I’d Love to Change the World, But I Don’t Know What to Do

Cynicism and ambivalence are fueled as easily today as they were in the early ‘70s when the rock band Ten Years After wrote those lyrics. Forty years later, our endless media blitz spews out a dizzying array of global problems — yet another war, billions living in poverty, millions displaced by earthquakes, devastation from climate change — you name it.   Add that to what’s happening in your own neighborhood — high unemployment, gang violence, political corruption — and any effort to change the world seems nearly impossible.

And it’s not all bad news. Every day, every aspect of life is being explored. Billions and billions of possibilities exist — understanding how the mind works, extending life past 100, searching for other life in the universe, and more. The world is changing in astoundingly positive ways.  Through the internet, anyone can access all of MIT’s lecture notes, exams, and videos for free.  There have been vast improvements in economic and social development, as Dr. Hans Rosling shows us in his video: “the best stats you’ve ever seen.” Because more people want to make positive change, there are many more nonprofit start-ups. Even the U.S. Government is getting more involved; Obama created a new fund to invest $50 million in promising, results-oriented non-profits.

With all these problems and opportunities, it’s daunting.

Where to start? What can any one person do?

Help one other person. Help them directly, person-to-person. Be a mentor.

Anyone can be a mentor because all you need to do is be your authentic self. It’s as easy as sharing what you already know.  Share your real-world experience, knowledge you’ve acquired in your career, and personal insights you’ve gained at work or in your personal life.  Ask questions. Actively listen. Share your successes and your struggles. No one ever achieved anything without having to tackle roadblocks along the way. Give someone a window into your world, so they can better visualize their own way. You don’t need to be a celebrity, leading expert, or world-renown expert.

While we could argue about what is the most accurate definition of a mentor, in my opinion, a mentor is NOT someone…

  • That offers a few hours of her time over lunch.
  • Answers a chat room question.
  • Who knows “exactly” what someone “should” do.
  • That is selling something — a consultant, a life-coach, or a therapist.

Instead, I think of a mentor as a smart friend — a blend of head and heart. A good mentor cares; someone that is truly invested in another’s success. They are there for the long haul, supporting someone for six months or more.  They help someone sort though options, tackle tough problems — and make meaningful change in their lives.

A good mentor takes time to get to know the person they are mentoring, beyond the veneer. They know it’s essential to build trust in order to present one’s true self. Discussing strengths and successes is far easier than talking about the sensitive areas of inconsistencies and weaknesses. A good mentor offers more than objectivity. They go beyond the quick-fix and get on to the hard work of finding out what might actually help. That’s what it takes before you can ask questions with greater relevance — so you can provide insightful responses.

A mentor is someone that is there for the long-haul, supporting someone for six months or more.  A mentor helps someone sort though options, tackle tough problems, and make meaningful change in their lives.

That’s why I’m launching Mentor Planet.  I believe we all could use a smart friend, someone that cares about us — our struggles and helps with our success.

I believe we all could use a smart friend, someone that cares about us — and helps us lead happier, more authentic lives. Look for MentorPlanet.com, coming soon (before the end of 2010).

Imagine a world where everyone had a mentor.  Imagine how we could change the world.

So this Earth Day, be a changemaker. Start mentoring.


3 Responses

  1. Thanks to everyone that checked out the blog launch! And special thanks to those that signed up to receive future blogs. I’m grateful for all the encouraging emails I received too.

    Please let me know if you’re interested in finding a mentor or being a mentor. I’ll try to help you find one even before the site is officially launched AND add you to the “alert” list once the site is up and running.

    Thanks again!!

  2. From what I have read of John’s and Beth’s interest in work ethic and creativity being included in the blog as mentor either being or finding perks ;my interest. I have taught college and grad students for years which I have found to be one of the great experiences of being and relating to others because of the provocation to see beyond ones own limited perceptions.


  3. I think Beth’s work with Mentor Planet has been rather daring in this way –it reaches for supporting people in the broad sense –not mentoring just for job skills, but for life, and this means addressing the human need for creative expression, security in personal life, and progress in work. I think Beth is exploring the new role for mentoring in our society –and work ethics and creativity are part of this.

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