Business isn’t easy. You’re bound to make mistakes, fail time and again, and miss just as awesome as you hit. It’s the same for all of us, that’s just the nature of the game. And it’s precisely because of these failures that you’ll learn the lessons required to propel you towards success.
But learning from your mistakes can be painful. That’s why, across the entrepreneur community, from business leaders in every industry, you’ll hear the same thing: “find a mentor”.
A successful relationship with a mentor allows you to tap into their past mistakes and learn from them— without needing to make them yourself! It’s relationships like these that allow you to shortcut the road to success.
However, finding a brilliant brain to pick isn’t easy. After all, these kinds of people are often incredibly busy and would need a really good reason to spend time helping you. That’s why it’s critical that once you’ve found someone to guide you, you do whatever it takes to be great mentee; here’s how it’s done.
- It’s a Two Way Street
Keeping a mentor engaged is a lot easier if you understand that the relationship will work best if it isn’t left one-sided. Don’t expect a mentor to bend over backwards for you while you’re offering nothing in return. The better mentorships are those that benefit both parties. Look for ways you can provide value and be of service in the relationship, and at the very least make sure they know just how grateful you are for their help.
- Manage Your Expectations
What do you plan to get out of your mentorship? When you find that helpful someone, make sure you know exactly why you’re asking them to be a part of your journey. After all, asking someone to help you on such a personal level is a big ask. If you want to make it work, you’re responsible for guiding it in the right direction.
- Don’t Shoot too Far
If you’re stuck in a cubicle dreaming of four-hour work weeks, the best person to mentor you is not a successful entrepreneur with multiple billion-dollar firms under their belt. Instead, look for someone who’s only a few steps ahead. Shoot too far, and the advice you receive will likely be vague or inapplicable. This is because our mindsets change as we succeed, we tend to forget what it’s like to be back at square one.
Look, if you’re going to ask someone to take time out of their day and give you advice— take it! If they suggest you test a new idea, test it. If they suggest trying something risky, try it. Arguing with your mentor or ignoring their advice is a great way to lose them.
Worse, if your mentor feels you aren’t listening, they may begin to filter their advice and only suggest things they know you’re comfortable with. This is very dangerous, as often the best solutions lie entirely out of your comfort zone. It’s up to your mentor to suggest these kinds of solutions, and up to you to have the courage to act on them. So open your ears, kill your ego, and listen.
- Meet them Face-to-Face
When you’ve found the perfect professional to mentor you, resist the urge to hide behind an email address. Instead of sending an email, or calling them on the phone, schedule some time to meet and ask them in person. You can take them out for coffee, or (and I thoroughly recommend this) offer to buy them lunch. By meeting in person, you can explain your problems in depth, what kind of limitations are keeping you from solving it, and why you think they can help.
- Make Time, Be Available, and Show Up.
When you’re late, you’re telling your mentor that their time is not important to you; that your life is more important. Don’t make this mistake. Make punctuality a habit, and don’t keep your mentor waiting.
In a similar vein, do what you can to make time. As mentioned in step two, the relationship will take work, and a lot of that work is on you. When your mentor has time to meet with you, try to avoid putting it off or rescheduling because it’s not convenient.
- Give Back
The final step towards being an awesome mentee is becoming a mentor yourself. It doesn’t have to be an official relationship, but if you notice someone who could use your help, don’t hold back. We’re all at different stages in our journey. For every superstar you look up to, there’s an equal amount of driven individuals looking to you for the same reasons. So when a opportunity arises to pay it forward, give it all you’ve got. This can also lead to a better mentorship experience with your current mentor— now that you know what it’s like to dispense advice, you can understand what your mentor expects from you.