Many of the greatest minds have been molded by mentors. Warren Buffett had Benjamin Graham; Marissa Mayer (CEO of Yahoo!) had Larry Page (co-founder of Google); even Simba had Mufasa. All of these examples show the strength of having a mentor. Well, except for Simba – we couldn't reach him for an interview.
Why Get a Mentor?
A mentor can encourage you. A mentor can tell you what to do and what not to do. You can learn from his or her mistakes. Having someone like this in your life could save you from years of missteps.
And it won't be as tough as you think to find a mentor. Experienced people really do want to talk to you. Just show interest in them. As author Tim Ferriss says in The 4-Hour Workweek, “It’s lonely at the top.” What does he means? The people you want as mentors rarely get approached for advice or even friendship. Most people feel too intimidated to approach them!
So right off the bat, you have a good chance of connecting with some powerful people. Plus, when you show someone that you’re passionate about what they do, who wouldn’t want to listen to you? If you tell me what a great blogger I am, I'm pretty likely to talk with you.
How Do You Find a Mentor?
It’s easier than you think.
The typical mentor will be someone you already know and admire, and you can have more than one. Don’t feel the need to get a perfect mentor your first time.
Consider friends and family who are living how you want to live. You can reach out to your boss at work. You can join an organization of like-minded people. The organization will likely expose you to other potential mentors.
What’s important is to surround yourself by the kind of people you want to become. Show interest in them – ask questions. Ask to hear their stories. Ask what you can do for them.
So You Found a Mentor – What Now?
Once you've found a potential mentor, knead the relationship like a ball of dough. Don’t beg her to be your mentor on the first day.
In fact, most mentor-mentee relationships never even receive that label. Just talk with the person and see how things evolve.
Ideally, what I want to do is give you a dollar amount. I want to say, “If you get a mentor, you’ll make a million dollars.” However, it’s really hard to quantify the exact benefits of having a mentor. What I can do is use myself as an example. When I was 13, I awkwardly introduced myself to a man who was starting a vineyard near my house. I sent him my resume (pretty sparse, as you can imagine) and he gave me a call.
After I worked with him for a year, he invited me to help him get his restaurant up and running. He was completing the renovation of an old opera house and needed help. After we opened, he had me bussing tables and washing dishes. Pretty soon, I got promoted to line cook. And then after that, I could cook every meal the restaurant had to offer. What started as a simple mentor-mentee relationship turned into tens of thousands of dollars for me – all while I was still in high school. He showed me how to run a business and how to make money.
A Word of Caution
While having a mentor is great, I should also warn you about pseudo-mentors. These are people who like to have you around to feed their ego. Pseudo-mentors will want you to shadow them on all sorts of random occasions. These “mentors” will also try to get you to do things for free. They will try to pay you in “experience” or “exposure.” People die from exposure. Run like the wind if you come across one of these phonies.
If the relationship feels unfair, get out. Listen to your gut.
A Final Thought
Before you go, know that good mentors and bad mentors come in all shapes and sizes. A mentor doesn’t have to be a certain age. When I was little, I made the mistake of thinking that gray hair always meant experience. That’s not always the case. If you want to build an app and the 17-year-old down the street just sold his for $40,000, well then let him teach you a thing or two! As a rule of thumb, never judge potential mentors using any illegal hiring practices: race, national origin, gender, age, or religion.
Everyone should find a good financial mentor – it can be a life-changing experience. Like I said, Warren Buffett, Marissa Mayer, and Simba each had one – and so should you.