Study any successful entrepreneur and nearly every single one will point to a mentor as the key ingredient to their success.
Getting a mentor is arguably the most powerful piece of advice any budding entrepreneur can receive when embarking on a career in business. Research the wealthiest people in the world and you will discover that they all had mentors.
Warren Buffett’s mentor was Benjamin Graham. Bill Gates early mentor was his father, then later Warren Buffett. Mark Zuckerberg’s mentor was Steve Jobs. However, if having a mentor is the most important step an entrepreneur can take, then why do so many ignore this advice?
Why ‘get a mentor’ advice goes unheeded
Richard Branson, who is a huge advocate of mentorship once said, “Understandably there’s a lot of ego, nervous energy, and parental pride involved, especially with one- or two-person start-ups. Going it alone is an admirable, but foolhardy and highly flawed approach to taking on the world.” Branson’s assertion was that ego and pride prevents entrepreneurs from reaching out for help.
One of the deepest negative beliefs we all have as humans is feeling that we aren’t enough. In the back of your mind you have likely questioned whether you are good enough, smart enough, funny enough, attractive enough, successful enough, patient enough, etc. to get the things you truly want in life.
This belief of not being enough, is so common because it is also linked to our deepest fears. Our brain knows that when we do not meet expectations, it often leads to failure at work, rejection in relationships, and the feeling of guilt from letting others down.
This is why asking for help can be so hard, because it ultimately is proving this detrimental belief correct.
Seeking mentorship can seem counterintuitive for an entrepreneur. Whether you are working on your own as a consultant, the founder of a startup or the CEO of an established company, why would you want to expose your weaknesses? What would happen to your reputation if other people found out where you lacked? What would investors, customers and competitors think?
We often avoid looking for a mentor or seeking help because of our ego. We are concerned that if we ask for help we are going to be perceived as weak, like we lack knowledge, experience, and the ability to make things happen on our own.
Finding the right mentor
Once your ego, pride, and fears are set aside, you can embark on finding the right mentor. But the ideal mentor may not be easy to find. Phil Pustejovsky was in that position 15 years ago. Phil’s story provides a wonderful case study with many lessons on how you can find the right mentor. His real estate investing startup was failing and he was so humbled by the experience that he was open to seeking help. Not knowing any successful business people, being in a small niche of the greater real estate space and having no real connections in an estranged city, Phil had no idea how to find the right mentor.
However through his daily interactions, Phil ran into a successful out-of-state real estate investor that just happened to be in town for a few weeks who was looking to duplicate himself. Now that Phil was consciously aware of his need for a mentor, he recognized the opportunity. From these experiences Phil now believes that when the student is ready, the teacher arrives.
The arrangement was that Phil would split 50/50 the profits from his next $500,000 with new mentor. Through the tutelage of his mentor, Phil became an extraordinarily successful real estate investor and eventually created the iconic organization, Freedom Mentor, a company that mentors real estate investors on creative real estate investing.
That is great news if you are a budding real estate entrepreneur, but what about everyone else? Here is some ideas on finding a mentor for yourself.
1. Understand your ego
No one likes asking for help. You can blame a deep rooted belief system called your ego for this. It ultimately tells us what needs to happen in our lives in order for us to feel good. It makes us believe that in order to feel confident we need to be self-reliant and competent, and that vulnerability is a sign of weakness. Over time this way of thinking has created a habit that avoids looking for external help.
2. Eliminate your ego
To be successful, it is important to feel confident in your vulnerability. To alter any habit, consistency is critical. Start small by reaching out to friends and people close to you for advice. Literally write this down as a daily or weekly goal. As you get more comfortable with feeling vulnerable and verbalizing what you need, you will be preparing yourself to expand beyond your immediate circle. In business, this practice will help you tap into your emotions and enable you to connect with your customers on a deeper level as well.
3. Determine the value you bring first
We often perceive mentorship as a one-way street, where the mentor is always guiding the mentee. The reality is that those roles can be reversed depending on what each person needs help with. So before asking for help, determine what value you can provide others in return first. What do you specialize in? What are you most skilled at that could benefit others?
4. Online search
You may be able to find a first class mentor in your niche, like Phil Pustejovsky, by simply conducting an online search. However, it is quite rare to find a mentor type company in most business niches. To discover a particular individual in your field, LinkedIn is a great resource to research and connect. Remember that when you reach out to someone, you are not asking them to be your mentor immediately. You are simply looking for some guidance and advice from a seasoned professional. After that initial connection is made, you can follow the tips in the next step to take your relationship to the next level.
5. Daily interactions
Through daily interactions in your business, you may run into an ideal candidate who is open to sharing their wisdom. When reaching out to these people focus on creating a connection first and foremost. Then in your initial meeting make sure you are honest about where you need help, and at the end ask if it is ok for you to reach out to them in the future for assistance. When you reconnect with them weeks or months down the road, this is where that mentorship relationship can begin to be established.
6. Hero reach
Think of the heroes in your niche. Although they may be hard to get a hold of, reach out to them. If you knock loud enough and long enough, you will eventually wake someone up. Successful entrepreneurs will appreciate your ambition and determination to learn.
As you probably already knew, having the right mentor is one of the most powerful pieces of advice anyone can give you in business. However, ego, pride, and fear can prevent someone from heeding that life transforming tip. Therefore, humble yourself and when the student is ready, the teacher will arrive. Finding the right mentor may vary in difficulty depending on your niche so choose wisely, because the wrong mentor could lead down a frustrating path. With the right mentor though, you will achieve far more than you ever dreamed possible.
Copyright © 2016 Entrepreneur Media, Inc. All rights reserved.
This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editors.
Photos from Thinkstock