Lessons from a Young Master

Sorcerers apprentice
Sorcerers apprentice

This is part of my Series on Mentorship.

I recently wrote about some enduring lessons I was privileged to learn from that great Old Master I told you about. I'm happy to say that of late I've been receiving some additional lessons, this time from some younger Masters.

A few weeks ago I started teaching our young son the game of chess. He is just a little over 2 years old but he is already learning what to call each piece, how to set them up on the board and now every night after dinner he says, "Daddy let's play chess" and we set up the board together, play a move or two and then he typically is ready to move on to another game or toy. I don't overdo it with him, but I can already see the enthusiasm he is developing for the idea and camaraderie of the game. Seeing him encounter chess with his fresh eyes has been something of a revelation for me. It has made me understand how precious the opportunity to teach something special to another human being can be. I've also come to understand just how much the teacher has to both remember and un-learn all at once. You have to constantly ask yourself questions like "what is he seeing that I no longer can", "what should I have been taught early on that took me years to realize on my own?". Imagination and creativity are paramount. You hope that in its purest form teaching is a gift to both the student and teacher. Each learns a great deal from the other and from the process as well.

I'm also teaching at Columbia Business School this year where I was appointed as an adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship. I teach the Launching New Ventures class and we have 70 students with us, some of whom are dead-set on launching companies and becoming entrepreneurs. It's a huge challenge and you want to do your very best for them- not just to inspire them but to give them every practical advantage they can possibly have. Again I believe understanding how they see the landscape in front of them is paramount. You must understand how they think and the prism through which they're evaluating the world. A lot of this requires the teacher to unlearn and remember at the some time. One student was shocked when I told him how to approach a certain meeting. He said "I'm allowed to speak that way?" It was a powerful moment where he realized for the first time that there were no limits on him. I wish someone had told me that when I was in school twenty-five years ago!

As a teacher you feel an awesome responsibility to do right by each and every student. Amidst all of this, you also gradually realize not just what a privilege it is to guide them on their journey- but just how much the teacher is learning from all of his students along the way. It's quite stunning.

So here's to the young masters- to their success both in business and in life- and to all that they in turn teach us about ourselves along the way.

For the next post in this Series on Mentorship, click here