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Interview With Entrepreneur and Mentoring Matters Developer, Robin Cox

In this insightful interview, we have the privilege of speaking with Robin, an accomplished author and seasoned educator whose career spans several continents and decades.
Robin’s dedication to mentoring and youth development has shaped countless lives and communities around the world. With a background as a school principal, sports coach, and developer of youth mentoring programs, Robin has poured a lifetime of experience into writing thirteen influential books on mentoring and youth potential.

As a cancer survivor, Robin’s resilience and passion for giving back to society are evident in his work, including training over a thousand volunteer adult mentors and running workshops across multiple countries.

Today, Robin shares his motivations, challenges, and the profound impact of his latest book, “MENTOR: Strategies to Inspire Young People,” providing a wealth of knowledge and inspiration for anyone involved in guiding the next generation.

1. Hello Robin, Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?

I was a school principal in southern Africa, sports coach to national under-nineteen level, and developer of youth mentoring programs in New Zealand and Australia. I have written thirteen books about teacher-mentors, youth mentoring, peer mentoring, and encouraging youth to fulfil their potential.

I have trained over a thousand volunteer adult mentors, run education and spirit of mentoring workshops in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India and Jamaica, and personally mentored over a thousand adolescents and many adults. I am a cancer survivor, married with two adult children, two delightful grandchildren, and live in New Zealand.

2. What are your focus areas and why?

My cancer journey started when I was about 9-years-old, and was treated through my teenage years, during which time my mother died suddenly as well. So, it was a tough time and, with the support of family and some special teachers and coaches I overcame many challenges.

As a result of this caring support, I decided at a relatively young age that I wanted to teach and give something back to society. Cutting a long story short, I eventually started sharing my thoughts and became an author of books which encourage those who journey alongside young people to help them reach their potential.

My major focus is promoting the spirit of mentoring, sharing my resources and experiences, and reaching as many people as I can.

3. As an author, what is it that motivates and drives you?

I want to make a positive difference in the local and wider community, which is why I set up my website over twenty years ago (www.yess.co.nz).  After I retired, I created 260 short (2 – 4 minutes each) free Mentoring Minutes podcasts to encourage anyone working with young people, a quick reference point for them (https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/mentoring-minutes/id1296540710).

I feel that I have so many tips, strategies and stories to share from my teaching and mentoring journey, conscious that the global community, and especially many young people, are still reeling from the pandemic, lockdowns and the shattering of dreams.

There is a huge need for volunteer adult mentors to move alongside our young people – and this will be required for the next decade or even longer. So, after a lengthy break from writing, in 2019 I started writing again and have had the privilege of having five books published by US publisher Wipf & Stock during the past five years (https://wipfandstock.com/author/robin-cox/). 

My user-friendly books help equip people guiding young people with the tools and strategies to make a positive difference. I want them to also serve as reference books for mentors, youth workers, parents, teachers, indeed anyone working alongside young people.

4. Tell us about your new book titled “MENTOR: Strategies to Inspire Young People”

MENTOR: Strategies to Inspire Young People provides over 1000 proven strategies and tips to encourage anyone working alongside young people to positively connect with them, and guide them to reach their unique potential—to achieve greatness—in a meaningful, developmental relationship. This user-friendly book promotes the ‘spirit of mentoring’ among family, friends, schools, and communities. It awakens that spirit within the lives of all who guide and inspire young people, and appreciate the value and importance of face-to-face relationships.

I share true stories from my and other mentors’ interactions with young people from a variety of cultures and ethnicities to give credibility to the strategies and tips mentioned in the book.

The challenges facing our young people in a post-pandemic world are discussed, and practical solutions offered. Anyone working with young people will feel equipped, enabled, and further empowered to take on a formal or informal mentoring role, and will have an inspirational resource to consult in the years ahead.

5. Where do you think the book is making an impact?

It is too early to say, as it was only published a couple of months ago. I have been pleasantly surprised to see how many grandparents have purchased the book so they can better understand their grandchildren.

A number of them have returned to buy more copies to pass on to their children who are parents of teenagers. Mentors of young people tend to be the people who purchase a book like this, as do youth workers and educators.

I think more educators would find it valuable, especially as many of them are unaware of all the recent adolescent brain research which I mention in my books, and which has helped us understand young people better.

6. What inspired you to write this book? And why Education and MENTORING?

MENTOR has become the third in a trilogy of books promoting the spirit of mentoring, all of which are also available on Amazon. As already mentioned, I developed the series of free podcasts. Mentoring Minutes, Weekly Messages to Encourage Anyone Guiding Youth, contains the updated podcast content, as well as extra mentoring stories. Then I wrote CHOICES, Encouraging Youth to Achieve Greatness, which took me about 10 years to write!

This book contains a framework I developed over the years for successfully mentoring young people. I had the privilege of sharing the content of this book at an International Education Conference in Oxford (U.K.) in 2023. I had so many more strategies and tips to share, so decided to write MENTOR.

My inspiration came from my own experiences as a teacher, coach and mentor watching young people’s lives being transformed with guidance and support, as well as the positive feedback I received from those who had read the other books.

I think the concept of mentoring is a major missing link in education in most corners of the world at the moment, and it would be great to see a genuinely holistic education including students, parents and their teachers being offered.

7. Describe the three biggest challenges you faced during the writing of this book

It was difficult deciding what information to include and what to leave out, so I consulted widely as I was writing, and feel that I did achieve the right balance.

Marketing the book is always a challenge, as is finding the funding to make sure I have a professionally produced and written book.

8. What is the “one word” advice you will give to our readers when it comes to succeeding in life?

Rather than one word, I would encourage them to ‘chase your dreams supported by non-judgmental people you trust.’

9. What are you most excited about at the moment?

Feeling comfortable that I have captured and shared my personal experiences, as well as those of others, with the backing of Wipf & Stock.

These books will stand the test of time and, when my grandchildren are older and wonder what I did with my life, they will find many answers in these books which I hope will motivate and inspire them to make a positive difference in their local and wider community.

10- The last word or final thoughts?

A shout-out to the many, many volunteer mentors of young people who have sacrificed time to speak into the lives of their mentees – it is a life-changing experience for both parties.

My hope and prayer are that these books will help people appreciate that we all have the spirit of mentoring within, and they can latch onto all the tips and strategies I share to make a positive difference in their communities.

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