I’m a lot like the stereotypical Millennial. I use social media. I prefer indie music and locally grown food from a sustainably managed farm. I voted for Bernie Sanders in the primaries. I have a bike and don’t watch cable television. I would drink craft beer, but I’m gluten intolerant.
And like most other people my age, I’ve also never had a mentor.
I’ve had teachers and bosses and people that have given me advice, but there’s no one I really look up to or want to be when I grow up. And I don’t have that wise warrior looking out for me and helping me be the person I’m supposed to be come.
And I’m not alone in feeling that way.
And I think that’s a huge problem.
In most epic movies, the main character is a lot like someone in my generation- unpolished, feeling lost, and realizing that they are made to do something more than just work on a moisture farm on Tatooine,
or more than just be a decent kid in karate class,
or more than just hang out and say hakuna matata with your bros.²
But in every good story, the hero (as he will be known, one day, but is not anywhere near hero status when the story begins) crosses paths with a wise, capable, and experienced person who has seen the heat of battle but also sees their past selves in the unsharpened hero. Their role is clear: to instill themselves in the younger generation and turn the hero into, well, a hero.¹
There’s a reason I talk about mentors in the future tense: almost no one in my generation has a mentor. Sure, we’ve had teachers and coaches and bosses that have taught us and made us do stuff as a means to an end, but I have literally never heard someone between the ages of 19–30 say “I was considering moving to a new city, but my mentor reminded me that…” or “My mentor taught me…”
We are a lost generation, most without any mentors.
We are a lost generation, most without the guides that turn us into heroes.
It’s no wonder we feel so lost.
When I moved across the country five years ago, I constantly questioned if it was the right move for me. And when I moved across the country again a year ago, for entirely different reasons, I felt the same confusion and perturbation all over again: not knowing what I should be doing with my life, or how to pursue things that I felt I was made to do, or how to thrive and not just survive.
Youtube, Google, and countless podcasts gave me the answers to how to survive, how to cook anything, how to pay off debt, how to invest in stocks, and how to use a fidget spinner. We have all the information in the world at our fingertips- but that doesn’t mean we have mentors or advocates that push us to be the people we’re made to be.
If you’re like me, it just made me feel even more lost. Sure, I can make knock-you-naked brownies and can tell you a LOT about the life of Alexander Hamilton. But I can’t tell you how to find your purpose or meaning because, hell, I can’t even find mine.
But, the good news is that we don’t need a Yoda, Gandolf, or Mufasa to take us under their wing in order to grow. If you’re like me, maybe you can use some tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way to still grow and become the person I’m made to be despite not having a mentor.
- Be someone you’d respect.¹ If you respect people that go on a run every morning and volunteer on Saturdays, then whatareyouwaitingfor go and do that! If you’re trying to make a habit (or break one), I bet theres an app for that. If you respect people who wear clothes made sustainably and ethically, go and get some new clothes that are up to that standard.
- Figure out traits in people that you don’t respect, and make sure you don’t have those. If your boss is a jerk, figure out what makes him a jerk and then make sure you don’t do that. If your annoying aunt annoys you because she gossips, then don’t gossip.
- Read. Read a lot. Read as much as you can. Blog posts, books, newspaper articles, whatever. The more you read, the more perspectives and paradigms you are exposed to. And you will grow, more and more, every time you read something. If you have a person you think is super cool online, tweet at them and ask what they’re reading/listening to. Go and read/listen to that, too. Also, read this Medium article by elle luna.
- Listen to podcasts that resonate with you. Find voices that help you feel unalone. If you’re a Christian but can’t stand the church, check out the Liturgists podcast. If you’re an online whiz kid and want to listen to more stuff about the internet, check out Reply All. If you’re bummed out by the news in the world today, check out Sounds Good with Branden Harvey. The fact is, your tribe exists and you can be surrounded by people in new ways. Yeah, a podcast can’t speak truth into your life about your personal circumstance, but it can help steer you into places that you wouldn’t be able to go alone.
- Watch documentaries about whatever interests you. Read up on the documentarians. Read up on the names you hear in the movies. Unless it’s a documentary about a serial killer. Don’t read up on that kind of process.
- Watch TED talks about the things that interest you. Don’t try to be the speaker. But be inspired by how they see the world, by what challenges they recognize, and what they did to tackle those problems.
- Lean into your peers and your community. Let your coworker remind you of who you are. Let your roommate guide you with encouragement. Let your barista put a smile on your face when you confess to having a rough day.
- Turn off the noise in your life. We live in a culture that steers us towards surviving, not thriving. Follow the course and you will end up in a suburban house driving to work at a soulless job. Social media and reality television and and cable news and pop radio are parts of our society that help distract us. So turn off the noise. Listen to the parts of you that get excited. Go to the zoo and see what makes you want to improve the world.
- Write. Journal, blog, Instagram post, find a penpal- whatever it takes for you to get the words out of your head. I think writing helps your brain shape you into the person you want to become.
- Don’t be afraid to think. Be alone with your thoughts. Pray, meditate, float, go for a walk, cook a dinner that requires you to chop peppers for 45 minutes. Process the world around you.
- Go and do stuff. Make good art. Write good stuff. Take good pictures. Write a song. Get a plant or six. Volunteer. Pick up a new hobby. Stop waiting on life to start, and start participating. Start contributing to the world around you. Take it from me- you don’t have to have it all figured out just yet.
- ??? I’m still learning this list. What is your #12? Let me know in the comments below!
Call me Luke Skywalker. I haven’t found my Yoda yet, but that doesn’t mean I’m not looking. In the mean time, I’m doing my best to keep living, keeping giving back to the people and places around me, and really really really trying to find the systems already in place that would help me grow and thrive. Part of that means finding a dream company and a dream job, but the bigger part of that means living a life worth living, right here and now. I hope you join me.
¹ Yeah, this was totally inspired by Donald Miller’s Scary Close. Go read it, if you haven’t already.
² Sorry, ladies. Movies have absolutely zero female mentors outside of some obscure movies like Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead and… well, that’s all I got for now.