Figuring out what it means to be a man can be tough. And it’s arguably tougher for men today, who are often more socially isolated, don’t have as many friends, and don’t have strong relationships with their fathers and other male relatives. It’s therefore more important than ever for every man to seek out mentors to help him navigate the complicated waters of manliness and life.
Mentors have the experience and wisdom to give us sound guidance, direction, and advice. Mentors can also help us expand our point of view on a particular area of our life. Moreover, a mentor can become a good friend and confidant during times when we struggle and falter.
Modern manhood is under attack, we have learnt (30 DAYS TO BE A BETTER MAN). The Institution of Men is under siege. We have all been feminised into having less male friends, and our relationship with our fathers is not what a true father-son bond should be. We have no male figureheads anymore that inspire us, and guide us through the “complicated waters of manliness”. My task? To find a true Man who can help me reclaim my supposedly lost manliness.
In all seriousness, I might poke fun at the drifting dudes (IDENTIFY YOUR CORE VALUES), however there is a lesson to be learnt today. In modernised and individualised societies, we are presented with so many choices to make, each one supposedly more important than the next. The seemingly unlimited opportunities to become whoever and whatever you want comes at the price of an immense pressure to succeed.
There are a multitude of paths I could take in life. What to study, where to work, what country to live in, hell, I even get to pretty much cherry-pick who I perceive myself to be. For me, and I am sure I am not alone in this, the mere existence of both my multifacetted interests and all opportunities I will ever be confronted with, brings about some anxiety.
These are usually incredibly individual and personal choices, but that does not mean we have to make them by just ourselves.
(This, however, really does not explain why having a mentor is per implication only beneficial for men specifically).
How to Find a Mentor
1. Determine what sort of mentor you’re looking for. We all have different facets of our lives. Work, school, spirituality, family, etc. Ask yourself what area of your life needs improvement and could benefit from a mentor.
2. Draw up a list of three men that you’d like to mentor you. Think of all the men you know that might be able to help you in the area that you’re looking for some mentoring in. Guys that you’ve always looked up to or admired and wish you had a better relationship with. If you’re looking for a mentor to help you in your career, look around at the men you know at work that have been in the game awhile and know the ropes. If you’re a student, you might want to pick a professor that really inspires you academically. While we often think of a mentor as being older than us, a mentor can be a guy the same age as you, who just has his life together a bit more or who lives his life in a way you really admire. Also, don’t stick with men that are exactly like you. One of the benefits of a mentor is that they can help expand your point of view.
3. Write down how each mentor could help you grow as a man. Think of the traits each man has that you wish to learn. Do some research on them. What is it exactly about this person that makes you want him to be your mentor? This will come in handy when you finally get around to asking.
4. Figure out what you expect from the mentor relationship. Before you ask someone to be your mentor, you need to know what he should expect from the relationship. How often would you like to meet with him? Once a week? Once a month? How do you want the mentoring to take place? A discussion over lunch? Email? A monthly phone call?
5. Ask the first man on your list. After you’ve done all your prep work, it’s time to ask. Whether you call, email, or a write a letter to do the asking will depend on each person. Some older men might be “old school” and prefer a phone call or letter over email. If they’re younger and a bit tech savvy, email is just fine.
If asking someone so directly to be your mentor makes you feel awkward (or you think it might make them feel uncomfortable) then just ask the man to have lunch or hang out some time. Start dropping by the professor’s office or your co-worker’s cubicle for chats. And the relationship will hopefully develop naturally from there.
6. Expect rejection. Don’t’ get discouraged and don’t take it personally if people say no. People are busy these days, and they just might not have time to be a mentor. If the first man says no, go on to the second.
7. Say “thank you.” No matter if you get a no or a yes, be sure to thank the person.
I was in Copenhagen a couple of days ago in a smokey bar, telling a couple of friends and strangers about my 30 Days to Be a Better Man. I told them I have been having such a hard time finding a mentor. A Louisiana-based fiddle player touring Europe immediately volunteered, for which I am of course very grateful. He obviously had his passion in life worked out, had reduced his desires to one encompassing need to play music. I admired that in him. There was a sense of purpose, although he did seem a bit lost on where he was going and how touring Europe was going to get him anywhere in life.
A bit closer to home is perhaps a good idea, too. I could ask my father. I’d kill two birds with one stone: after all, apparently, modern society has also eradicated my strong relationship with my father.
An old professor of mine has been a great inspiration for me since he was one of the few who provided intellectual space for me to manoeuvre in (and make some grandiose mistakes, of course). I will send him an e-mail as well.
Man-meter: I feel a bit awkward contacting elderly men about being my mentor.