Using Storytelling as a Means to Mentor

14134388517_b65d0cae99_b-690x590“Show, don’t tell.” It’s one of the tropes used by high school English teachers across the country to explain to students that sharing a story full of specifics is more effective than simply stating facts. By the time we get out into the workforce, though, we’ve heard it so much that it doesn’t really mean anything to us anymore. As we work our way up to the top, we forget about the nuances of “showing” and start communicating in facts, numbers, and graphs–things we can grab onto.

Mentors could gain a lot by going back to basics and channeling their inner English teacher. While stating facts is often an effective way to sway someone who is undecided about an issue, it does little to inspire enthusiasm or ignite passion. For a better way to influence others, stay away from facts and stick to storytelling.

Learning from Modern Day Influencers

Some of the most successful influencers in our modern day society are storytellers at heart. Take President Obama, who rose to fame after his keynote at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. How did a relatively unknown Senator rise to stardom overnight? He stood at the podium and told his story–one that resonated with the entire world.

So did Martin Luther King, Jr. So did Nelson Mandela. So did most of our modern day “mentors of the masses.” Recently, TED talks have become known throughout the world for their “ideas worth spreading.” If you pay close attention, you’ll see that most of the talks start out with the speaker’s own story.

From the ancient Greeks to modern day politicians and business, storytelling is the element that makes the difference between connecting with an audience and falling flat. Bringing real life experiences to the table makes interactions believable, memorable, and worthwhile. Facts and statistics can peak our interest, but stories are what move us to action. The technique holds true for personal interactions in any form, from televised speeches to one-on-one conversations.

Stories Help Mentors Become Relatable

The most effective mentors aren’t the ones who are perfect. They’re the ones who are flawed, but who overcame those flaws in order to succeed. They’re the ones who weren’t natural superstars, but who worked hard and showed grit in the face of their troubles. Perfect people aren’t relatable. Vulnerable people are relatable. People who failed are relatable. People who aren’t afraid to stand up and own their weaknesses are relatable.

Everyone who has “made it” started somewhere. We’ve all had low points or setbacks or struggles. Instead of feeling like we should shy away from our personal hardships as mentors, we should instead share those aspects of our stories as widely as possible. A mentor is only credible if he or she can demonstrate that their success can feasibly be achieved by their mentees as well. The more we expose the specific realities of our struggles, the more mentees believe that maybe they, too, can succeed in spite of their challenges.

If This, Then That: The Formula of Effective Storytelling

The stories mentors share shouldn’t just be stories about hardship. They should be stories about triumph, and about what specific actions or qualities brought the protagonist success. The idea is to give mentees a repertoire of effective techniques to meet challenges.

Additionally, not all effective stories have to be about the mentor’s own experiences. Stories about famous historical figures or people personally known to the mentor can be just as useful at imparting lessons and driving home the point that the trouble the mentee is going through is something that others have been able to overcome as well, and to help generate ideas about possible ways to do so. Generic, canned advice will mean more if it is given in context of a time where it worked.

Know Your Audience

A good mentor works with each mentee as an individual, and adjusts their communication method accordingly to reflect how the mentee likes to receive information. Get to know your mentee, get to know how they think, and talk to them in a way that jives with their personality. Know when to tell a story, know when to give hard facts, and perhaps more importantly, know when to just listen. If you play your cards right, perhaps your mentee will provide you with yet another success story to share in the future.

Originally posted on


How to Use STEM to Empower Today’s Minority Youth


Though historically a leader in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), the United States has fallen behind other industrialized countries in producing students who want to pursue a career in STEM-related fields. In 2014, the U.S. Department of Education reported that only 16 percent of high school students expressed an interest in a STEM career and had a demonstrated mathematical proficiency. Even though 28 percent of students expressed interest in working in a STEM-related field when they started high school, 57 percent of those students lost interest by the time they graduated.

Among minorities, the statistics are even starker. The 2015 STEM Index, sponsored partially by Raytheon, indicates a small growth in STEM-related education and employment between 2014 and 2015. However, gaps between whites and minorities remained the same or even widened. The data show that black, Hispanic, and Native American students earned fewer STEM-related college degrees, displayed lower test scores, and expressed less interest in STEM-related careers than their white counterparts.

The problem is not that the number of STEM degrees awarded among minorities is not rising. In fact, the number of STEM-related degrees earned by black students between 2000 and 2014 rose by 60 percent. However, the number of STEM degrees compared to the number of non-STEM degrees shrunk. The same proportionality issues are true for Hispanic students as well.

According to projections by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2010 and 2020 job growth in STEM fields is expected to grow by 18.7 percent compared to 14.3 percent for all other occupations except healthcare. Moreover, an increasing number of non-STEM careers, including the manufacturing sector, require workers with STEM-related skills. Therefore, increasing today’s minority youth’s interest in STEM will help empower them to pursue a wide range of careers in a number of growing fields.

The STEM curriculum was developed to do just that. Its approach is to teach the four STEM subjects in an applied, interdisciplinary manner. Rather than learning the four subjects as separate and discrete entities, students learn from a cohesive program that teaches them how to combine the individual disciplines and use them in real-world applications. Since 2009, the Obama administration has increasingly emphasized and funded STEM curricula throughout the country. By 2015, over $1 billion had been raised for STEM programs. Nevertheless, the National Science Foundation reports that fewer financial resources are available to schools that serve lower-income and minority students. They also employ fewer teachers who are specially trained in math and science.

One way to combat these deficiencies is to increase funding for afterschool-based STEM-related clubs and activities. Research shows that quality programs increase students’ likelihood of graduating and pursuing a STEM-related career. While legislators have petitioned for federal funding to assist with this goal, the private sector has also been working to make it happen.

The Games 4 Learning Institute (G4LI), based at New York University, works with Microsoft to teach STEM skills to minority youths through something many youths love: video games. Underneath the fun of video games are engines that simulate complex real-world systems. Teaching young learners how to program and develop games helps bolster their inquiry, analogical reasoning, and problem-solving skills.

Other private sector companies and institutions are following suit. Baxter, an Illinois-based global healthcare company, partnered with Northwestern University’s Office of STEM Education Partnerships to create the Biotechnology Center of Excellence at Lindblom Math & Science Academy, a Chicago public school with a predominantly minority and low-income student body. Between 2012 and 2014, the center trained 168 teachers from 115 schools on how to administer STEM education. These teachers went on to reach 20,000 students.

The State of Illinois also engaged in nine statewide public-private partnerships called STEM Learning Exchanges to partner students with private sector mentors who guide them through independent research. The connections are made through a website called the Mentor Matching Engine, described as a “STEM,” that allows students from rural areas to have the same access to mentorship as their urban counterparts.

Finally, Motorola Mobility, Siemens, and IBM are among a larger group of private companies that partnered with the MacArthur Foundation and the National Science Foundation to create FUSE, an out-of-school initiative designed to engage minority students in robotics, electronics, mobile app development, and 3D design. The program encourages interest and learning by presenting learners with increasingly difficult challenges for them to solve.

This blog was originally posted on Troy Dixon’s philanthropy blog.

Troy Dixon on How Regulation Increases Competition Among Hedge Funds

In the aftermath of 2008 and the implementation of the UA Dodd-Frank Act, the hedge fund landscape has been permanently altered. Now forced to abide by the rules and restrictions of the European AIFMD, larger hedge funds have had to give up some of their more effective tactics, like using leverage as a tool to eclipse their competition.

These dramatic actions have resulted in a leveling of the playing field. This opportunity has given rise to new players in the game, and, as such, increased the competition in this new, more fair hedge fund space.

What does this increased competition look like, and what does this mean for the hedge funds of today?

Smaller hedge funds making headway

In wake of stricter regulations, a growing trend has emerged: prime brokerages opting for smaller hedge funds.

While not always the case, smaller hedge funds have distinct advantages over their larger competitors. While the larger players possess mightier resources and sizeable teams, these resources can act as a double-edged sword, ultimately proving cumbersome in some cases.

A smaller hedge fund has the ability to operate within a single regulatory framework, dealing unilaterally with both risk and reporting environments.In short, this equates to having a more holistic understanding within a smaller team, thus providing the opportunity to be more agile and reactionary.

An increased focus on technology

As hedge funds attempt to juggle multiple service providers, analytics and processes become much more tortuous. Technology allows the operations side to manage resources more effectively and tackle the complicated problems that arise with managing multiple accounts. This allows the large hedge to be effective across their entire client base.

But technology is also a major expenditure. KPMG recently found that nearly 40 percent of hedge funds plan to invest over one million dollars annually in technology for the next five years. That accumulates to a spending boost of around 35 percent.

In some cases (especially with larger hedge funds), technological fees account for nearly a quarter of the overall management fee. This makes sense when considering the overall framework: over half of the staff in larger hedge funds aren’t involved in asset growth, they’re focused on tech and data management.

Branching payment structures

Originally, there were only two options when it came to hedge funds. One option was to work with an intermediary of a large bank, which meant ultimately having to pay both the prime broker and the intermediary. The other was to go with one of the big names in the industry and incur the massive fees associated with their expertise.

Now, increased regulation has allowed smaller hedge funds to see more action. This has allowed them to change up their payment structures in order to win accounts. One strategy some have used to eliminate the markup on the intermediary by cutting them out altogether. In doing so, their rates can be more dynamic. It also allows smaller hedge funds to operate on a case-by-case basis, giving them a more docile framework of payment structures.

More customized strategies


As smaller hedge funds become a more viable choice in this post-recession world, they’ve taken great lengths to diversify their strategies. They can custom tailor it to their clients in a way the larger, more established funds might not be nimble enough to operate.

And it’s having dramatic results on the output. A recent study showed a significant discrepancy between the output produced between large and small funds. While the brand name agencies (unsurprisingly) brought in a significantly larger quantity of money, in terms of returns, they only hit a return percentage of 7.32, whereas the smaller portfolios earned an impressive 9 percent.

Obviously, these are overall figures and can’t paint an accurate picture of what each individual hedge fund is capable of. However, it does show that, coupled with the boost in technological spending and the diversification of options existing within the hedge fund space, that seismic shifts are happening in this very dynamic market.

To read the original blog, visit:

For more information, follow Troy Dixon on LinkedIn! —

Troy Dixon on Unique Challenges and Positive Outcomes: Mentoring Young Men of Color


In America, African Americans have the highest poverty rate at 27.4 percent, followed closely by Hispanics, who have a 26.6 percent poverty rate. Research has shown that poverty is a major threat to a child’s well-being. Children who grow up in poverty from a young age face economic and educational disadvantages and are therefore less likely to receive a high school diploma, making it harder to obtain a job. These children not only face challenges economically, but they are also affected by social and cultural misconceptions. Mentoring boys and young men of color is vital to making changes in a community and creating opportunities they never knew were available to them. The following are unique challenges that these individuals face and ways to change these struggles into positive, life-changing opportunities.

Absence of a father figure

More than 10 million Black and Hispanic children in the U.S. live in a home without a father. Often referred to as the “Father Factor,” statistics point to the idea that growing up without a father figure can lead to a life of poverty, crime, and substance abuse. Negative outcomes do not have to be consistent with fatherless homes and statistics do not have to dictate the future of young men’s lives. The presence and positive engagement of parents and other caring adults such as relatives, teachers, pastors, and coaches, will make the greatest difference for young men living without a father.

Stressing the importance of an adult role model in a young man’s life is crucial. An ideal role model embodies certain traits that young men want to emulate, inspiring them to make changes in their own lives. Modeling behaviors of confidence, respect, hard work, and moral values will help to set a good foundation for future endeavors. Young men that are looking to apply for jobs or college in the future will need references and having solid role models that know their character and can attest to it will be extremely beneficial. Clubs, after school programs or athletics at school or youth groups at church are great ways to get involved and develop positive, lasting, and life-changing relationships.

Negative stereotypes

Young men of color are continually stereotyped as having one, or a combination of the following attributes: threatening, dangerous, drug-involved, disrespectful, withdrawn, or unmotivated. Such stereotypes stem from the media, movies, and TV shows that portray African Americans and Hispanics involved in gangs, violence, and substance abuse. For a lot of viewers, such perceptions are all they have to go off of. These misconceptions are not only harmful to their image but also inhibit opportunities that would have otherwise been available. For this reason, it is crucial to foster an accurate, positive perception about young men of color and to change harmful stereotypes.

Encouraging these individuals to embrace their true identities and showcase their talents is a great way to achieve this. For example, individuals who love to write or create lyrics can join writing clubs and enter writing competitions. Those who like to sing can get involved in choirs at school or church or can form their own group. These young men can’t do it on their own though. Since the outside world has developed, and held on to negative stereotypes, communities need to work together to change that. By skipping judgement and focusing on getting to know young men, communities might realize that they have a great deal of untapped potential.Mentors can get the ball rolling by connecting these young men to clubs in the area and encourage communities to start groups.

College Graduation is Inconceivable

Over the years, major improvements have been made for the success of high school students. From 1990 to 2014, the status high school dropout rates of 16- to 24-year-olds has gone down significantly. This rate declined from 13.2 percent to 7.4 percent for black youth and from 32.4 percent to 10.6 percent for Hispanic youth. In 2014, the Bureau of Labor Statistics saw the highest number of college enrollment for black high school graduates since it first started tracking data. A whopping 70.9 percent enrolled in college that year as compared to 67.3 percent white enrollees. While these numbers show great progress for young men of color, they still face many hurdles.

The financial aspect of attending college is a major burden that the majority of college students face. Not knowing or understanding financial aid and scholarship options can prevent students from making it to graduation. Another major hurdle is time. It isn’t uncommon for college students to work a full-time job while in college to make ends meet. A full-time or even a part-time course load can require a lot of time and dedication in order to achieve good grades. Maintaining a job and an education at the same time can feel next to impossible. When weighing the options, a full-time job that provides an income now is more appealing than an education that does not provide instant gratification.

Many of these hurdles can be solved with sufficient planning. Young minorities need to have better access to college planning opportunities so that they are made aware of success strategies. A thorough review of scholarships could mean thousands of tuition dollars saved. Decoding the intricacies of financial aid for these young men could mean a world of difference for their future. Institutional leaders can also play a crucial role for minorities by being mindful of their progress and show support and guidance in their journey.

Connecting young men of color with positive outcomes can be incredibly life-changing not only for the mentor, but also for the mentee. Involving communities and encouraging participation help to show a level of commitment that was missing before.

To view the original blog, visit:

To learn more, connect with Troy Dixon on LinkedIn:

Follow Troy Dixon on LinkedIn for the latest news & updates: