Recently I was meeting up with a buddy and we were talking about life and clear goals. The person was sharing about their career ambitions and some of the dilemma’s they were facing. I interjected to inquire who they look up to or consult with when they have to make major decisions and the answer was; “I don’t believe in mentors because I have never had one anyway.” I was shocked and went speechless for a while.
I attribute a great deal of who I am and what I have been able to accomplish to the efforts of various mentors that have walked me through different phases of life. I have experienced the joy of standing on the shoulders of strong men and women. We all need somebody to hold our hands when we can’t seem to find our way. We were never meant to live as islands yet many of us have chosen that lonely path.
Successful people from Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs, Eric Schmidt, Satya Nadella and Jeff Bezos to Mark Zuckerberg and more all credited a big part of their success to their respective mentors. Success is never a one man show, it is collective effort that begins with a willingness to learn from others and that bench marks mentorship.
For some of us, it’s exciting to go at life alone and create something on your own. However, the reality is that, while you have great ideas, you may not know exactly what you should be doing with you at all times hence the need for a mentor or mentors to walk you through.
I’ve had several mentors over the years and learned a large amount of valuable lessons from each and every one of them. From not making certain decisions to fostering certain relationships, a mentor can help guide you through your life journey.
Here are a few reasons why you need a mentor:
1. Mentors provide information and knowledge. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” When I was starting out, I had no idea about how to actualize my dreams despite the fact that I was super passionate about the mission. With the support of mentor’s, I tapped into a wealth of knowledge that got me up to speed faster and shortened that learning curve.
2. Mentors can see where we need to improve where we often cannot. We tend to surround ourselves with people who praise us and blow our trumpets but Mentors have a way of seeing more of our faults than we would like. It’s the only way we grow. They will always be brutally honest with you and tell you exactly how it is rather than downplay any weaknesses they see in you. This constructive criticism from a mentor will help you see things in yourself that you could not recognize.
3. Mentors find ways to stimulate our personal and professional growth. One of my mentors would often pose questions for me to think about and ask me to come back with answers later. He would also set various goals for me and let me loose to see if I could accomplish them on my own, all the while watching from a distance to see how these projects helped me to develop. He then made a point to sit down and tell me what he thought was worth keeping. He focused on character and values, which nurtured my personal growth as well as my leadership abilities.
4. Mentors offer encouragement and help keep us going. Oprah Winfrey stated, “A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.” They have been so many times when I felt like quitting but my mentors provided the encouragement and guidance that gave me hope and confidence that I could do whatever I set my mind to. I listened and we have come this far.
5. Mentors are disciplinarians that create necessary boundaries that we cannot set for ourselves. I experienced a lot of tough love from my mentors. They did this because they understood that being an entrepreneur can be challenging when it comes to self-motivation and self-discipline. Some took on the role of parent to teach me good work habits and provided the boundaries for me to work within. This solidified my work ethic, sharpened my focus and clarified my priorities in a way that I could not do on my own.
6. Mentors are sounding boards so we can bounce ideas off them for an unfiltered opinion. I normally have so many idea and tend to want to pursue all of them but I have learnt to relay them to my mentors who help me sort through which ones have potential and those I should ignore for the time being. I appreciate this wisdom because it has saved me from many stupid mistakes that could have cost me so much.
7. Mentors are trusted advisers. Often times, it can be hard to know who to trust and that you can trust someone. Not everyone is interested in your welfare so you have to be selective about who you open up to. Mentors provide this safe space for you to get vulnerable.
8. Mentors can be connectors. Playing a dual role of teacher and connector, a mentor can provide access to those within your industry that are willing to invest in your company, offer their skills and expertise, introduce you to talent that can fuel your career and help you get closer to your target audience.
9. Mentors have the experiences you can learn from to prevent making the same mistakes beginners make. Growing up is challenging enough, so if you can skip doing things the hard way, why wouldn’t you? A mentor has been there, right where you are, and has made numerous mistakes that they can now use as a basis for helping others to skip the devastating effects of not knowing.
10. Mentors are free, which makes them priceless in more ways than one. Typically, a mentoring relationship will grow organically through connections within your industry and network. A mentor does not do it for the money. Instead, they are driven by the satisfaction of helping another, paying it forward from a similar experience they had when starting out in life. I feel fortunate enough to have had this experience and am now in a position to return the favor to others that are just starting out. Not only is the price right, but your mentor is also providing priceless access to everything noted on this list and more.
Having a mentor is not a sign of weakness; it shows you are smart enough and are driven enough to succeed.
In the next part of this topic I will share more about how to find mentors and what you an do to strengthen your mentoring relationships.