Many infamous figures throughout history have been considered self-made. In some instances, they started with humble beginnings and worked their way to the top.
One definition of self-made is “having become successful or rich by one’s own efforts.” While it is true that most people need to put forth effort to be successful, it would be hard to find one success story that didn’t involve a mentor. Warren Buffet had Benjamin Graham, Tom Brady had Bill Belichick. Both Buffet and Brady are considered the best in their given professions. Each man undoubtedly had innate ability, unparalleled work ethic, and intelligence. The most important quality each of these men possessed on their journey to greatness, however, was the willingness to study under an expert while they perfected their crafts. We all need mentors.
Mentors are the bridge between raw talent and results. Having a mentor expedites the process to desired achievement. You get to benefit from acquiring knowledge from their successes and also learn how to avoid mistakes they made when they were ascending to the top. In order to bring your game to the next level, you need to find mentors who can guide you.
Not all mentors were created equal. Some people are great at what they do, but may not be the right fit for you personally. Here are some simple questions that can steer you towards the right mentor.
Let’s pretend that you want to invest in real estate. In particular, you really want to learn how to flip houses because you think that it can provide great income. When looking for a mentor, you need to make sure you find someone who is doing exactly that. Real estate has tons of subcategories, but you wouldn’t necessarily want advice on how to flip houses from someone who is into buy-and-hold rentals. These people are real estate investors, however, they might have never flipped a house before. You want to find someone who has the exact skill set you hope to acquire.
Spend time researching potential mentors before reaching out. You want to make sure that person is legit and has a proven track record. Most successful people are very busy, so you want to make sure you’re respectful of their time. I can’t think of a bigger waste of time than someone who asks for help, but doesn’t know what they’re hoping to find. If you’re still in the exploration phase, that’s totally fine, just don’t seek out mentors at this juncture. A mentor is only helpful if you also know how to help yourself.
Going back to the point about mentors in your field of interest, be wary of expensive courses or coaching sessions. I’ve learned the hard way that there are people claiming to be experts, but want you to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for their advice before you know if it works or not.
I’ve always been obsessed with real estate and have experience in the field already. At a certain point, I decided to reach out to someone I’d heard of through BiggerPockets. It seemed like a dream come true that she not only responded but also asked me to join one of her programs while we were on a call. Retrospectively, this was a red flag, but I proceeded to purchase the course. The course cost $600 and had mentorship built-in, so I figured that was a good deal so that I could have an extra set of eyes on deals.
After starting the course, I realized that the quality was poor and the information provided was generic and slapdash in terms of presentation. As an educator who has designed several courses, I gave feedback on how to improve the course with detailed explanations because I thought I could help her provide more value to others. After doing so, I asked for advice on a multi-family I was considering and I never heard back from her about the property. Keep in mind, I paid for the course, mentorship, and even helped her when she should’ve been the one helping me. This was a great lesson on all the things you should avoid doing as you seek a mentor.
At the start of a new endeavor, a $20 book is probably as much as I’d spend on someone else’s advice.For one thing, you might not like the topic as much as you thought you did after reading a book on it. Another reason is because beginners need to accumulate general knowledge before understanding the intricacies of a given topic. Most general information can be found online for free, at coffee with someone in that field, or in a book.
As you accumulate knowledge, getting specific information will become important at which point a course or paid mentorship MIGHT make sense. Remember that no one gives away their secret sauce–then they wouldn’t be a highly sought after commodity– so you will probably be paying for a watered down version. Instead, it might make more sense to spend that same amount of money trying whatever you’re interested in while asking specific questions to those who might be able to help along the way.
Most potential mentors are busy doing whatever it is that makes them successful. The best way you can provide value to a potential mentor is by helping them free up time. If you can offer solutions to problems they have, you instantly provide value. In effect, you can trade your time for knowledge.
A good friend of mine leveraged mentorship to propel his business career. He’d met the billionaire who later became his mentor at the gym. After becoming acquaintances, the billionaire asked my friend for help building a website. Instantly, my friend was able to provide value and revamped the entire website to be more functional and aesthetically pleasing. Notice that my friend did so with no expectation of being paid, the relationship he was building was more valuable to him.
When the billionaire realized my friend’s potential, he offered him a job. It wasn’t anything crazy, just enough to pay the bills. My friend again recognized the opportunity to learn and grow under this person by providing value and helping the billionaire’s company grow.
Within two years of this, my friend was able to create multiple businesses, each netting well into six figures. He always tells me that the years preceding this were the hardest of his life. The hours were long and the work was hard, but he ended up learning skills that are paying exponential dividends. If you’re willing to provide value, opportunities will come your way.
All success stories involve a transfer of knowledge from one person to another. Mentorship is the key ingredient in molding someone with raw ability and desire into a success story. If you follow the advice in this post, you will find a mentor that helps you optimize your talents.