Naren Young on the power of mentors

Naren with one of his mentors, Sean Finter (left)

Now, during these difficult times, we need help perhaps more than ever. And I’m not talking about the obvious, like the financial kind or some form of government assistance, while those are certainly welcome relief if or when they come. I’m talking about help from others around us: friends, relatives or confidantes that can help us navigate a multitude of issues that many of us are facing on a daily basis. Many have found themselves extremely vulnerable right now and not all of us are mentally prepared to steer this ship on our own. In short, many of us need help and are either unsure where to turn or are too afraid or embarrassed to ask.

Thankfully there are now many more resources available to us than only a few years ago and during this pandemic I’ve been uplifted by many acts of human kindness that have manifested themselves in powerful, selfless and creative ways. Mental health and depression are two massive problems facing our industry that for too long unnecessarily lived in the shadows; taboo subjects that were swept under the rug. For some of us, we’ve lost some dear friends in this industry when they reached such a dark place from where they felt like they couldn’t return.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Our industry was difficult enough before the pandemic; one rife with drug and alcohol abuse that many of us have participated in for years, me included. Now, it is easier to speak openly about the difficult topics that plague us and there are professionals out there equipped with the necessary tools to help those in need. I have not battled depression or addiction personally, so I don’t profess to be an expert on these topics. But I do know that having people around you that care about you and your success (and trust me, there’s a lot more of these individuals than you might think) is a good place to start.

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I have spent a lot of time during the lockdown thinking about how I can help others and how others can help me. The word ‘mentor’ gets thrown around a lot these days. I, too, have been guilty of using it a little too flippantly in the past. Sure, I’ve had people that have helped me along the way and who I’ve looked up to with great reverence. Two names that have always come up in these discussions are Jason Crawley and Dale de Groff, two very important people in my life and my growth within the industry over the last two decades.

But only recently, I felt like I’ve needed to engage others to help me in my professional and personal life. People to mentor me. Life coaches, if you will. For anything troubling on a deeper personal level, there’s always therapy. But I, like many others, are navigating an uncertain future in our industry (or perhaps a shift of direction), and suddenly realized that I needed more help and guidance than what I was able to provide for myself; people that I trusted implicitly, are wise, pragmatic, brutally honest, thoughtful and that had my best interests at heart. It’s not easy to find that mix, on top of them having the time and patience to take on that responsibility in the first place.

It’s not easy asking for help and I tip my hat to anyone who shows the courage to do so. I decided to approach three people from different parts of my life who I’d always admired and who had all the qualities I described above. I explained that I needed help with various parts of my life, whether it was being a better leader, a more effective listener and communicator, having difficult conversations, being more honest, negotiating contracts, offering help to others, while using many of the tools I’m learning through daily meditation to help facilitate this growth and path forward. One thing to keep in mind is to identify what your specific needs are as this might inform what specific person/s you turn to for guidance and who can provide you with the best answers.

I asked for an hour of their time every month to discuss these topics or whatever else arises. Some have given me homework to prepare for each monthly discussion or a list of reading materials that pertain to these issues that are challenging me. Already it’s been very enlightening and gives me clarity that there is indeed some hope for a bright future in our industry. I highly recommend seeking out such people in your own lives or in your own part of the world. You’ll be surprised how many people are willing to help you if you just ask. Being mentored is a very humbling experience and it can help you gain more confidence, direction and vision for those obstacles, good and bad, that lie ahead of you.

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