Imagine you’re 85 years old, living in a nursing home and your health is beginning to fail. Your grandson has always had a special place in his heart for you but over the last few years, he’s been busy finishing college, getting married and starting his family. One day, out of the blue, he calls and asks to visit. “I want to talk to you about real life Papa” he says. “I wanna hear your story.”
What story will you tell?
It’s easy to tell him your career story. About finishing school, getting your first job, getting promoted (or let go), starting your own thing, selling your company, becoming a Principal, finishing your residency, starting a practice, becoming a partner, selling out, retiring, getting forced out . . . whatever. He won’t care.
Of course, you can tell him your family story. Your parents, siblings and how you grew up. How you met your wife . . . the divorce, his mom or dad’s birth, his uncles and aunts. This story’s a little harder to tell. There’s some raw spots you have to tread lightly around . . . the divorce or the distant relationship you had with his grandma or even his mom or dad. He might be mildly interested.
If you’re a church person, you can tell him your faith story. How you were baptized (or not), how you came to believe, the churches you’ve been a part of, and maybe your favorite parts of the Bible. His attention span will depend on his own faith story.
But what your grandson really wants to hear is your life story. He wants to hear about your heart. What mattered to you when you were young and what matters to you now. How you saw things then and how you see them now. Sure, you want to tell him about your successes and things you’re proud of. He’ll be much more attentive as you tell him about your failures, your bad decisions, your regrets and your missed opportunities.
Unless you’re 85 and in a nursing home, your story isn’t over. You get to choose how you finish your story. When they make movies in Hollywood, they often film multiple endings and show them to focus groups to decide which ending resonates best. So, which of these ‘endings’ would you rather tell your grandson?
“I really wanted to be happy and successful, so I ‘doubled-down’ at work. I was able to send the kids to private school and great colleges. I took golf lessons and hired a personal trainer. I got in the best shape of my life and lowered my handicap 8 strokes. I moved our family into the big house on Tuxedo Road where we lived until your grandmother left and put me here in assisted living. I’m afraid I don’t have a lot to show for my life and it’s pretty lonely here. Can you come back to see me again soon?”
“As I took stock of my life, I realized that everything I’d done in my life was for myself. So I started to pray and ask God what He’d have me do with my life. He gave me the idea of investing time in men who are a couple seasons of life behind me. I started mentoring younger guys and that became my purpose and my calling. I got my church engaged and now there’s a bunch of guys involved. I found that joy and fulfillment comes from loving and serving others, showing them Jesus and encouraging them to follow Him. I’m surrounded by people I love and who love me. God is so good!”
So, what’s it gonna be? What story will you tell?
Scripture: Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come. (Psalms 71:18)
Mentor Tip: The successful launch of a mentoring group depends on everyone telling their life stories. Help your guys stay focused on the story they want to tell when they’re old and gray. The story of God’s love and grace versus their own story of success or failure.