Attempting to accomplish something new in your life can be challenging. For more reasons than you can count, the idea of separating yourself from the masses and becoming great at something is difficult, scary, and would likely fill anyone with enough fear to stop them from taking action before they ever begin. This feeling of anxiety and uncertainty is only multiplied if you are attempting this feat alone. Without a system of support and accumulated knowledge around you, this monumental goal that you have set for yourself can seem impossible.
This is why you need to consider finding a mentor to help you on your journey, someone that has been where you want to be, accomplished what you have set out to accomplish, and can provide some insight and tips into how you can better reach your goal. Finding a mentor that is willing to share their thoughts can prove invaluable as you set out on your own journey, and there will be moments where their guidance will save you time, energy, money, and disappointment.
Let's begin with the most important question: "How do I find a mentor?"
Finding someone that is both willing and able to mentor you can be a challenge in itself. The first step is to surround yourself with successful people in your chosen field. If you want to start a business, find people that you know that have their own businesses and spend time with them in some shape or form. If you have a desire to design and build computer programs, seek out college professors that have spent time in those professions and ask them questions. Whatever it is that you want to do, the first step to finding a mentor is to surround yourself with as many people in that field as possible, because eventually their ideas, thoughts, and habits will rub off on you. You'll hear their stories. You'll learn their habits. And you will begin to discern which person you might like to have as a mentor going forward.
As you spend more and more time around them, try to keep a list of men or women that jump out at you as possible candidates for mentorship. Is there one person that you seem to connect with better than the others? Does a particular story resonate with you on a personal level? Or is there one individual who took the same path to success that you want to take? Write down their names and contact info if possible, and create a Top-10 list that you can keep for reference.
“True mentors don't make their mentees a clone of themselves.”
―Bernard Kelvin Cline
Once you have your list, the next step is to simply ask for guidance. Begin with the person on the top of your Top-10 list, and make sure that you go over what you will say to them before you actually say it. Don't improvise such an important conversation. You want to appear thankful for their prospective guidance, but you also don't want to appear childish or needy. The opportunity should be beneficial for both you and the mentor. The manner in which you approach them may be different for each possible candidate, depending upon their schedule, your relationship with them, and the manner in which you mean to meet with them for guidance. You may want to ask them face-to-face, or through email. How you do it is specific to your situation, but you must remember to come across as professional and thankful. They are doing you a favor by providing insight and knowledge, so make sure that you are genuine in your approach. This will prove beneficial as they consider your offer.
“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
- William Arthur Ward
The important thing to remember about mentorship is that while they have been where you desire to be, the path may be different for you. As you begin your mentor/mentee relationship, your focus should be on absorbing as much wisdom and knowledge as you can, not so that you can copy this person's path, but so that when challenges arise on your own path, you are that much more prepared to tackle them because of your newfound knowledge and wisdom. A mistake that many people make (and it's one that I've made myself) is that they idolize an individual and envision themselves reaching the same level of success in the same manner, but it rarely happens the same way for everyone. The purpose of mentorship is not to copy that person's actions. It is to learn from their mistakes, acquire certain skills, and use those insights to carve out your own path to success.
I've experienced the influence of great leaders and mentors in my own career, and I made the mistake of assuming that I would reach the same success as my mentor. After nearly four years of learning underneath a former mentor, he left his position to take a new job that furthered his career, and as a young man with years of training underneath him, I assumed that I would be chosen for the now vacant position. My former boss had given me guidance and helpful tips on the position (and many other areas of life) for years, and I felt prepared to replace him. In my mind, I thought to myself "I've learned from him, I know the position, and I'm qualified." Of course, I was not chosen, and I had to deal with that defeat in my own way. I spent the following two years working in the financial field, but I never got over losing out on the opportunity to achieve the goal of replacing my mentor. As fate would have it, that position recently opened up for the second time in two years, and after going through the application process, I was chosen for the position last month.
“Leaders..should influence others..in such a way that it builds people up, encourages and edifies them so they can duplicate this attitude in others.”
― Bob Goshen
The point of my story is this: Finding a great mentor is difficult, but the benefits can be incredibly rewarding. I learned so much more from my former boss than simply how to succeed in that position. When I first met him, I was 20-years-old, and for nearly four years, he gave my advice on a number of incredibly important moments in my life, including marriage, having a son (he has three himself), and the bitter taste of defeat when I was not chosen for the job. The two of us have stayed in touch even after he was no longer my boss/mentor, and it's a friendship that I'm glad has developed. Your goal with mentorship should be to find someone that can be that guiding figure for you when you need assistance. Find someone that is successful in whatever field that you desire for, but also someone that possesses a deeper understanding of what makes a great individual. That is the kind of mentor that you should idolize.
Leave a comment below with a story about a great mentor that has influenced your own life! I'd love to hear from you.
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