Mentors are not all created equal


“If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” - Isaac Newton

Everyone can use a mentor. If you are trying to improve yourself in some way, or succeed at something, you need a mentor.  Whether you are an entrepreneur, a CEO, an athlete, a chess player.  It doesn't matter what your activity or goal.

Mentors come in many forms: Influencers that you follow in books or on social media, people within your own network who you can ask advice from, or people you seek out specifically to establish a mentor-mentee relationship, paid or voluntary.

A mix of all types of mentors will likely lead to the best results.

Following influencers

I, myself, am an aspiring entrepreneur, so naturally, I follow key influencers on social media.  I have found that Twitter and LinkedIn provide the best content that suits me.  Influencers like Gary Vaynerchuk (garyvee on Snapchat), Jack Delosa and Marc Andreesson provide excellent insights into what they are following and what works for them.  Being an introvert, I don’t follow their style, but I take what works for me.  Knowledge is key in today’s social world, and today’s knowledge is different from yesterday’s so you need to follow closely.

This type of mentor is usually a one-way relationship.  They provide content freely to the world, you follow them and use what you will.  Unless you plan on connecting on a personal or professional level, that’s all you need to do.

Personal network

I also have some very generous people in my personal network, who I am able to call on from time to time for advice, or just to chat.  Previous business associates (leaders, peers, customers or suppliers), friends and family can all be great mentors.  Very few of the people within my personal network are in the same space that I am in, but when I look at their business and life experience, there is often some valuable advice that they can offer.

This can be an informal mentor-mentee relationship.  In fact they may not even know that you consider them a mentor.  It’s totally up to you whether you let them in on it or not, but keep it casual if you want it to remain informal.  The most important thing to remember is to give as much as you get.  I am extremely grateful for any time they spend with me, and I make sure that I show my appreciation whenever I can.  If there is an opportunity to help them in any way that I can, I go out of my way to do it.

Strict Mentor-Mentee relationship

There are many people out there who are willing to offer their knowledge and experience to anyone willing to listen.  Some of them will ask for money, but some are happy to be able to pay something back to the community that helped them succeed.  I am yet to explore this avenue so I have no experience to share, however I will say that I believe this to be the most powerful.

In all cases, be mindful of how you view the relationship, and be clear with yourself on what you want out of it.  If you blindly follow the advice of someone you look up to, your likely to find yourself unprepared for the situations that you find yourself faced with, particularly if the advice is given directly by someone who doesn't truly know your story.

My best advice is: -

Find a mentor who can relate to you, rather than one who you can relate to.  It’s not the same thing.  An introvert can have an extroverted mentor, so long as the mentor understands what it means to be an introvert and that extroverted behaviour will not work.

  • A mentor should understand your principles and ideals.  For someone to give you direct advice, they need to understand, as intimately as possible, who you are and what you believe in.

  • Take all advice with a grain of salt.  You’re not stupid, so assess the advice for its appropriateness before acting on it.

  • When approaching someone from outside of your network, build the relationship first.  Ensure you have had regular interaction over at least a couple of months before you pop the question.

  • If in doubt, just ask.  Be up-front about what you are after and why you think they will make a good mentor.

  • Always provide some return value.  No matter what type of relationship you have, give back more than what you get.  Even if it is a paid service, the more value you represent to them outside of the transactional relationship, the more value they are likely to provide in return.


I am extremely grateful for my mentors, and I hope that one day I have the opportunity to pay it back and act as a mentor for someone else.

I am Chief Execution Officer at Disruptive Clarity, and host of The Entrepreneur Economy podcast.  You can listen to the podcast here or on iTunes.

If you are interested in having a chat to me about your startup and the challenges you face with execution, hit me up via email.

Image source: Bigstock: 27956183 - Woman Shouting By Megapone To Workout Man

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