What is a Mentor and Why Would You Need One?
When we were born, we weren’t given a guidebook on how to be happy. There’s no manual that tells you exactly how to get what you want. We’re all trying to figure out how to live the best life possible. We are surrounded by a LOT of ideas and mindsets that just don’t work and never will.
The norm in society is negativity and emotional stress. While it is a good practice to see the good in all people, the reality is that many people are struggling a lot in life and it’s difficult to find people who have the time, energy and capacity to help us with our goals and problems.
Luckily, some rare people have done a lot of work on themselves over the years and have developed their character to the point where they rise above the negativity. They generally have focused, clear minds and a pleasant, warm personality. They have energy and enthusiasm.
They remain positive and calm even when tested with difficult situations. They nurture their relationships and continually hone their communication skills.
They know a few tricks to life and they want you to succeed too. These cultivated people are potential mentors for you. And they are like gold.
What Does Mentoring Look Like?
It can range from formal to informal mentoring. Formal mentoring is where you’ve asked someone to help you learn a particular skillset or mindset. You agree to meet at set times and both of you stick to the task at hand. You might not hang out with your mentor outside of your sessions (ie: paid mentoring or a busy entrepreneur who spends 30 minutes on the phone with you each week to help you with your business).
Informal mentoring can be spontaneous and you have more control over when it happens (ie: a friend or family member who has great perspectives on certain areas of life). I personally prefer informal mentoring most of the time because I like the flexibility.
My informal mentors include online teachers, authors (through their books), as well as some of my good friends and some family members. I’ve also paid for formal mentoring and these were very valuable sessions.
Where Can You Find Good Mentors?
These days, it’s easier than ever to have mentors in your life. There are a huge number of mentors online. Between all the written, audio and video content that a potential online mentor offers, you can really get to know them and benefit from their insights and help, even if they’re not working with you directly.
We’ve never had so much easy access to a plethora of positive role models. Simply by consuming their material online, you can have as many mentors as you have free time for. Of course, there are traditional ways of finding mentors as well.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Youtube: There are lots of videos of coaches, teachers, speakers, and other positive role models.
- Authors (Books)
- Word-of-mouth: Is someone you know connected to a potential mentor?
- People who are already in your social network: Maybe you already know a few great mentors you can connect with. How about your coworker’s friend who is a freelance photographer and can teach you? Or your friend who’s been into fitness and eating healthy for the last decade? Or maybe your physiotherapist also happens to be an extremely balanced and wise person.
- Friends and family: Of course you need to tread carefully here, but the idea is that some of your current friends and family probably have some qualities and skills that make them a great mentor, in a more casual way. They don’t have to have impeccable character or be ultra-successful. They only need to be skilled at whatever area of life you could use some help with.
- Search online for a life coach, business coach, counsellor, or other teacher: Search, read their material, watch their videos and if their material resonates, contact them. Maybe you can get faster results working with a coach one-on-one.
Giving Back to Your Mentors
This is crucial. It’s not usually about money either. In fact, most mentoring is going to be unpaid and/or informal. Most mentors and positive role-models are great mentors because they tend to be generous and giving, but that doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate some reciprocity.
You may feel like you have an empty cup. That’s the reason why you want a mentor, right? Someone to help you out in an area of your life that you feel you’re lacking skills or knowledge in. So how can you possibly give back to your mentors when you feel you don’t have much to give them?
Eight Simple Ways to Give Back to Your Mentors
The following applies to the formal and informal mentors that you work with directly, not your online mentors who you might not ever talk to.
- Listen to them. Be present when they are talking.
- Be enthusiastic. Express interest in what they are teaching you.
- Be interested in them. Who are they? How did they get to where they are? What makes them tick? Be curious about their life and express your interest in getting to know them.
- Ask good questions. Good questions are questions that are solution-oriented and bring you to your objective faster. Good questions give your mentor a better pathway to help you.
- Put what they teach you into practice. Mentors, coaches and teachers don’t want to feel like they’re wasting their time. They’re on your side and they want to see you achieve your goals.
- Respect their time. That means you show up on time. Don’t take up too much of their time.
- Give modest gifts. Occasionally, you might want to show appreciation with a small gift. Get a feel for your relationship with your mentor to see if they would appreciate a gift or if they would feel that it was totally unnecessary. Sometimes giving a gift is the wrong thing to do if it deprives someone of the joy of giving without expectations.
- Be appreciative. Remember that good mentors are rare. Treat them well and express your gratitude to them.
My Recommended List of Easy-to-Access Mentors
This is a very diverse group of people and I’ve benefited from their work over the years. It’s worth exploring their material and seeing what resonates for you. You can benefit from all their online teaching content and their books.
- Wayne Dyer (personal development/spiritual growth)
- Eckhart Tolle (spiritual growth)
- Miguel Ruiz (personal development/spiritual growth)
- Thich Nhat Han (spiritual growth)
- the 14th Dalai Lama (spiritual growth)
- Corey Wayne (relationships/personal development)
- Chris Guillebeau (personal development/entrepreneurship)
- Leo Babauta (personal development/spiritual growth)
- Book: “The Emperor’s Handbook”, by Marcus Aurelius (Philosophy/spiritual musings, translated by David & Scott Hicks)
- Book: “The Dhammapada” (Buddhist teachings, translated by
For the above two books, it’s important that you get the exact copies translated by the people I’ve listed. I’ve looked at other translations of those books and they are not nearly as inspiring as the translated versions I recommend.
Who’s Got Your Back?
Everyone should have at least one mentor. Better yet, build your own “team” of mentors. Always remember to give back to your mentor and nurture that relationship, including your informal mentors like friends, family members and other positive role-models you may already have in your life.
A team of mentors will inspire you, motivate you and support you while teaching you a skill or mindset that you want to learn. They lead by example and it shows in their character and actions. If you’re eager to learn from them, maybe some of their excellent character and honed skills will rub off on you. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Which mentors do you recommend? How do you find your mentors? Let me know in the comments below.
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