If you are reading this article, chances are you are an entrepreneur or aspiring one. With that being the case, you either have mentors or are impacting other lives by being one… or both.
In a working world where there is still a significance and necessity placed on formal education and years of experience, mentors are changing the game. Mentorship is becoming the key to success of budding (AND experienced) entrepreneurs.
By definition, a mentor is: a person or friend who leads a less experienced person by developing trust and exhibiting positive behaviors. In my experience, a mentor is someone more experienced than I who is willing to take me under their wing to coach and guide me and assist me in developing and realizing my true potential.
A few months ago, I co-wrote (actually, with one of my mentors) an article titled 7 Lessons From 7 Millionaire Mentors which covered some of the most substantial lessons I have learned from my experience with mentors.
With most recent college grads struggling to find jobs, let alone one they enjoy, many are abandoning the corporate route and instead, turning to entrepreneurship. While no program, course or institution can truly teach entrepreneurship other than entrepreneurship itself, a large percentage of these college grads are finding that the best way to learn, and in fact, shorten their learning curve, is to link arms with a mentor.
To illustrate the profound impact mentors can have in and on our lives, I thought I would head back to the drawing board…
The following are the 5 ways that having a mentor can and will shave years off of your learning, expand your network, keep you grounded in your journey and propel you towards living the life you dream of. While all of these will certainly leave you longing for a mentor, especially if you don’t have one yet, but be sure to read all the way through as we appropriately saved the best for last!
1. Personal and professional networking
They say, “In life, it’s not what you know, but who you know.” Absolutely true. Who knows you and who likes you also won’t hurt!
When you venture out into the real world of business and entrepreneurship, you realize how much smaller it is than you ever would have imagined. In my case, my last mentor used to coach my current mentor, who used to be business partners with one of my best friends’ mentor!
A great mentor typically has a large circle of influence and is very well connected. It is not the fact that they are so connected which makes them a good mentor, but rather their success in their field and understanding the value of building both personal and professional relationships.
If you develop a true relationship with your mentor, which you unequivocally will want to, the chances are that they will open up doors for you in ways you could only imagine.
One of my closest mentors, who has gone onto become one of my dear friends, is a personal development and business speaker and coach. He travels the United States weekly, speaking to crowds that range from 30 to 1000+, occasionally with world renown experts, authors, speakers and leaders.
Last year, we hosted an event in New Jersey with 850 attendees with one of the all-time best-selling authors, and most connected man in business, as our keynote speaker. I had the opportunity to share a bit of my story along with some of my greatest insights I gained while working with my mentor.
Prior to the event, I had the privilege of spending some quality time with my mentor and the speaker, during which we really connected. He gave me his personal number and told me to stay in touch and if there was anything he could do to help move my career forward, he wanted to help.
This goes to show you that while the concept of 6 degrees of separation does exist, a valuable mentor will often be able to cut that in half!
2. They will tell you the truth, even if it hurts
Mentors are, in many ways, teachers. One of the greatest thing they will ever teach you about is yourself!
Now, you must be thinking… “how could my mentor know more about me that I do about myself?!”
Well, it’s not that they know more than you about yourself, but they are most likely going to tell it like they see it. They are vested in your success on multiple levels so they want to see you grow and develop into the person you deserve to be.
At times, this may not be the most comfortable process, but comfort is the enemy of change. In order to change your results, you’ve got to be willing to change what you’re doing and often times that requires changing your mindset…which can really rattle your skin.
While working for one of my mentors, I was around 18 or 19, I ran into some conflict. I had got into a habit of showing up slightly late for work, about 5-10 minutes or so pretty much everyday. He never called me out on it so I got more comfortable with strolling in late. One day we had an important meeting lined up for 9am and I was supposed to be in at 8 to run through some notes for the meeting. I overslept and was running 20 minutes behind schedule so I gave him a call to let him know I would be late…again.
What happened next taught me a lesson I carry with me to date. I told him I would be in around 8:20 and he said to turn around and go home, take the day off, I was no longer needed at the meeting.
My heart sunk.
I had just let down my mentor who had consistently gone out of his way to pull strings for me and line me up for success. I felt awful.
The next morning I showed up an hour early to greet him and rightfully apologize. When he walked in, I asked him if he had a few minutes to speak with me. I apologized for slacking off, strolling in late consistently and not bringing my best game to the table, he deserved better. I vowed I would never be late again while working for him and would proceed to always show up early for life thereafter.
The moral here is that he called me out and while it hurt, he was 100% right in doing so. If he wouldn’t shake me up, who would? Since that day, I have consistently showed up early for meetings (and practically everything else) and with a will-to-win attitude!
3. They will challenge you
Mentors are there to help challenge you to grow. If they are not challenging you, they most likely are the wrong mentor or you simply work a job. Most of the time, you seek out a specific mentor because they are an expert in your desired field and you know that they can assist you by shortening your learning curve and open some doors for you.
While mentors are there to teach and guide you, a great mentor will push you to pursue your biggest goals. Sometimes this means putting you on the spot and giving you a task you may not have experience with but they have faith you will complete it. The reason they do this is so you grow by necessity. Many times in business and life, we accept jobs or tasks that we are familiar with, remaining in our comfort zone. When we are thrown in the fire, we have no other way out but to learn! Knowing this, your mentor will want to challenge you and see how you handle the unfamiliar…as you will see a lot of it as an entrepreneur.
Other times, they may seek you out for insight, reversing the roles. This can be exciting and scary all at the same time. You don’t have to be perfect, they are only asking for your advice! A good mentor understands that they don’t know everything, so they choose to surround themselves with people that fill the gaps for them. If they took you under their wing, chances are they like and trust you so they might occasionally ask you for input on a project.
A mentor of mine in the network marketing industry once wanted to challenge me to take on a leadership role within my team more quickly so she called me up one Sunday and asked if I could explain the compensation model on Monday’s team call.
I panicked. Me? What if I messed up in front of the team and gave the the wrong information?
She reassured me that I had been around long enough and showed the plan to enough people that I could do it. So I did. And it went really well! In hindsight, I was glad she challenged me to step to the plate as that not only developed a stronger belief in our team and who they were following, but a bigger belief in myself!
4. You’ll develop a lifelong friendship
A mentor is not only there to guide you in business but in life. Many of my mentors have become close friends and advisors to me.
An effective mentor understands that their role is to be dependable and also authentically engaged throughout the process. You are there to learn and grow while they are there to teach (and learn).
Part of this process is done through building a bond with someone you can trust and consult.
They say “If you don’t understand people, you don’t understand business,” so making your relationships a priority, especially with those who want to see you succeed, such as your mentors, is vital.
One of the greatest joys in business is partnering with like-minded individuals who have become close friends, on big ventures that feel like a dream. Doing so with someone who has guided you and coached you along the way is even more rewarding, knowing you have really elevated your game.
I’ve had about a dozen personal mentors in my life, excluding my parents, five of whom I am still close with, two of whom I speak with multiple times a week. These are people whom I reach out to for business advice, life insight and often just to catch up.
5. Streamline your learning curve
Out of all of my mentorship experiences, this has to be one of the most impactful. There is a saying that goes something like: “You learn the most from your mistakes.,” and While there is merit to that, I believe you can also actually learn more from other people’s mistakes.
Sure, we certainly learn from our mistakes but what if we didn’t have to make that mistake in order to learn the lesson? And drive the ball of success?
A few years ago, I was living in Boston and working in Real Estate. I had the good fortune to be working for a Broker who had 20+ years of experience and knew every nook and cranny of the city in and around Boston. He taught me a lot about sales, service and dealing with clients but the greatest lesson he passed on was qualifying clients.
He had learned the hard way that the first step in working with a client is qualifying them! There were tons of stories of him and other agents he had worked with over time that didn’t really understand this until years had gone by.
Before taking the clients out to go see any unit, he would check their credit, discuss budget and also have them fill out other paperwork – he wanted to ensure that they were serious about moving forward (and were financially able to) if they liked a place they saw.
This allowed me to understand the value of my time, one of our most valuable assets, and not waste it with people who were simply “searching” and tire kickers.
I probably would have learned this lesson over time in my career, but the fact that this was one of his major keys to success that he shared with me from the get go, allowed me to streamline my success in the business and be much more productive with the clients I chose to work with.
My hope for you is that you take what you’ve read here today and seek out a mentor that can aid in streamlining your learning curve and jumpstarting you to success!
In the end, mentors are really just a lending hand on your journey, but can play a vital role in your development and success. I strongly believe every entrepreneur deserves and requires a mentor. If nothing less, it makes the entrepreneurial journey a little less lonely!
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