Reverse Mentoring — My Coaching Story
I first met Vincent, as he was then known, back in June 2014 (although he insists it was 2012 and could well be right). I was 53 and running workshops on how to achieve PR with no budget and he was twenty-something, in Techstars with his start-up Magnific. He asked if he could come along to one of my events and I told him there were 160 people on the waiting list. As it turned out, half the people who were booked to come, didn’t show up and I had a half full event but that’s another story (although if you ever run free events, it’s worth bearing in mind the drop off numbers).
We eventually caught up a few weeks later at Shoreditch House for a coffee. As I recall he was struggling to define his business and we agreed to do some kind of a skills swap that never quite came off although in looking back through our correspondence, I passed him a load of leads, edited one of his press releases and was pretty helpful (nothing new there, then). Eventually he decided that helping startups was what he wanted to do, launched his first Secret Sauce conference at which he asked me to speak and the rest is history. Vincent, or Vin as he had renamed himself, had found his purpose.
By 2016 he had fashioned himself into the first start-up rockstar, complete with wacky hairdo, loud clothes and gold winged Nikes. He’d also managed to grow a significant community of people who seemed to hang on every word he said as if it was the gospel. I must admit I found his transformation a mixture of inspiring and irritating. Did he really have some secret sauce or was he pulling the wool over our eyes? Then he made £100k launching a book on Kickstarter about growth hacking (of which you can find a dozen on Amazon), grew a FB group which featured lots of repurposed Reddit postings along with his own musing on his lack of success with women into over 20k people in less than a year, all while travelling around the world giving talks (on a mixture of all three).
On my side, my start-up Frugl was trundling along, stifled mainly by my developer’s lack of time and my own lack of cash. A passion project I’d created with a friend, Advantages of Age, was gaining attention and money. Featuring a mix of curated articles and content exclusive to the site, my co-founder, journalist/author Rose Rouse and I had created it to challenge the media narrative around ageing. We roped in our other equally frustrated friends and before we knew it, we had a site featuring the kind of articles that we loved writing but would never have found a home with any mainstream media channel - “A Post-Menopausal Woman’s Perspective on Viagra,” “My Unlikely Love Affair with Osho,” “I Am 60 and Visible — fuck the Invisibility Myth.” Scoring a grant from the Arts Council to host three events around Death, Style and Taboos solidified our status as ones to watch.
Vin’s email to participate in a Coaching Group that would “Transform your business from small-time to the power of a corporation without any of the bad bits?” arrived at just the time I had taken the decision that it was time I put my money where my mouth was and take the steps needed to grow a genuine community (and business) around the Advantages of Age ethos. It was time to stop talking about the challenges facing older people and do something about it. It was time to be accountable to myself. So I’ve signed up to 12 weeks of commitment requiring posting articles on a daily basis, engaging with social media in ways that will no doubt make me very uncomfortable and much more that I’ve yet to discover.
In a show of getting my act together, I shall be keeping a weekly diary to chronicle what it’s like. The journey begins on Monday. Stay tuned.