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Mentoring — Transferring Information & Experience to the Next Generation


15Nov 2009

I started reading a good book this week — A Game Plan for Life: The Power of Mentoring by John Wooden and Don Yaeger. It was recommended to me by a good friend, and I always try to pass on worthwhile reading to others.

The first part of the book covers the seven mentors that influenced Coach Wooden (for those of you who don’t know, he was one of the most successful college basketball coaches of all time, at UCLA). In discussing different types of mentors (professional, personal, spiritual, etc.), he makes a fascinating point:

  • “I know that my life has been blessed with incredible opportunities, and as a result, I have a responsibility to reach out to others to share the insights, experiences, heartbreaks, exhilaration — all the lessons I’ve managed to accrue through the nearly one hundred years that God has given me on this planet… Knowledge is nothing unless it is shared.  I know that knowledge for knowledge’s sake is a wonderful ideal, but in reality, it is the transmission of understanding that is the very basis of civilization.” (p.7).

As I work with multi-generational families and family-owned businesses, one of the core principles we emphasize is the process of transferring knowledge, intellectual capital, and life experiences from the senior generations to their children and grandchildren. It is not an easy process — I think it is one of those “important but not urgent” activities that Stephen Covey emphasizes.  Part of my role as a family coach is to help structure activities and processes to help make the transfer happen.
And as we come upon the Thanksgiving holiday, I tend to think about how to best use our time together as a family. What traditions do we want to keep doing?  Which traditions really aren’t that important or have lost their meaning?  What conversations do I want to have with my adult children when they are home?  What information or life experiences do I want to share with them?

Here are seven “lessons for life” that John Wooden’s father shared with him on a card given at his high school graduation:

  1. Be true to yourself.
  2. Make each day your masterpiece.
  3. Help others.
  4. Drink deeply from good books.
  5. Make friendship a fine art.
  6. Build a shelter against a rainy day.
  7. Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day. (p.13)

Think about those who have impacted your life and the lessons you learned from them — both from direct instruction and from their modeling.

And then think about what you want to pass on to those who are important to you.  Maybe take some time and share a life experience with someone younger: “You know, I was thinking about … and a lesson I learned. . . . ”

Have a great week.

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