The eternal question for budding entrepreneurs and savvy people in general. Where is my mentor? How do I find him or her? Why or how on earth could he or she be younger than me? For anyone venturing out into a new field there are a few things you should have in your backpack to cut the learning curve in half (and sometimes eliminate it all together). You should have your toothbrush and towel (I actually stole that from Douglas Adams). You should have a compass (moral or otherwise). You should always have a notepad of some sort (Evernote, slack, notes, insert favorite method here) and plenty of sharp pencils. A decent wad of cash in your pocket (for incidentals and buying coffee at a business meeting), and probably the most important is a mentor.
But they are so hard to find you say? They are actually very easy to find depending on your definition of mentor. A mentor can come in many forms. Here are some examples: books, podcasts, blogs, forums, keynote speakers, TED talks, documentaries, your spouse, your kids, and of course the everyday run of the mill “normal-already-where-you-want-to-be-in-5-years” mentor. All of these things and people are your mentors. Let’s look at the core defenition:
1. an experienced and trusted adviser.
“he was her friend and mentor until his death in 1915”
synonyms: adviser, guide, guru, counselor, consultant; confidant(e)
“his political mentors”
So just by definition – advice, consultation, guidance are things you should get from a mentor. This is one of those moments when you are thinking out of the box the box came in nodding your head up and down and having an aha moment. Yes, mentors can be anything and anybody where you draw knowledge.
There are really two things you have to know about mentors: 1)they like getting advice and value. 2)they like reciprocating advice and value. That’s it. Class over. But let’s just check this out.. In order to get the most value you have to be willing to give the most value. Value begets value. Offer first your unbiased and non business driven attention to someone you identify as a possible mentor. Be ready to build a relationship with that person. You may find out the person you want to mentor you is not compatible on a personal level. That is not a good choice. You have to be able to understand and be comfortable with them on a personal level. Once that is established then you can (and usually they will take the lead) start to bring the real meat and potatoes to the table but you will be starting that on an already level playing field. Have you ever been on a date and wasn’t really sure if you clicked with the other person… And then the very next week asked them to marry you? Probably not. Same goes for mentors.
Non-traditional mentors: are thing you use, let’s call them tools of the trade, which help better your understanding. The coolest thing about non traditional mentors is that you can learn such a broad spectrum of stuff. Well how will that help me figure out house hacking you say? It might not directly but you should always be looking to glean one or two key nuggets of information from everything you read or listen to or watch. If you shake the pan for a while and don’t see gold wash up then grab another pan full of silt. The gold is there, sometimes you just have to hunt for it. Again, cut the learning curve. Some of the best media I ingest leads me to at least 2-3 more sources of great info. The snowball rolls on from there.
Let me talk about one last point. Any point in the storm. We are all going through life and are all at different points in the storm figuratively or literally, on a personal or professional level. At any give point in time you could be a mentor or someone who is being mentored. Or both. Don’t ever think that the cycle stops just because you have found someone to walk you through the process. That is ultimately the best part of learning and growing (and the reason you are still reading this post)… Giving back and helping others achieve the same or better results as you from things you learned from someone else who learned those same things from someone before them. That is how you ultimately better society. It’s not by voting and going to church and donating at the local food shelter. Those things are great, but giving some time back to mentor someone else is the best thing you can possibly do. You are passing on knowledge and knowledge is what sets us free.