4 Ways Having A Mentor Can Change Your Life: Lessons From Thoreau and Emerson

Hayley Milliman - Content Lead


One of the best ways to experience an immediate career boost is to get yourself a mentor. And no, we’re not talking about a $2,000 an hour life coach who aligns your chakras while vision boarding your future (not that there’s anything wrong with any of those things – chakra alignment is the real deal).

A mentor is an experienced and trusted advisor, someone in your field that you can turn to for advice on big decisions, help during difficult times, and general support as you navigate the day-to-day challenges of work and life.

The mentor-mentee relationship has been around for thousands of years. You’re reaping the benefits of amazing mentors today without even knowing it.

Don’t believe me?

Have you been on Facebook lately? Steve Jobs was an influential resource for Mark Zuckerberg as the young CEO built his billion dollar company.

If you’re still not sold on the benefits of having a mentor, let’s take a look at one of the most famous mentor-mentee relationships of all time: Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.

Here are four lessons about mentors we learned from Emerson and Thoreau.

#1: Mentors Can Help You Get Access to Resources You Need

Thoreau was a young student on scholarship at Harvard when he first met Emerson. Already an experienced and successful author, Emerson took the young Thoreau under his wing. Emerson helped Thoreau by giving him access to libraries and texts that the novice poet would never have been able to utilize without his mentor.

Emerson provided Thoreau with basic life resources, too: Emerson lent Thoreau money and helped him get a job. Thoreau even ended up living with Emerson for two different periods during the 1840s.

Because mentors are often more established than you are, especially if you’re getting started in your career, they can help you gain the knowledge and skills you need to succeed in your work. Mentors may be able to assist you in making connections or learning new technologies which will ultimately further your own abilities to do your job.

#2: They Can Introduce You to New Ideas

Thoreau is perhaps best known for his work, Walden, which never would have been written without Emerson’s help. Aside from providing Thoreau with the physical connection to Walden Pond (more on that later), Emerson’s views on nature were extremely influential on developing Thoreau’s own philosophies. Without having Emerson to bounce ideas off of, Thoreau may never have developed into the leading transcendentalist he became.

A mentor can help you consider new perspectives – their wisdom comes from having been through many different situations before you. Mentors can help you look at a problem in a new way, or find a solution to a problem that you may not have considered before. Beyond that, a mentor can help broaden your worldview and gain new ideas and experiences.

#3: They Can Connect You With Amazing Opportunities

I went to the woods because my bro Emerson hooked me up with a sweet cabin…

As I mentioned before, Thoreau’s seminal work, Walden, would likely never have been written without Emerson. In addition to teaching Thoreau about the ideas that would shape the young man’s philosophies, Emerson provided Thoreau with the little cabin in the woods that he lived in while crafting his seminal work.

Mentors have connections: they can help you in ways beyond the office. Mentors may be able to suggest great conferences that you should attend or introduce you to investors for your new project. A good mentor helps broaden your horizons and facilitates your growth.

#4: They Can Support You During Challenging Times

Emerson and Thoreau were there for each other during some of the most challenging times of their lives. Both experienced the sudden loss of family members (Emerson, his son; Thoreau, his brother) and were able to work through the struggles by helping each other. Without Emerson, Thoreau may not have been able to recover from the death of his brother. The death of Emerson’s son also helped the mentor push his mentee more: Emerson realized that life is fleeting and wanted to ensure that Thoreau achieved his full potential.

A mentor can help pick you up at the lowest points of your life: when you’ve lost your job, when your business is running out of funding, when you’re not sure where your next paycheck will take. Having someone to turn to whose focus is helping you achieve your goals can turn a time of trial into a time of opportunity.

What Are You Waiting For? Get Yourself a Mentor Today!

Scholarly Shout-outs 🌟

Share this Article