It’s not that they don’t care; it’s that they don’t know.
In my case I was the first in my family to go to college, so when it came to making life-impacting choices I was virtually on my own. Yes, mine were loving parents who worked hard and sacrificed to provide me with a better life, but this was brand new territory for them. And I found that the further along I got in my education, the more important the choices became, the more complicated the factors that needed to be considered, and the more impactful a right or wrong decision would be on my future.
But I did what I thought I had to do. I buried my head in my college texts and worked hard. I buried my head in my law books and worked even harder. I buried my head in long and tedious review tomes and worked harder still – and passed the bar. I breathed a deep sigh of relief, allowed myself a brief, self-congratulatory pat on the back, looked up with anticipation, and found myself…nowhere.
I did everything I was supposed to – and did it pretty well – but the world didn’t seem to be beating a path to my door. I wasn’t being showered with job offers. I had no idea how to find my paths forward – let alone choose the right one. And then fate led me to the door of John A. Fusco, and I finally had what I never realized I so desperately needed: a mentor.
Here was someone who knew the ropes; who knew what to seek out and what to avoid. Here was someone who could teach me when and how to use a shortcut and when not to, when to read each and every word and when I could just flip to the final chapter. Having already navigated law and politics with enviable success he paid it forward, eventually helping me to succeed him in the New York City Council and to this day, at age 79, he still offers me sage advice and counsel.
When it comes to mentors you should do one of two things: go see one or go be one. If you’re a young man or woman in high school, your college choices just might be the equivalent of a career choice; you can’t really afford not to get advice from someone who’s been there. Want to know what’s ahead of you? Find someone who’s already walked that path.
A good mentor will help you break out of your comfort zone, and push you into new experiences. He or she will do an honest evaluation of your personal strengths and weaknesses, and perhaps clarify what the real world is all about – it may be markedly different from that which you imagine.
And if you are already an accomplished individual – young or old – consider doing what I mentioned earlier: pay it forward. Make yourself available; be willing to take a young person under wing and impart your hard-earned knowledge, share your years of experience. Reward yourself in a way that money simply cannot buy; sleep with the knowledge that you have made a difference in the life of a young man or woman they will remember and appreciate every single day.
You won’t regret it, and they won’t forget it.