Why You Need to Embrace Cross Generational Mentorship

8 Jan

I was contemplating on switching to a non-vegetarian diet since a lot of health articles advocate it to be a better diet to combat Covid, given that it is rich in protein. That evening I discussed my new plan with my younger daughter, who apparently had a different point of view. Very systematically and logically she convinced me to stick to my vegetarian diet. The topic was again brought up when we were having a facetime, with my older one. She is a doctor, so her advice couldn’t be refuted by me, but the way she put the points across is what stunned me. She told me that the switch to a veg diet was made by me 5 years ago, and now going back to a non-veg diet would do my body more harm than good, since it will be struggling to digest a new variety of food that it is not used to processing anymore. She asked me to include more proteins in my vegetarian diet itself, rather than changing my lifestyle completely. I was surprised at how my little babies had grown up so much, and how wise they had become in helping me choose better.

Since my older one is a doctor and qualified in her field, she is abreast with the latest developments in the world of medical science. She comes from a domain that I have little knowledge of, and hence better equipped to direct and guide me in choices pertaining to her field of expertise. My younger one is well read, well aware and takes calculated decisions when it comes to her lifestyle choices. This got me thinking. Aren’t such millennials all around me, in fact even in my office and my domain of work? Won’t an openness to listen and inculcate their ideas help me build better business strategies that work in a world that basically belongs to an era that they grew up in?

There are numerous times that you find an amazing person who is well adept in their field in terms of ideas, connections, drive and willingness to grow. You feel that they would make for a perfect mentor with respect to that domain. The only problem? You find them to be much younger to you in terms of experience, maybe enough to baffle you how they got so smart and wise at such a young age. But should that deter you from seeking their mentorship? In India, as in the world, we have a rich and enduring cultural narrative where the oldest leads, where they alone have earned the right to impart wisdom to the younger, eager eyed audience. The younger ones are the worker bees, the instruction followers who have to be grateful for the advice they receive and toil accordingly, waiting for their turn to gain maturity in terms of experience in order to instruct the next lot of followers. If you are attuned to this stereotype even in today’s age, it will disrupt you from gaining scintillating insights, ideas and lessons that can potentially change the course of your thoughts/life for better.

The rise of technology and constant access to new skills, world views, philosophies, therapies etc. have all led the younger ones well equipped in the fields of their interest. Unlike earlier times, no longer do people need many years to gain skills or knowledge to contribute in a meaningful way. This is a fair argument to embrace cross generational mentorship, since if you limit your learning only from people older than you, your mentor pool shrinks considerably and so does your learning curve.

To embrace this fully, you will have to keep your aside your ego and face your insecurities of being directed by someone who is younger to you. Rather than turning it into an arena of expressing domination, consider this to be a symbiotic relationship in knowledge sharing which you are undertaking for the greater good of the entire ecosystem, which is much larger than your ego or insecurity. Feelings of resentment towards a younger “know it all” is natural, but not something that can’t be overcome since the benefits of this relationship can be far greater. To do this, listen as much as you advise and take genuine interest in their thoughts. Listening to hear is always better than listening to judge or to reprimand or belittle someone, a mantra that I have forever kept close since the first time I understood its benefits.

Remember – knowledge transfer is multi-dimensional. Only when we are open to learning from an inanimate object as much as we are from an established subject matter expert – do we actually grow and evolve as a human being! I believe that in your biggest apprehension often lies your greatest opportunity! So rather than shrinking away from taking on a new perspective from someone younger to you, be open and flexible to embrace their ideas, who knows it might lead you to your next aha moment in life!

This article is being written by a proud dad while eating air fried paneer as mentored by his millennial daughters!

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