I never had a mentor.
Not everyone gets a mentor, and no one deserves one, but mentorship is a beautiful thing when it happens.
If you never find a mentor, don’t worry—you don’t actually need one (I’ll explain why in a moment).
Mentorship is given. If you ask for mentorship, what you’re doing is asking for a paid service. That paid service is called coaching. Asking to receive a paid service for free from someone knowledgeable is insulting.
“If mentorship is given, how do I get a mentor if I can’t ask for one?”
Now you’re at least asking the right question.
To find a mentor, you must show yourself worthy of mentorship.
Mentors want to invest in a story.
Show yourself to be a good investment. Be a person in whom someone wants to invest their time. Be someone with promise.
How do you do that?
3 Steps to Getting a Mentor
The best way to get a mentor is to consume every bit of content from their books, videos, and podcasts, and go apply what you learn.
Mentors want to see you’ve put in the work.
The worst possible thing you can do is approach someone whose work you haven’t already studied with intent. They’ve done you the favor of writing the books, it’s now your job to read them! To ask for more, when you haven’t already consumed the content they’ve provided, is disrespectful and won’t win you any mentors.
- Consume all of their content.
- Apply everything you learn.
- Present your results.
When following the third step, present your results in person. This is the most effective way to plant a seed that results in a relationship.
Yes, this means you must travel, go to events, and meet people in person. If you skip this step, and try approaching them online instead, it simply will not have the same effect. Is it possible to get a mentor this way? Yes, but you significantly diminish your chances.
Meet people in person and show your results from applying their advice and you will make a lasting impression.
Do not ask for anything. Simply express gratitude.
You are not guaranteed a mentor in life, and this advice does not come with any promise you will get a mentor. However, it will increase your chances.
If the person you respect isn’t falling over themselves begging to mentor you after you show your results, do not be surprised. Remember, they don’t owe you. If anything, you owe them for the value they’ve provided. If mentorship does not result from this one encounter, repeat the process.
Continue presenting your results from applying their advice. Do this again, and again—year after year. This is the best way to get the attention and respect of someone who might become your mentor.
You Don’t Need a Mentor
Even if you were fortunate enough to get a mentor, what would that relationship look like?
It won’t look like you speaking to a cross-legged guru.
Being a mentee involves doing a lot of listening and virtually no talking. The questions you want to ask likely aren’t even the right ones. Listen intently. Take notes. Your mouth should seldom move.
Since mentorship looks like a lot of listening and taking notes (with little to no talking on your part), how necessary is having a dedicated, one-on-one mentor in the age of the internet?
Not so necessary.
Today, anyone can be your mentor.
- You have books. Books can be your mentor.
- You have videos. Videos can be your mentor.
- You have podcasts. Podcasts can be your mentor.
Most of the best of these, from the smartest people, are available for free (and if they have paid material, it is likely worth one thousand times the price).
Limit Your Mentors
The beauty of technology means anyone can be your digital mentor. After all, you’re not the one who should be doing the talking and there are many ways to listen.
But just because anyone can be your mentor doesn’t mean everyone should.
In more cases than not, the opposite of any advice you hear is also true in a different context (for that matter, the right advice at the wrong time is the wrong advice). This starts to create problems if you have too many influences.
Follow no more than two or three primary mentors.
Limit the amount of different contexts so you limit competing advice. Context is everything. Keep an open mind, but don’t follow so many mentors you end up with cognitive dissonance and inaction.
Do the Work
If you don’t have a personal mentor, join the club! The good news is we have a near infinite number of experienced people who share their wisdom online for free (to say nothing of the many books written by those who came before us).
But there is no shortcut for putting in the work.
Plenty of people will tell you what you need to do.
You have to figure out who to listen to, and then you have to take action.
These are the two questions you must answer regardless of whether you have a personal mentor or not:
- Who will you listen to?
- When will you take action?
Make sure the idea of finding a mentor isn’t a distraction from answering these two questions.
There is no quick fix, and you don’t need a mentor to move forward. You just need courage.