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The Best Person To Mentor Is Not Your Mirror Image

We’re all drawn to people who look and sound like us. When it comes to mentoring, we like the idea of reaching out to our younger self. That’s why Mentees very often went to the same school or college that we attended, have similar interests or experiences to ours and come referred by people we know.

The main downside to this ‘Mini Me’ school of mentoring is that we tend not to be able to teach as much to, or learn as much from, people who are young copies of ourselves. Finding someone whose age, background and experience are completely different to yours and inviting them into a mentoring conversation, where you will be stretched as much as they will, could be the best decision you ever make.

That’s why I got together with an inspiring 19 year old youth activist, named Jeremiah Emmanuel, to launch the Mirror Mentor initiative. The Mirror refers to the fact that both people in this conversation are learning from their reflection in the other person’s experience. It is NOT about us being identical!

In many respects, Jeremiah and I could not be more different.

I am 54 years old. I was born in Paris, to Jewish American parents, an artist, and a writer. I grew up in Cambridge, England, and went to private school. I am gay and live with my partner.

Jeremiah is now 20 years old. He was born in Brixton in London and raised by a single mother. He went to a state school, where drugs and knife crime were rife. He is straight and is not in a relationship.

It’s the difference in age and experience that means we have a lot to offer one another.

My top tips from Jeremiah:

  • Keep it real – authenticity is everything
  • Keep it short- Two minutes is long, 30 seconds is better
  • Be vulnerable – Share your fear and pain 
  • Be flawed – make mistakes and own them 
  • Be everywhere – It’s not enough to post words and pictures. Some people only listen to audio other people only watch video.  If you want to be heard you need to blog, vlog and podcast 

Jeremiah’s top tips from me:

  • Do your best. Forget being THE best
  • To make sure someone understands you, check in with them and ask them what they heard you say
  • Always have three things to look forward to: a work thing, a personal thing and a holiday
  • Don’t make job interviews or pitches all about you: shine the light on the other person
  • Don’t take yourself so seriously
  • Own your difference

Ours is an ongoing dialogue that is changing my perception of the world. And it could change yours because the learning we’ve shared is not unique to us. Our experience is replicable. You too can bridge the digital divide.

Read the piece I wrote about Mirror Mentoring for Forbes

Check out my youtube channel

Remy Blumenfeld is a creative life coach living in London. He empowers leaders to play the game of life with purpose, grace, and ease. Before training as a coach, he launched a TV Production company that created dozens of groundbreaking, TV shows.

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