Mentorship is a personal developmental relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. However, true mentoring is more than just answering occasional questions or providing ad hoc help. It is about an ongoing relationship of learning, dialog, and challenge. The term “mentor” dates back to Greek Mythology but its application continues to this day.
Think about it… we’ve all had mentors in our lives. As we are protégés (students) of someone who has provided guidance, advice, instruction, and support about various aspects of our lives. Parents, teachers, older siblings and family, and supportive friends serve as our mentors.
I was pleasantly surprised by the number of comments on my blog piece about helping my great nephew select his first two pairs of boots. I was equally as disappointed when I asked about boot mentoring on the “Boots on Line” board and got very few responses.
So what is a “boot mentor?” Do guys need one?
From what I observe on the absolutely huge number of people who search for information about boots and how to wear them, I know there are thousands of guys out there who could use a little help. But being guys, they seldom ask anyone. (It’s a “guy thing” not to ask anyone a question to avoid revealing that he doesn’t know something.)
These days, this-here Interweb machine sure helps in that regard. Thousands of anonymous visitors from all over the world to my website Guides about boots — choosing boots, motorcycle boots, police patrol boots, wearing boots, and the boots knowledgebase (boot wiki), etc. — view those Guides every single day. I hope my Guides have helped, as I get very little feedback except the occasional “thanks” from some guys who take the time to write to me. (Writing via a mail form is so “last century,” but since I don’t text or receive text messages, that’s all ya got!)
But reading pictorial and informational guides on the Web only goes so far. Sometimes a guy needs someone he respects to give him personalized advice and guidance based on experience, insights, and knowledge.
These days, women and men in general and particularly those who are parents tend not to know that much about boots, and sometimes hold opinions based on inaccurate information. “Boots will hurt your feet” or “boots get hot” or “boots cost too much” … all that stuff. There are as many different types, styles, and choices of boots that it can be very daunting to the uninformed father who is supposed to know everything. Dad seldom admits what he does not know and makes statements that are not supportive of wearing boots in order to steer the conversation away from something he doesn’t want to talk about so he can avoid appearances of not knowing answers to a son’s questions. (Go ask the same Dads about football, and they’ll talk your ear off. Ask a question about boots — well, not so much.)
How can you be a boot mentor? Fairly simple — here are some tips based on my experience:
- Actually wear boots to show that you like them.
- Stop saying things against boots (I know this is obvious, but there are so many ‘anti-boot’ fashion-queens out there, they are unduly negatively influencing guys who want to know more about boots).
- Do your homework — learn about the basic styles, price ranges, and reliable and affordable sources of boots.
- Ask questions — what kind of boots do you like? Why? What pictures have you seen of guys wearing boots that you like?
- Learn about quality and value–that is, know which boots are well-made (not in China or Pakistan) and are affordable.
- Where do you want to wear them (that is, “what application?”) — to wear to school, to work, to ride a motorcycle, etc.?
Another critical point of being a good mentor is listening. You need to really listen to the questions being asked, and not quickly jump to correct something wrong. Through careful and thoughtful conversation, you can correct misinformation and not make the person asking the question feel badly for even asking. As they say, “there are no dumb questions.”
There are many more questions that can (and should) be asked by someone mentoring a younger guy about boots. The point is to find out what the protégé wants to know and finds interesting or attractive. There are some guys who think that wearing boots appeals to the opposite sex. Well, it may be, but this blog “isn’t going there” about sexual attraction — in boots or otherwise.
I recently had a positive “boot mentorship” experience with my nephew. I remained positive, smiled a lot, paid a number of compliments, and answered a ton of questions. My GN has continued to ask more questions about boots as he has begun to wear his boots more often. “Can I wear them to the store? To church? With a suit? Will my feet hurt? What should I say if someone makes fun of me wearing boots? How should I store them when I’m not wearing them? How often do I polish them? What happens if I get caught in a storm — will the boots be ruined?” on and on … these are actual questions he has asked me. I’m sure he will have many more.
And that’s the point of being a mentor — more than just answering a few questions and taking him shopping. Being there for ongoing questions and offering suggestions and ideas as the months and years move on — that’s what mentoring is all about. It’s a relationship. Okay, so I’m known in the family as knowing a thing or two about boots. I try hard not to come off as a “know-it-all” and be arrogant about my experience. Instead, I keep my answers simple — and do a whole lot of smiling. It’s amazing to me that as I think back, those whose mentorships that I have cherished and have helped me over the years — all smiled a lot. I knew behind that smile that there was more to learn. I remained eager to probe with more questions, and I was never made to feel badly about asking any question whatsoever.
Summary: if you want to encourage guys (of any age) to wear boots, then: 1) wear them yourself; 2) display a positive image in boots; 3) be gentle and have a real two-way conversation, and 4) keep the conversation going.
Life is short: wear boots and mentor others to do the same.