A few months ago, while visiting some friends for the weekend, I was “talked into” staying through
Sunday and visiting their church. Now, I need to be honest, visiting other people’s churches is not really my thing, and after a fun-filled weekend of golf, dinner, and hiking I was sort of anxious to get on home and get ready for the busy week.
But at dinner the night before, my husband was cornered by one of our friends, who really worked on him to get us to go to church the next morning. What we did not know, until my husband had this conversation, was that the church they wanted us to visit was a Bluegrass church. Meaning that there was very little preaching, and a whole lot of playing music, the kind of mountain music my husband loves. In addition, one of my husband’s favorite musicians, and a long-time friend, David Holt, was going to be the featured musician.
So you guessed it, first thing Sunday morning, rather than heading on home, we had a front row seat at Bluegrass Church. Now, while I enjoyed the short sermon and loved the music, I was more enthralled with what I was witnessing in terms of the transfer of tradition, history and skill. Up on that stage, was the perfect model of the power, importance, and ROI of mentorship.
A long-term mentee of the music legend Doc Watson, musician David Holt had toured and learned from Doc for years; listening, learning and touring right up until Doc’s death a few years back. David was now returning the favor, sharing the stage with a talented young musician from the mountains of North Carolina, Josh Goforth. The mentee now becomes the mentor, and the learning and the traditions continue. While the music was amazing, it was this idea of passing on tradition, of investing in young talent, and the unexpected Return On Investment, or ROI of mentorship that I was most interested in.
Watching these talented musicians play, sing, and share stories of their lives, and of David’s time with Doc Watson, I was struck by how critical mentorship is. There are things that can only be learned through time, experience and age, and it is powerful when an “experienced” individual shares those lessons with someone just starting out. In addition, watching the next generation pick up the baton, so to speak, and take the “work” to the next level is an inspiring thing to see. Lastly, we all benefit from the renewed energy the mentor (having done their work for years) finds in sharing their experience with new talent, and the infusion of energy they get from seeing their work performed with new perspective.
Yes, mentorship is one of those rare investments of time and talent where all involved come out winners. While the list of benefits is long, there were four very important ones I witnessed that day:
- Transfer of Wisdom – there is so much that only time, age and years of experience can teach you. Mentorship between someone who is nearing the end of their career, and someone who is just beginning theirs creates an opportunity to transfer that wisdom. Wisdom that not only benefits the mentee, but ensures that these life lessons and stories are not lost. David Holt shared many stories from the stage about what he gained just from being in the presence of Doc Watson, and while Josh Goforth was clearly an uncommon talent, you could see he too was gaining from just being in the presence of David Holt.
- Shortening The Path – no need to reinvent the wheel, and when we choose a mentor we have an opportunity to learn the tricks of the trade, and the best strategies for success. David Holt, a famous musician in his own right, saw a strong lift in his career and in the legacy he will leave, when he hitched his wagon to Doc Watson. Now, clearly in a position to attract his own crowds and trade on his own name, he instead chose to share the stage with Josh Goforth. In doing so, he will shorten the path for success for this young musician.
- Fresh Perspective – the power of seeing your ideas through the eyes of others gives them new life, and you a new perspective. I have to wonder, if Doc Watson’s touring career would have stayed as strong and as vibrant without the infusion of energy of David Holt. And if understanding that, David Holt chose to reach out to find a younger talent, to give his music and is ideas new perspective.
- The Student Becomes The Teacher – It is true the mentor does become the mentee, while we cannot ask Doc Watson, I am betting that if we could, he would have a long list of things he learned from David Holt. And it was clear, from watching these two musicians on stage, that David had great respect for the vast array of instruments Josh had mastered, his skill at telling stories, and the new way of looking at things that David was learning from Josh as well.
We talk so often about the generational divide, and what we need to do to bring the generations together. Well, from witnessing what I saw that day at Bluegrass Church, I would say that a mentorship program is a pretty good place to start. It is clear, there is quite a bit we can learn from one another, and quite a few ways we can benefit from investing the time.