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  • Writer's pictureTom Vachet

Age Plus Experience Equals Wisdom

This is an idea that has been around for centuries and reflects the notion that knowledge can only be obtained through living and learning. The idea is that as one ages, they acquire more life lessons, which gives them a more profound understanding of things, resulting in greater wisdom. It implies that wisdom is something earned over time and not something one can simply read or be taught. It’s a reminder to stay humble, as true wisdom is often acquired gradually through many years of trial and error.

When I was in my early fourties, with an undergraduate and graduate degrees under my belt, along with over a decade of high level business experience, I suddenly found myself working with a mentor. He came into my life unexpectedly. In fact he was my direct report, a PhD who was the President of the large firm which employed me. At the time I carried a significant portfolio of complex accounts, including IBM Global, Dell, Lockheed Martin, NASA and many others.

I had a presentation scheduled to top executives of Boeing Corporation in Seattle. He alerted me he planned to travel from our offices in Washington, DC to attend and observe. Following a very succesful meeting where I secured that account, he invited me to lunch. During our meal he very unexpectedly announced he was going to be my mentor. To say I was stunned is an understatement. Once I absorbed the shock of it all, I came to understand the impact of the commitment to me he had entered into. We stayed close as work partners through two further companies. And his commitment to me was always of immeasurable value.

A mentor then is someone who, through their own lived experience, provides guidance and support to another person or group. They offer advice, give motivation, and help the mentee set, and then reach, their goals. Mentors often have more experience and knowledge than the mentee, and they use that to help guide the mentee in their journey. Mentors also often give advice freely, or for some small renumeration.

A life coach, which is becoming an increasingly popular and profitable career, on the other hand, is someone who, using simple rote methods, which they routinely have paid to be taught to them, helps an individual client on a limited basis to identify their personal or professional goals and then assists in developing a plan to achieve them.

Unlike mentors who generally have a breadth of experience, there is no requirement for a life coach to have a certain level of education, or to have had a greater experience in a career, or relationships, or life in general, than the individual they are coaching. They may have a certificate of completion from a coaching program, but they don't necessarly have enjoyed life success, or experienced the unhappiness and frustration related with failure. The fact is they are quite limited.

For all the reasons above, if one has the opportunity, find someone you respect, whose accomplishments you admire, and simply ask them if they would be your mentor. I wasn't given the opportunity to ask. Instead I was simply told. Accepting was one of the best personal and professional decisions I ever made.

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