How to find a mentor to help you go further, faster
I mentored eight young men for three years. It was incredibly rewarding, and I wrote about it several times (see here and here).
As a result, nearly every week someone e-mails to ask, “Would you consider mentoring me?”
Unfortunately, I have to decline. I am taking this year off in order to focus on other priorities. But even if I were actively mentoring, my bandwidth would soon be exhausted.
Most people understand this and then ask, “Okay, so how do I find someone else to mentor me?”
Good question. But to be brutally honest, their chances of finding a mentor are slim. The problem is their definition of mentorship. It’s too narrow. Let me explain.
When most people use the term mentor, they mean a one-on-one coaching relationship with someone older and more experienced.
It might be informal (someone who can advise them ad hoc) or formal (someone who is willing to meet with them on a regular basis). Regardless, the demand exceeds the available supply.
Fortunately, organizations like Radical Mentoring are working on training more mentors. But it’s a slow process. We simply don’t have enough mature men and women willing or able to make the investment.
So, what do you do if you are trying to find a mentor?
I suggest you broaden your definition of mentoring, so you don’t get stuck waiting for something that might not happen.
The truth is you can be mentored now if you understand the eight levels of mentoring:
1. Blogs and podcasts. If you could wave a magic wand and be mentored by anyone, who would it be? John Maxwell, Seth Godin, Dave Ramsey or someone else? Chances are they have a blog or podcast and are already churning out a ton of content — for free. Are you taking advantage of it?
2. Books. There’s no greater value than a relevant, well-written book. For less than $20, you can get someone’s best thinking on a specific topic. Never before in history has so much knowledge been available to so many, for so little. And if you don’t have the money to buy a book, go to the library.
3. Courses. I’ve spent hundreds of hours with Tony Robbins, Brendon Burchard, David Allen, and numerous others. Not personally, of course, but by taking their courses. This is the next level up from reading a book. The instruction is more in-depth and, as a result, more likely to actually transform my behavior.
4. Conferences. When possible, I prefer live instruction. It provides an opportunity for total immersion, focused learning, and interaction with other students. It occasionally provides direct access to the instructor(s). I make it a priority to attend three to four conferences a year as a student.
5. Masterminds. I didn’t start hearing about these until a few years ago. Now they are all the rage. They are actually a very old idea. Benjamin Franklin, for example, had one. It’s a wonderful opportunity for peer mentoring. My friend Dan Miller has a great audio and PDF on how to create one.
6. Membership Sites. This can be a wonderful hybrid of input from specific mentors plus the input of fellow members. For many people this is the perfect combination. That’s what I do, for example, at Platform University. There’s a monthly fee attached, but it is nominal and enables us to bring high-quality content to our members.
7. Coaches. If you are willing to pay for a mentor, a coach is a great option. I employed one for more than a decade. While you may think you can’t afford one, I would challenge you to investigate it before dismissing it. If a coach helps you seize one opportunity, optimize your productivity, or avoid one fatal mistake, it will pay for itself many times over. I recommend Building Champions.
8. Mentors. Though a true mentor may be difficult to find, it’s not impossible. If you have one in mind, start by building the relationship — just like you would anyone else. Don’t lead with “Will you be my mentor?” (That’s like asking someone to marry you on the first date.) Instead, get to know them. Look for opportunities to be generous. Start small and see where it goes.
Jesus said, “He who is faithful in little is faithful also in much” (Luke 16:10). Until you have taken advantage of the lower mentoring levels, you probably won’t gain access to the higher ones. Even if you do eventually find a mentor, you’re cheating yourself by not doing what you can now to learn and grow.
Instead of focusing on what you don’t have — a one-on-one, traditional mentoring relationship — focus on what you do have: more opportunities than ever before in history to learn and grow. If you simply expand your definition, you will find there are mentoring opportunities everywhere.
Photo: Flickr / colemama CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
This article was originally published on Michael’s blog