Gratitude for Mentors

I heard it said once that a person should have someone older as a mentor, someone younger to mentor, someone the same age to relate.

I’ve been fortunate to have some insightful and self-aware people in my life who were willing to be profoundly open about their life. At times, each has made me wonder who was the younger in the friendship. I am frequently too obsessed with the long view.

Antonio Mendez said he “liked to put young & old in the same room, because they would certainly have different takes on the same problem.” This was in reference to the plan he led as CIA operative with Hollywood actors in an adventure that rescued 6 American hostages from Iran in 1980.

For over a decade now I’ve had Doc as a friend in adventure who retains his love of life and happens to be a generation older than I. He began as my academic advisor in undergrad but after several occasions involving top shelf alcohol and another involving dealer’s choice poker, we recognized our fast friendship. He is ever scanning the world for those experiences that he should have–like Burning Man or hiking the Appalachian Trail–and maintains an internal narrative that connects the dots across his map and autobiography. I often get a text or email with a Hail Mary: “Tickets for Motley Crue’s final tour. You in?”

Uh, lost my mullet a while ago. The world can be problematic.

Another friend two decades ago took me under his wing at what is now the liquidated Galyan’s Trading Co. Paul had an earring in his 40s, taught me 100 different knots, and was willing at the slightest provocation to share his life’s stories. He wasn’t overbearing with his knowledge. On the contrary, he could be quite silent. But as soon as you were close enough to see past the surface and reach out, he was quick to reward. He would damn ‘The Man’ but played the rebel lightly. He was quick to flirt and suggest that women make him “write bad checks”.  Last I heard, 4 years ago, he had been on chemo for 37 months for a rare form of Non Hodgkins Lymphoma. …and was still rock climbing.

Faced with this “problem” of life, we need those who are older and can give us the long view, those who are younger and can keep us young. I owe much to Doc and Paul, Bob, Jim, James, Sam, Steve, Vera, Deanna and others. Willing to drink, smoke, swear and share, with me, a little bit of how they see this world going to hell in a hand basket. …and how to raise a lot of hell as it goes. At once they have given me both the long view and have kept me young.

Different takes on the same problem.