Today’s world moves fast, very fast. At times, to me anyway, it can be overwhelmingly fast. Trying to keep up is tough, and trying to stay ahead can sometimes seem impossible. As I continue to grow as a person and in my career, it is important to me that I stay ahead without spending every waking moment “grinding.” While there are many things that can be done, I have identified one thing that can not only keep you ahead, but that can save you from making many mistakes along the way – and… it is free. Like all things in life, you will get out of it what you are willing to put into it.
What I am talking about is the power of having a MENTOR. What is a mentor? Google defines it as “an experienced and trusted adviser.” Webster’s defines it as “a trusted guide or counselor.”
One thing that has always come naturally to me is seeking wisdom from people I admire. It has always been a no-brainer – why would I not surround myself with people that can offer advice and feedback that almost gives me a glimpse into the future before it happens. (Disclaimer: you cannot literally see into the future, but with a great mentor, you can come pretty damn close). If there’s one thing I’ve learned, the world isn’t as difficult as we can sometimes make it seem. History repeats itself, and certain situations produce very similar, if not exact results, even if those situations occur 20 years apart from each other. If we can agree on that, keep reading. If we can’t, good luck!
I don’t care who you are, what you’ve accomplished, what you’re interested in – YOU SHOULD HAVE A MENTOR OR MENTORS.
“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22.
A great mentor is like being able to get the answers to a test before you take it, but in this case, it’s not considered cheating, well, it is, but ethical cheating. You get to obtain wisdom ahead of time so that you can make informed decisions about things you’ve yet to experience. This can lead to a more efficient life, with fewer mistakes, which keeps you ahead, without having to work 24/7. Pretty cool.
All public companies come with a Board, which is essentially a group of trusted advisors that help share wisdom to impact the business, hopefully positively. In team sports, the captain of the team or coach is often a mentor to the rest of the team. Why not use these same tactics for you as an individual?
How do I find the right mentor?
The right mentor for me isn’t necessarily the right mentor for you. First and foremost, as described above, you should seek out someone that you admire greatly who has lived a life that you anticipate living. In other words, find someone who has walked the walk. In business, if you want to be a real estate developer, your mentor should be a great real estate developer. If you want to drill oil wells, find someone who has been great at drilling oil wells. If you’re interested in starting an app, find someone who has built great apps.
Mentors aren’t only for business – there are also what I call life mentors. Similar to a business mentor, these are people who have lived a life that you strive to live.
Once you’ve identified or made a list of people you would hope to be your mentor; now you have to close the deal. For a solid mentor/mentee relationship, there should be a deep commitment from both parties, which isn’t always easy.
Once I’ve found a potential mentor, how do I establish the relationship? What are our duties?
Once you’ve narrowed down a person(s) that you would like to mentor you, you have to ask them and tell them your intentions for the relationship. This relationship takes a solid commitment from both parties for it to be valuable and effective. Time is valuable, and your mentor should understand that you are fully aware of that. Asking a person isn’t enough though. After you’ve asked, let them know your wishes for the relationship.
1. An allocated period of time per month, quarter, semi-annually, etc. E.g., “I’d like one hour of your time each month.”
2. The goals you hope to achieve out of the relationship. E.g., I’d like to learn how to build a company, be a better husband/father, learn how to develop real estate, learn how to build an app, etc. In reality, you will have a series of goals and tasks that you accomplish bite by bite.
3. Let them know that you will plan out each meeting and come with a structure/agenda if that hour is to be used deliberately to answer questions about a situation you’re facing or hurdle you’re trying to overcome.
4. Confirm that they have agreed to be your mentor and fully understand all your intentions.
*Just because you want someone to be your mentor, doesn’t mean they will. This is a big commitment for the mentor (who is usually a person that already has a lot of commitments in life). You will be more successful in achieving a “yes” if you can prove to them that you are 100% committed, and this isn’t just a relationship you’re using to “check a box.”
I have had my same business mentor since I was 18 years old, and to this day, we regularly speak about a range of topics. My business mentor is one of the largest privately-held owners of real estate in Texas / New Mexico and built his company from scratch, similar to Fort’s road. Over the years, I can honestly say he’s helped me learn how to raise capital, manage investors, learn business terms, meet people, structure our partnerships, learn how invest, learn how to look at a deal, how to negotiate, what points to negotiate on, taxes, hiring, employee compensation and bonuses, firing, the power of long-term thinking, lease structures, etc. Since I’ve never worked for anyone longer than a month, my only way to figure out anything is to read about it or ask. I am not afraid to ask anyone anything, and you shouldn’t be either. When asking someone a question, make sure you are asking a person who you think will deliver the best possible answer. Mentor or not, ask the best possible person available to you, always, if you want the best answer.
Here is a quick blurb in an article that was written, where I talk about the relationship I’ve had with mentors.
I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be where I am today without my mentor. Like, nowhere close. I believe I would have eventually gotten here, but not nearly as quick, and with a lot more pain. I bypassed a lot of that by having an open and transparent relationship with a person I admired a ton and trusted.
I also have a life mentor. This is more recent, but as my business has grown, I’ve gotten married, and had a daughter – there’s just a lot going on. One thing my life mentor always asks me is, “If you died tomorrow – where are you going? And what will those left behind remember of you?”. Those are very powerful questions. Very powerful. (To me anyways.) A lot of what we talk about, and the wisdom I seek, is from his experiences along the way. I have written out on paper the type of person I aspire to be like, and my life mentor helps me in little ways to get closer to being that person. How to be a better husband, how to be a better father, how to balance time, how to leave time for my faith, how to deal with tough situations, etc.
I have a third mentor, actually mentors, that have come into my life over the past two years. This group is my forum through YPO (Young President’s Organization). This group is compromised of 8 – 10 business owners that meet once a month for 5 hours to talk business, life, family, relationships and everything in between. These are peers of mine who are all in similar roles. We share everything with each other, and I’ve derived so much value from listening to their stories and learning from their wisdom.
This type of mentor group is something you can find by looking for an organization of like-minded people – similar to you. Most industries offer these type of small group settings for different positions across their industries.
If there is one thing I’ve learned from both of my mentors is that everything worth having will not come easy, and it’s not forever, unless you work at it, and work at it, and work at it. A mentor can help you in the short-term, but a great mentor will be helping you make decisions that will have a long-term impact.
A great mentor can be the key ingredient to navigating the road ahead. I think it is fair to say, while we try and see the road ahead as clearly as possible, it can often be very difficult to navigate, and comes with a lot of unexpected twists and turns, unless of course, you’ve had someone tell you what to expect.
I truly believe this is some of the best advice I can share with anyone – whether you’re young and just getting started in business and life, or as someone who is more seasoned but hasn’t yet experienced the benefits of having a mentor. It’s never too late, and it’s always the right time. You can change your life quickly and “stay ahead” by finding the right mentor.
In closing – you are an average of the five people you surround yourself most with, and you tend to surround yourself with people that provide value to your life. A mentor can often help you think deeply about who those five people should be if you’re not already taking that initiative.
I have enjoyed writing these articles and look forward to sharing more ideas and thoughts in the coming weeks, months, years.
Next Topic: The world will only give you what you refuse to give up doing. We are owed nothing, and despite what you may read in a warm and fuzzy media article, the real world will only reward those deserving of being rewarded. It’s that simple. YOU have the power to influence those around you, but ultimately the market makes the final decision, not you.