If bright, creative young people start believing that they don’t suck, this will have more impact on the world than 1,000 new startups. How can we get there?
I am now at that uncomfortable age where I mentor people who are in their 20s. And it is distressing that some of the brightest and most creative are also the most depressed and down on themselves.
It is a horrible situation. These are the people who are probably most able to solve not only work problems, but also global problems.
Clearly, seeking professional counseling is the best first move for them. But there is still a role for those of us who are mentors. Recommending counseling is a great move. So is recommending physical exercise, or getting involved in meaningful, challenging work, or helping others.
Yet, as one young man said the other day, “you have no idea. I can’t just get up and do it. When you feel like I do, you can’t do anything that you don’t have to do.”
Fair enough. So I think it is our job as mentors to be a motor, the nudge.
We must be the water that wears away the mud that they are stuck in. We must encourage. We must somehow expose them to a variety of experiences that shows them how great they are.
We must repeat, over and over, not verbally, but through action and experience, “why you don’t suck.”
Maybe this is simplistic. I know. But it is a start.
And, maybe mentors can help change the conditions of the problem.
In a long career of technology and organizational troubleshooting, I have observed that part of troubleshooting an apparently intractable problem is simply to change the conditions of the problem. When you change conditions (location, timing, etc), sometimes doing so enables a new understanding of the problem (and thus a possible solution), or somehow changes the behavior of the problem.
So, even if we’re not directly addressing the problem, maybe we can indirectly encourage small changes. “How are you spending your time?” “Did you go to the gym?” “What time did you go to bed?” “Maybe it’s a good idea to say yes to that volunteer opportunity, they really need help.”
Maybe it’s just giving them more in the way of challenges — not so much that we make them fail, but enough to make them feel great when they succeed.
Mentors are not professional counselors. But that doesn’t mean we do not have a role. I think we do, and I think it is gigantically important.
There is more insight and action needed on this. And soon. I hope you can somehow help.