The Importance of
Male Mentorship

Don’t go it alone.
Seek out wisdom.

Importance of male mentorship illustration Importance of male mentorship illustration


The Importance of Male Mentorship

Don’t go it alone.
Seek out wisdom.

Sean Hotchkiss

A couple months ago, I attended an intimate dinner at a friend's house and got seated next to Brad Pitt. (Yep, that Brad Pitt.) And while it was pretty surreal asking Tyler Durden to please pass me the pepper, what was even cooler was the reflection the evening provided me of my own growth.

Let me explain: Years ago, if I found myself seated next to a cool, alpha male like Pitt I would have—to put it colloquially—shit my pants. I would have felt so much pressure to get this older, famous dude to like me that I would've spent the entire meal frozen, afraid to say the wrong thing, make the wrong move, or even breathe the wrong air, lest I offend him. This is how I spent my childhood: When I was five, and my parents got divorced, my larger-than-life dad moved out and every time I got a chance to hang around him I felt like it was my big chance—if I made a good joke, or got the winning hit in the baseball game, maybe he'd come back and be my dad again like before.

My dad never moved back, and that immense pressure followed me into adulthood. When I moved to New York and began rising up in the ranks professionally, I met a lot of hip, handsome, and seemingly powerful older men who I desperately wanted to see and appreciate me. But instead of being my true self and asking them for the help and closeness I craved, I tried to impress them the way I thought men wanted to be impressed: with my smarts, my irreverence and dedication to the job. If I could work hard and be successful, just like them, they had to love me. Right? Well, not exactly. What happened was I tried so hard to be perfect that these guys never got to see the real me anyway—just an invulnerable imitation that inevitably ran out of tricks, and then ghosted them. It was an exhausting cycle.

Ambiguity is no good here. The request should be clear: I admire you and what you do and would like to spend time with you.”

As men, we need the attention, love and blessings of an older, wiser man to feel comfortable in our skin—and to complete the maturation process into manhood. If we're lucky, this comes through our dads, but many of us aren't so lucky. (Not to mention that around the Vietnam-era in America younger guys stopped relating to older men almost completely: “Don't trust anyone over 30!”)

As a result of this void between the generations, any older, earnest man who is kind to us becomes suspect. I see this a lot as a coach. Most of my clients I fall in love with during their first session—meaning of course that I see their inherent value in the world, and get excited about working with them. But the clients don't see themselves that way. They're programmed, like I was, to believe their value lies in achievement. They want to be “good” clients, and do well at being coached. They don't trust me, because they don't trust themselves.

Because of our fear of rejection by older men (and ultimately the rejection we experienced from our fathers), most of will project our longing for male bonding onto famous men: musicians, TV actors, tech millionaires and self help gurus—men who are safely far enough away that we could never experience real intimacy with them. But what we're missing out on is the gift of a non-sexual closeness with a real, flesh and blood man.

That's where a mentor comes in: For us to truly move beyond childhood fantasies of what a man is, we need the reflection that we're worthy and lovable without actually “doing” anything. That our ideas, beliefs, and even bodies, have value as they are. A healthy, older man who has done his own inner work can reflect back to us our inherent worth, which regulates our nervous system. It shows us we're more than the car we drive, the money we make, or the amount of Instagram followers we have. It reduces that ever-present voice in most guys' heads that says: “It's never enough, and I'm never enough.”

Movie male mentors
Movie male mentors

Here’s how to find a solid mentor:


Find someone
you admire.

Out of all the men in the world, we're always attracted to a special few for a few special reasons. Who are the guys in the world that you keep coming back to? What qualities do they possess? Is there anyone in your immediate life who possesses these same qualities? (I can't stress enough here to look at internal attributes when considering a mentor: His heart is much more important than his net worth.)


Ask directly
for their time.

Asking for mentorship is a bit different than just hitting someone up for networking. Ambiguity is no good here. The request should be clear: “I admire you and what you do and would like to spend time with you.” Some of the lines that I've used in the past are: “I see you as a version of myself a few more years down the road, and I'd love the opportunity to pick your brain.” And: “Are you involved in mentoring any guys, and would you be interested in mentoring me?”

A mentor should not be responsible for setting the parameters of working together, so the mentee must create the plan: If it's a coffee for 60 minutes every month, or a three hour session to go over a manuscript, define the parameters. It will make everyone feel more at ease. Dudes love and appreciate structure.

Like dating and love relationships, mentorship should be based around a common mission. You guys should be moving in the same direction with the mentor merely being a few steps (or decades) ahead. Remember: there is nothing more important to a man coming into the last few decades of his life than passing along the lessons he's learned. Nothing. That may help to take the sting out of the potential rejection of asking. Be assured: this relationship will mean as much to the right mentor as it will to you.


Be yourself
(and enjoy being there.)

The goal of this process is to bask in the knowledge, wisdom and steady manhood of the guy you reach out to. Simply being together will have a cellular affect on your body. For those men who have had traumatic relationships with their fathers, this process could bring up a lot of emotions. Simply being admired and loved by an older man could trigger grief around the fact that you did not experience that as a kid, so be gentle with yourself. Above all, just enjoy the healthy masculine bond that so very few ever experience, yet we all crave.


You’ve now got a life coach at your disposal. Hit Sean up with any concern you’re currently struggling with: Trouble at work? Relationship worries, family struggles or general mental health concern? Let him help you tackle it each month in this column.

Drop us a DM, tweet
or email

More of
The Inside Man