To believe you can inspire someone at times feels a little arrogant, and so maybe I don’t think about it in quite that way, preferring the idea of providing support and encouragement instead. However, one might regard it, the role of mentor is one I yearn more and more to assume the older I get – which perhaps accounts for the fact that I seem to be discovering more and more opportunities for doing so these days.
Recently I visited The Factory in San Francisco, which might be described as a kind of ‘conceptual colony’. The facility is one that accommodates some 15 or 20 aspiring young visionaries in a very nice old Victorian-style home, complete with a full-time chef and a lot of white boards for jotting down ideas, the idea being to enable such individuals to focus on the business of creating new enterprises 24-7 without any interruptions or distractions. It was so much fun meeting the people who lived and worked there, I immediately wanted to somehow get involved. Unfortunately, my schedule demanded otherwise, and I haven’t been back to San Francisco since. I do, however, get the same feeling whenever I visit the Sunshine Suites in New York City where my friend Ashok Kamal is ‘in residence’.
These incubators of ideas, if you will, are very exciting, helping today’s innovators and inventors in much the way that artists’ colonies have made it easier for creative types to turn out artistic and literary masterpieces. In fact Ashok has been telling me for some time that it is the business to be in — and maybe in a few years, the investment community will prove how right that appraisal is. But whether you call it mentoring, inspiring, or encouraging and supporting, I believe it is our responsibility, especially as we get older and hopefully wiser, to share as much of our accumulated knowledge as we can with the young explorers and experimenters who are working on new ways to save the planet.
Admittedly, that not something that is easy for most of us ‘elderpreneurs’ — and in many ways the hardest thing is to acknowledge that we had our time to prove our mettle and that it’s now another generation’s turn to take up the challenge of trying to make the world a better place (or at least, keep it from becoming a worse one). But what we can do is to give them the benefit of our accomplishments, experience and hard-won understanding – and help them to steer clear of some of the pitfalls we’ve encountered along the way.