Updated: Aug 8, 2021
Mentor is derived from Sanskrit and Latin words meaning "to think" and "to admonish". In fact, mentor shares roots with mental and monitor. Mentor gained wide recognition through the character of Mentor in Homer's The Odyssey. In this classic, the goddess Athena appears as Mentor and guides Telemachus, the aimless son of Odysseus, to meet multiple daunting challenges to himself, his parents and his legacy.
The excellent 2017 interview by The Atlantic of Dr. Gregory Nagy, a classics professor at Harvard University, reveals the meaning of mentorship. Excerpts follow.
Gregory Nagy: In the Greek of The Odyssey, a mentor is someone who instills a heroic mentality in somebody. That’s exactly what Athena, as the goddess of intelligence, does in her relationship with Telemachus. She intervenes in his life, which is very misdirected at the time, when he’s not sure about anything.
Gregory Nagy: Telemachus, the 20-year-old son of Odysseus, is a clueless, disconnected young man who doesn’t really understand what his role in society and in life might be.
Gregory Nagy: What Athena succeeds in doing as Mentor is connecting the thinking of the young man with the realities of the heroic legacy of not only his father, but all his ancestors, male and female.
Gregory Nagy: At the council of the gods, Athena lays out her intent, saying that she will put menos into Telemachus. It’s a Greek word that's usually translated as “heroic strength.” But really, menos is not just strength of any kind - it is mental strength. And by that, I mean the kind of surge of power you feel in being able to put things into action. You can see the connection between menos and mentor. Menos is mental strength, and a mentor is someone who gives mental strength to someone else.
This is the model of mentoring that I practice to Future-proof young adults.
Testimonials from both my mentees and their parents provide first-hand accounts of how my mentoring developed mental strength, what I call Future-proof character qualities and capabilities, in the young adults as they solved real-world problems.
If the above discussion describes mentoring, then how is mentoring related to coaching, counseling, tutoring?
Mentoring is holistic, integrated and strategic. The others are atomistic, isolated and tactical.
Coaching focuses on improving specific skills (e.g. making presentations)
Tutoring focuses on improving specific academic knowledge and skills (e.g. calculus)
Counseling focuses on improving behaviors and relationships with self and others.
College counseling focuses on selecting and gaining admission to specific colleges.
My Future-proof Mentoring encompasses most of the above plus three additional activities to develop the whole young adult in the way Mentor developed Telemachus to meet multiple daunting challenges.
Why do you include career preparation, real-world problem-solving and project management in mentoring young adults?
These three activities are absolutely critical for developing the character qualities and capabilities that the young adults needs to become Future-proof.
Career preparation includes scanning the fast-changing landscape of work to anticipate how economic, political, cultural, technological, legal and environmental factors will impact careers in the near future. Parents, their children and counselors don't do nearly enough of this future-looking activity. See related webpage.
I bring my 25+ years of experience in Human Capital consulting to SkyTree Mentoring. Because I can recognize emerging trends that will impact my mentees professional careers, I am able to guide them to prepare for ascendant career fields and to avoid those in decline. See related blog post.
Real-world problem-solving offers young adults the best opportunity to solve complex real-world problems, which are far more challenging than academic exams. The real-world is far more chaotic, ambiguous, and uncertain and so excelling in academics is not sufficient for career success. In fact, "fragile thoroughbreds" abound.
They are academic stars who mistakenly assume that their academic achievements will transfer to success in the real-world. They are confronted in their first internship or job with the harsh reality that their monomaniacal focus on academic success blinded them to their underdeveloped real-world capabilities. They and their parents realize too late that they needed more Future-proofing.
I mentor young adults to launch real-world problems projects, according to overarching five principles of Peace of Mind. Tactics wise, I use Design-Thinking and Lean-Startup methods to help them identify real-world problems to solve, create a 12 month project plan, and hold them accountable for executing their plans.
While achieving results is important, developing Future-proof character qualities and capabilities is much more important. So we emphasize bold risk-taking and honest introspection to learn from our struggles, frustrations, failures and successes. Young adults need fearless experimentation and failure without penalty to develop Future-proof qualities.
But they have no such thing in school. They worry that any misstep would jeopardize their test scores, GPA and class rank. I provide my mentees this extremely valuable and rare safe playground.
Project management is critical to the young adult's success in her/his social entrepreneurship projects. As mentor, I teach young adults to manage their projects by using a variety of tools, setting high standards and holding them accountable for achieving their goals. See related blog post.