The Care and Feeding of a Mentor

Every business person who aspires to excellence wants a mentor… an expert superstar who has done exactly what you are trying to do AND is willing to show you, step by step exactly what you need to believe, understand, know and do to get exactly the results you want in a very short period of time…preferably with as little work and pain as possible.

I have had several mentors in my career and they have catapulted me to the top of more than one industry. Their wisdom and experience has saved me tens of thousands of dollars in mistakes, made me millions in fees, made my books best sellers and saved me literally decades of time over my career.
But mentors require the utmost in care and attention. They are skittish animals that must be carefully fed and nurtured. These relationships are literally worth their weight in gold. Yet, I find most business people who seek out a mentor understand little about how to create or nurture these critical career and life changing relationships.

NEVER expect a mentor to help you just because they are already successful and don’t need the money, because they like you, because they are your boss, because you are “in their network,” because they really enjoy helping others or whatever other crazy justification you might want to believe.
Think about this. Why would a mentor help you, when they could easily (because of their extraordinary success and large networks) invest their time and efforts with other equally or more successful people and reap far greater rewards?

Why would they mentor you when they could be spending time with their friends or family? At a minimum, the time they invest in you will always be competing for their free time. What can you offer that will make them WANT to give those things up for you? Even the most altruistic of mentors has limited time and you want to be one of their TOP priorities.

Mentors will help you most when they are in your life over the long term (years or decades) and they will not continue to put energy into your relationship unless there is SOMETHING in it for them. This is just simple human nature. You already know it is true. I am reminding you of this universal truth because I see it so often completely ignored.

So what can you do to take make yourself invaluable to your mentor?

Review the following strategies and have a conversation with your mentor or potential mentor to determine which of these would be most valuable to them:

1. Pay them! Somehow this obvious solution is the least discussed and seldom used. You can pay cash up front. You can give them a percentage of your increased earnings for a period of time. You can give them stock or a percentage of your company. You can give them a percentage of everything you earn over some threshold. Be creative. What would make financial sense for you if they were to really jump in and catapult your career?

2. Trade for products or services. What do you have that they want or could want? In what area are YOU a deep subject matter expert that you could exchange for mentoring? Many very talented people are crippled by paperwork or are technology challenged. How could you “reverse mentor” them?

3. Find a task or set of chores that they HATE to do and take them on. You will become indispensable to them and you will free up valuable time for them to help you get what you want.

4. Go to work for them. Can you imagine what you would learn going to work for someone like an Elon Musk, Warren Buffet or Steve Jobs? Your nominal pay is completely irrelevant to what you could learn by going to work directly for a mentor who is currently doing exactly what you want to learn.

5. Use your network. How could your network be valuable to them? How could you help your mentor by making the right kinds of introductions to the right people for the right purpose? Just be sure that the introductions are mutually beneficial to your network or your network will quickly disappear.

6. Triangle trade. Sometimes you can help someone else who can help your mentor. This requires more work and commitment but can be very powerful as you build a coalition that is unstoppable. Harry would never have defeated Voldemort without Ron and Hermione.

7. Pay it forward to someone they care about. This is one of the most powerful strategies on the list. Becoming a mentor or resource to a loved one or colleague that really matters to your mentor will win HUGE mentoring points. Find someone in their life with an issue you can resolve and you are set.

8. Commit to paying it forward. Suppose none of the previous strategies are viable. Consider tracking their contribution to you with a metric that makes sense to your mentor and then commit to paying it forward until you have delivered the same or greater outcome for others. Part of the agreement may be that those you mentor agree to pay if forward also creating a real multiplier effect for your mentor.

9. Pay it forward to the charity of their choice. Perhaps you can work at their favorite homeless shelter or be a fund raiser for their favorite local charity.

10. Create joint ventures in which they are the majority partner. Perhaps you don’t have a lot of excess cash but have some investment or retirement money that you could access to co-venture with them. This one could be combined with trading for services or sweat equity or a triangle trade to make it work. How creative can you be to get the mentor of your choice? Remember that smart, successful people usually have a knack for making money and being a minority partner would give you a bird’s eye view of their thinking and decision making patterns.

11. Devote yourself. You will notice that this one is last on the list. That is because it is perhaps the least desirable, but it can also be the most powerful because it is often the easiest to get a mentor to agree to. It is also the most humbling because you will agree to do whatever they ask (that is moral and legal) for a period of time or under a given set of circumstances. This means totally surrendering yourself to your mentor and for those who can (mentally and emotionally) do this, it is enormously powerful and may be the fastest way to completely understand how they think, work and live.

The right mentor can change your fortunes, your happiness and your life. What are you willing to do to ensure that you have the right mentor or mentors forever? Identify your ideal mentor, create your strategy and start the conversation today. You future depends on it.

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