I think there is a misconception about what a mentor truly is. A mentor is someone who guides you, someone wise, someone you trust. A mentor can be your confidant, advisor, coach, or even your role model. Many people swear by their mentors and frequently credit them with much of their success. Yet you do not have to choose just one! The mentor-protégé bond is certainly a special one, but this does not mean you are limited to the knowledge of only a single source. In the early years of my adult life, I was hoping to find just one person to guide me and direct me, but I never did find that person.
Over time, a few things became clear to me:
- There is no single person who can provide us with every answer. So why abide by one mentor who you know cannot meet every requirement? I discovered that I could learn more, not by following the advice of a single person but by observing a multitude of people.
- The food you eat was mature and ripened on the vines, plants or trees.
- There is no perfect role model. I used to believe there was such a person and that I would simply model myself after him. All I would have to do is watch and do the things he or she did. Unfortunately, I haven't met that person yet.
- There is no perfect person. Very few people possess all of the qualities that I think define success and happiness: great friends, career, health, family life, finances, social life, leisure, spiritual life, community involvement, etc. Most of the very successful people I've met had one or some of these, but hardly any had all of them. So why compare myself to the perfect person who doesn't exist?
- I didn't have all of the answers, and I never will. I knew that I was going to make mistakes, but what I discovered was that it was much easier to learn from other people's mistakes than to make all of the mistakes myself.
To me, my mentor had to:
-- Take a personal interest in my development and support me in the avenues I take.
-- Help me strive toward the highest of aspirations, not only in career but in the satisfaction of life.
-- Want to share his knowledge and experiences, in hope that I reach a high level of achievement.
-- Show me the need to fulfill all responsibilities, both at home and away from it.
-- Care about the well-being of himself and his family.
-- Be a great overall example.
Needless to say, I still haven't found that one mentor yet.
Since I couldn't find that one special person to guide me, I needed to create a mentor. Now, how does one go about doing something like that? Well, it's not as hard as it seems. You first have to determine what you want. That is most important, not only because it's part of the mentor process but because it directly concerns what will make you happy in life.
Once you figure out what you want, find the people that have it or know how to get it and make sure they are willing to teach you how to get it. You don't even have to know them personally. As your mentors, they can teach you through a variety of ways: books, audio tapes, lectures, seminars, etc. A mentor then can have millions of protégés.
Here is some additional advice in finding mentors:
- You can learn from practically anybody. In essence, anybody can be your mentor. Not only can you learn what to do or how to behave, you can also learn to avoid the wrong paths that others have followed.
- Identify the key people in your life. Mentors can be close family members like parents or siblings, and they can also be public figures. Again, don't believe that you have to have a close relationship with your mentors. Public figures can be key people in your life because they can have a profound effect on how you live it.
- Find people with specialized knowledge. If certain people have written an insightful book on a particular subject or have inspirational life experiences to share, then they might be possible mentors who can help in motivating you. Plus, if they are famous, they are easy to watch via television or the Internet, and their material is not difficult to find.
- Try to ask as much as possible. Ask people for advice, ask them how they got where they are, ask them how you can get the same things. Also ask yourself what certain people would say or how they would act in specific situations. The more prepared you are, the less likely you'll make a mistake in the future.
- Mentors can simply be people who are happy in life! Salary and position don't matter as long as there is contentment and commitment. Mentors can range from athletes and politicians to religious figures and stay-at-home mothers.
I have hundreds of mentors. So how many do you have?
David Riklan is the founder of www.SelfGrowth.com, the #1 Rated "Self Improvement" site on the Internet. To get a free copy of his course "Self Improvement 101: The 62 Essential Truths about Improving Your Life" ($59.00 value), go directly to www.selfgrowth.com/articles101.html