I have a few people whom I consider to be my mentors in my life, without ever having spoken to any one of them.
From the legends in the investing world, Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger. To people like Tim Ferriss, Naval, Ramit Sethi, Seth Godin and more.
Learning from them has helped me gain a tremendous amount of knowledge. Having mentors can fast-track your life.
Why Mentors are Important
When making decisions in life, we often have a huge variety of choices.
Should you work in the well-paying, listed company or work in a start-up that might not be around in 18 months? Should you enrol in that online course to help you advance in your career?
While having many choices might seem good, it hinders your ability to make a decision. Also known as, the “paradox of choice”.
Been there done that, mentors can help you navigate the tough decisions and narrow down your choices.
Age is not the ultimatum here. Your mentor can be someone older or younger than you. He or she could be an expert at a young age (e.g. social media expert).
Most importantly, great mentors do not give you the answers directly. Instead, they ask you good questions, and share their thought process if they were in your position.
By not giving you answers straightforwardly, mentors lead you to find your own solutions independently.
What makes a Great Student
“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”
On the topic of mentorship, here are my three key tips on how to become a good student/mentee:
- Welcome the struggle
- Mentorship is Two-way
- Humility is the Gateway to Wisdom
Welcome the Struggle
To be a good student, you have to be mentally prepared to learn. And not give up easily when things get tough.
Initially, the learning curve might be steep. The ideas and concepts explained might be challenging to decipher, especially if you are venturing into an unfamiliar topic.
For me, when I first started my investing journey, I was confused by all the financial jargon and complexities. What is P/E, EPS, ROE, DCF etc?
I told myself that if I wanted to learn something, I will put in the hard work no matter what. Every few weeks, I would read new books on investing and learn basic accounting from the internet and YouTube videos.
Also, I’ve written down notes of my learnings and shared what I’ve learnt with my mentor and the people in my circle. They provided their own perspectives, some of which challenged my own and helped reduced confirmation bias. Eventually, these learnings prepared me to buy my first stock when I was 19 and make sizeable returns, as someone without a prior business or accounting background.
But you have to be okay with being uncomfortable. To learn something new, your mind has to “struggle” and be put under slight pressure.
Similar to working out, Your muscles have to be put under strain and have micro-tears, in order for you to gain more strength.
Many people quit easily when it comes to learning. But you can win some of them by being consistent.
Stay in the game even when it gets tough. What comes out of the struggle is worth it.
Mentorship is Two-way
Mentorship should be a two-way reciprocal relationship.
Remember, your mentor is evaluating you, as much as you are evaluating them.
Your mentors are likely successful and busy people. You have to prove to them that you are worth “investing” their time in.
One way you can add value is to take action.
For instance, go read up the books/resources they shared with you. After that, incorporate some of the tips into your life. Share with them what you have learned and get feedback frequently.
You have to help yourself first, before others can help you. Build rapport, ask great questions, take action and follow up.
Humility is the Gateway to Wisdom
“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few. ”Shunryu Suzuki
Having humility is essential in the journey of finding a mentor.
You are not Mr / Miss Know-It-All
Successful people sometimes fall into the trap of complacency.
They let their past wins become evidence that they no longer have to work that hard to stay in the game.
However, this can become a dangerous cycle.
“The more successful you are at something, the more convinced you become that you’re doing it right. The more convinced you are that you’re doing it right, the less open you are to change. The less open you are to change, the more likely you are to tripping in a world that changes all the time.”Morgan Housel
Even in the business world, humility is needed. In this changing world, what works today might not work tomorrow.
As CEO of Intel Andrew Grove puts it, only the paranoid survive. A business needs to reinvent themselves and stay at the tip of their toes, even though they might already be #1.
Similarly, we always have to remind ourselves that we have to keep moving forward. Although we might have already succeeded in some aspects, staying still is not an option.
Always hang out with people who are better than you, and seek to improve yourself.
Never be the smartest person in the room.
On the flipside, it can be encouraging to relish in the fact that it’s okay not to Know-It-All.
You don’t need to know everything. If you had all the answers, why would you need a mentor/someone to learn from?
In fact, real knowledge comes from knowing what you do not know.
- What is your circle of competence?
- More importantly, how you do define the parameters of what you know versus what you don’t know?
Who is your top 5?
There’s a saying, you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time around.
Who are your top thought leaders? Pick your three favourite people you truly admire. Don’t simply pick the richest or most popular hosts just because they are the loudest. Pick someone you are happy becoming.
Now, go deep and absorb all their content.
Read their books, watch their YouTube videos, listen to their podcasts.
Expose yourself to their knowledge, learn from their mistakes. More importantly, go out there and do something and make your own mistakes.
A Book is A Bargain
If you can’t get access to great, famous people to be your mentors, reading books written by them is the next best alternative.
Many CEOs and great leaders in the world would not hesitate to purchase a book. For the value which a book can bring, they are considered to be a bargain.
A $20 book could change your life. If a book you read just gives you one idea that changes your perspective, it’s worth it.
Knowledge is powerful, and books are great teachers.
And with the Internet, there are plenty of free and good online resources.
You can learn from top experts in various fields, by watching their YouTube videos, listening to their interviews and podcasts. Learning is endless.
The tools for learning are abundant. It’s the desire to learn that’s scarce.
To recap the 3 tips on what makes a good student:
- Welcome the struggle: Continue learning even when things get tough
- Mentorship is Two-way: Always add value to your mentor
- Humility is the Gateway to Wisdom: Don’t let your past wins get the better of you, keep moving forward
Remember, whatever it is that you want to do, someone, somewhere in this world has probably done it before.
Find someone who has done it and learn from them.
A good mentorship could save you many things, including time, effort and costs from potential mistakes. But your relationship with your mentor would be the most precious of them all.