For GenZ "Pay It Forward"

by Jonathan Salmen

What we are is not who we are.

Our current mood, our current health, our bank statements, our relationship status, the point we are at in our careers… they are just updated data. And they refresh like your social feed, changing every minute and reorganizing themselves. But we know that who we are runs a little deeper than the most recent section of yahoo or snapchat.

We exist ambiguously as many great philosophers have continually discovered. Existing between what we are and what we are not. Of both what we have done, and where we want to go. Equally at all times. So what force will pull you?
Time will surely, your passions, the people around you, and your environment too.
So why are many of us focused on staying put or moving backwards?
Maybe we have never determined our passion, our values, made clear goals, prioritized our time, evaluated our potential. Maybe we have thought clearly about these things and never acted on making them so. Now what?

Often we don’t see that the “pointless” work we are doing, the “useless” conversations we are having, and the “difficult” people in our lives-- are all actually steps in the direction we need to go, not dead ends. They are not only steps but key steps of your life so own them.

Through my life and my mentorship, avid reading, education, experience, learning and emulating... I have concluded that perhaps it is failing and not the feats that makes success, the hopelessness not the happiness that molds our fulfillment. Perhaps it takes many of the wrong people to assure we end up spending our time with the right ones. So I make this assumption: If I can learn all of that as a 21 year old, what do older generations have to offer? How much do each of us already have to give and why are we not giving it?

Everything we know we derived from people in our past. Parents, teachers, friends. Their stories didn’t stop with them, and they certainly don’t stop with any of you. So pass it on to the next group of wanderers we call Gen Z.

How? Mentorship.
A way of paying back the wisdom you have gathered. But it isn’t just a payback for good karma or to ease the conscience and feel a short rush of altruism, it is actually a long term investment in another person or the people they can lead. To mentor is to pay it forward.

The word “mentor” originated in the famous work of Homer’s Odyssey describing an advisor to a man heading to war. Less war in our daily lives, yet life bears the same resemblance to battlefields back then. Our challenges are more internal and our wars are between us and ourselves. The weapons have changed, the battlefields have moved, yet the need for mentors stays constant through the years. We prepare each other for our wars.

I find it relevant now, more than ever to pay it forward, because this newest generation is trying to reinvent the wheel and do it all themselves. “DIY” “I” “Me” generation wants to flip the world on its head and tell it what for. Honestly at our level of education, opportunity and the speed of change, some will get very far. But most will and are currently finding themselves unprepared for this war.
So that is why I think that we can take this age old lesson and readapt it to help our current workforce or organizations.

Mentorship begins with two parts: someone open to learning or asking for help AND someone willing to reach out or answer the call.

Sometimes, many times, we are both of these people. Almost all great coaches or mentors have had great mentors themselves. The cycle of knowledge and the desire to help people never stops once you get the ball rolling.

So when we are the person asking for help, in this case there are many young people, students, junior level employees, interns. It is the duty of those people with the tools of success to reach out and invest in these young people and help them simplify, leverage, and maximize the success of their lives.

I analogize it like this: imagine you are at a buffet of all the types and quantities of food you can imagine. What are you going to put on your plate?
Are we going to try everything? Paralyze ourselves and get nothing with the pure abundance of choice?
How we are going to clear our plate is the most important, aka accomplish our lives. A mentor helps you pick out what you’ll need from that buffet and help you clear your plate.
A mentor doesn’t allow you to give up or give in, but give more.

A full stomach isn’t a bad comparison when we think of the amazing goals that this next generation has on the top of its list. Global warming, political reform, renewable energy, infrastructure, cyber security, education reform, deforestation, sustainability in agriculture… and there are not only the aspirations like these but of less grandeur as well. Finding a nice job, a mate, a place to live, and a way to give back.
A mentor knows that the only way to get through the whole buffet is to take it easy one plate at a time. And organization and conventional wisdom could go a long way with generation Z.

So pay it forward, invest, and learn how you can get the most out of this hungry generation.

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