why? Because, they have traveled those waters ahead of the younger “captains” or mentees.
When I first became a mentor, I was 45 years old. My first thought was that I had nothing to offer. But then I realized that I did have something to offer, as I have sailed the waters that a man 10-20 years younger than I has not yet sailed. If you feel as I did initially, let me encourage you that you DO have something to offer. But you won’t truly discover that until you take the step of mentoring a younger man.
There is a huge disconnect occurring in our city and it’s one that has greatly burdened me in the last few months. There are many younger men who want a mentor. They know that they want to learn from an older man who has navigated the waters in which they are now sailing. This younger generation is part of the Millennial generation. Millennials are an interesting group. Many generational experts are calling them the “next Great Generation.” This generation is the product of the Baby Boomer generation. Many of them have watched their fathers live life in ways that they don’t want to repeat. While many Millennials want to make money and enjoy the trappings of the American way, they want to do so in a way that doesn’t ruin them. They want balance in their lives. They are more altruistic than their parents. And they don’t want to make the same mistakes in their family lives as their fathers, who were often not there emotionally or maybe physically.
A pastor of a local church with a large percentage of Millennials in his congregation recently told me, that while the national divorce rate is around 50%, about 60% of the Millennials in his church come from divorced homes. Wow.
So, if this generation of young men desire to have mentors in their lives, why don’t they? It should be easy right? When you meet an older guy whom you think has something to offer, why not just ask him to have a cup of coffee or lunch one day? Here’s why, these young men have a heightened fear of rejection. A large number of them have been rejected by their fathers. Again, many of them grew up with parents who were divorced. Presumably in a large percentage of those situations, their fathers were the ones who moved out and left their sons at home with their mothers. In other cases, even if the parents were not divorced, many fathers were emotionally absent. Many were chasing the American Dream as so many Baby Boomers were/are famous for doing. Or perhaps, they simply did not know how to proactively step into their son’s lives and shepherd their sons as fathers are called to do.
So due to these dynamics, the last thing that these young men want is to be rejected by yet another man. The last thing they want to hear, if they ask an older man to have a cup of coffee or go to lunch with them, is “I’m sorry, but I’m too busy”, or whatever other reason that an older man may give.
The other side of the disconnect comes from the older men. “I don’t have anything to offer” and “I just have the time” are the most comment excuses that I hear when I encourage men of my generation to be a mentor.
How do we bridge this disconnect? It’s simple. We (I’m speaking to men of my generation) have to engage. We have to see that it is absolutely imperative that we take that courageous step to enter into the lives of these younger men. They want it. And they need it. But most of them will not ask you. You have to ask them.
I was too ignorant to see this initially. It took a 28 year old man, who set his fear of rejection aside and asked me to have coffee with him one day. That one coffee evolved in our then meeting every Friday morning for breakfast. This young man, who is now my mentee, is also in F3. So we post at a workout almost every week together. While he consistently shows me up with his superior speed, endurance, and strength, we still have fun posting together. Some of the other ways that we have spent time together have included playing golf, dinners with our wives and occasionally getting together for a beer after work. He has even spent time with my sons. At 28, he better understands the challenges that my 11 and 12 year old sons face than I do. He’s able to teach me things that help me to be a better father to my boys. And they look up to him. All of this has happened during a time, when he would tell you, he needed an older man’s advice. He’s had some very big decisions to make during this time we have known each other. And he’s given me the privilege of helping him talk through and pray through those decisions.
Recently, we have had the opportunity to talk about our mentoring relationship to others. At each occasion, he claims that he has benefited far more from our relationship than I possibly could have. But I always disagree with him, as I believe that I am the one who has benefited far more than him.
As men, if we are honest with ourselves, we desire to make an impact. An impact in the world. An impact in the lives of others. Mentoring is an opportunity to make such an impact in the lives of young men who want our advice. They want to know about our successes AND our failures. They want to learn. They want to live up to their potential.
You can have that impact. You just have to engage. If you have not signed up for F3 Mentoring, I encourage you to look around you. Undoubtedly, there is some young man who would love to spend time with you, to learn from you. All you have to do is ask. If you do, you will be rewarded in ways that will only be known once you take that step.
For more information on the F3 Mentoring Program click the link below: