Draw strength and confidence from your tribe
A big part of being a teen is finding your tribe–the people you gel with, the ones who’s ideas you share. Your tribe gives you a sense of belonging and support, and will make your life richer and more enjoyable. You hang out with your tribe, share experiences and have fun together. You are usually close in age (especially during teen years). Sometimes people pick their tribes by deciding they want to be with a particular group, then they work to be accepted. Others become involved in activities that nudge them toward their tribe (e.g. sports teams, theater, clubs), and they end up in a tribe by default.
Tribes imbue confidence by letting you know someone has your back. If you want to learn more about Tribes, check out Seth Godin’s Tribes. Since your tribe is made up of people like you, it is sustaining; it reinforces qualities that drew you to the group. It is not good for exposing you to new ideas, possibilities or life-changing opportunities. That’s what mentors are for.
Find mentors to change your world
Mentors challenge you, introduce you to new ideas, and open doors for you to do something extraordinary. Many of the people you know who have successful lives can tell you exactly who directly helped them achieve success. Right now there is a very successful mentor who can make your ideal future come true. The key is being able to draw self-confidence from your tribe, then go outside of it and ask someone who belongs to very different tribes for help.
How many older adults do you have a relationship with? I don’t mean teachers or coaches you merely happen to enounter durring your daily activities. I mean adults who you think are living a life you admire or doing the types of things you might like to do. Or, adults whose opinions you respect and who you text or talk to when you feel the need. If your answer is zero, and you’re living your life with input solely from your parents and peers, you’re missing out on a world of valuable advise. The poeple I’m talking about have the ability to make happen or accelerate your most ambitious dreams. The solo path is to struggle on your own and hope you come up with the magic combination of skills and accomplishments. Why not ask someone for the recipe, then tailor your learning and work to exactly what is needed. Then have your mentor introduce you to exactly the right person that can hire, accept or pick you?
I’ll give you a personal example. As a 15 year old, I started mowing lawns to earn spending money and to buy gas for the boat my dad let me use. One customer was a family friend and fighter pilot, Doug, who had very specific demands for cutting his lawn. I decided to mow his lawn exactly the way he wanted, then find ways to do the job even better than he asked. He always paid me promptly and became a source of enthusiastic referals. I soon had more business than I could handle and occasionally hired friends to help. Years later, after college, I became an engineer designing computer interfaces for power distribution systems where I learned the meaning of toiling in a completely unsatisfying job. After discovering the attributes of a job I would genuinely enjoy, I decide to ask Doug, my former fighter pilot customer, how to go about becoming a fighter pilot. To my amazement, he laid out every step of the process for me, then began generating support within his organization to hire me. A year later, I was in US Air Force pilot training. Two years later, I was flying an F–16 fighter jet for the Air National Guard (part of the US Air Force Reserrve). I have no doubt that the primary difference between me and the other 200 people trying to get the same job was the relationship I had developed with Doug. One person made all the difference. Yes, I did all of the preperation. But Doug had provided me with the recipe, then convinced everyone in the hiring chain I was the right person. The only cost to me for this incredible support was to do a good job, create a relationship by being polite, interested and professional, and most importantly to ask for help.
There are many reasons successful people like to help younger adults. Some see aspects of themsevs at a earlier stage, some enjoy passing along their knowledge, some just enjoy working with young people. Their motivation isn’t important. But their guidance and support can be the difference between you achieving the one-in-a-million ambition you’re dreaming of (or may someday dream of), and struggling unsuccessfly before settling for second best.
To find a mentor you should look for someone that fills some of these criteria.
- lives a life you think you would enjoy
- works in a field you’re might want to pursue
- seems to enjoy interacting with teens
- someone with whom you have a common connection (an easy way to be introduced)
The most important part of discovering who you want to become and what you want to do is continuously developing relationships with people who have achieved the type of success you find interesting. These relationships don’t always bring immediate, magical changes to your life, but they form a portfolio of people you can call on when a need arises. Each new relationship is a connection to new networks of people who may someday become the key to an amazing success. Don’t be surprised if one of the people you selected as a mentor contacts you to help someone who might benefit from your knowledge or experiences. And don’t be surprised if you enjoy the prospect of helping someone who reminds you of an earlier you.
Make an investment in yourself by creating relationships with successfull people you admire.