One of my favourite films is ‘A Few Good Men’ set in the US military. Tom Cruise, a lawyer, asks a soldier, “How do you know where to go for meals; it’s not in the manual?” “Well,” the soldier replies, “I guess I just follow the crowd at chow time.”
When you start out in business and recognise the need for a mentor it is so easy to just follow the crowd at chow time. With so much noise out there on social media it’s easy to be dazzled by someone’s success or lifestyle. This person’s really successful, they have loads of followers they must be the one. They also charge alot of money and you pay for what you get, right? Well, not always.
It took me a while to find the right mentor. Some of the people I came across I would describe as Peacocks, they seemed bright and shiny but over time there wasn’t a whole lot of substance or rapport. I soaked up everything they said, feeling inadequate at times and starting to judge myself in ways I wouldn’t have done normally. I realised I was judging myself by what was important to them, not me, so no wonder I never felt comfortable. I was trying to be someone I wasn’t, if that makes sense.
In time I realised that before I looked for a mentor I had to first understand myself:
- understand my values, what I stood for
- know what I wanted from my life and business
- know what success would look like to me.
So the gurus extolling the virtues of a 60 hour week, of putting relationships on hold or making me feel guilty that I wasn’t posting live at 4am and doing webinars at 8pm, that I hadn’t run a marathon before breakfast, were not for me. And that’s not to knock them; these things worked for them, their values, their lifestyle and aspirations. They just weren’t for me.
I knew I wanted a life supported by my business and a business I was passionate about. I wanted an enriched life but which didn’t entail a luxury yacht! I defined my values and my aspirations and the way I wanted to do business. Then I took a good look at my business; where I was and where I wanted to be and honed in on aspects of the business where I could do with another pair of eyes.
I decided I needed to look past the Peacocks and look for the Owls for their wisdom and the Eagles to inspire me to soar. People who had credibility and influence. People who’d had triumphs and disasters. People who would inspire me and challenge me, help me see things differently and give me a boot up the backside if needed. People who believed in me and wanted me to succeed and who weren’t on some ego trip or selling mission. Most importantly, people whose values aligned with mine.
And now having worked with some great mentors over the years I have learned it’s still important to process what’s said. To have a filter, not to follow blindly. To ask regularly, ‘Is this what I need right now. Does this fit with my values and aspirations?’ Know yourself and be true to yourself whilst seeking the wisdom of others.
Do one thing: If you have a mentor ask yourself these questions:
- Do our values align?
- Am I happy to follow their route to success; is that me?
- Do they make me feel good about myself?
- Am I a better person, benefitting from their input?
If you’re in business and haven’t yet got a mentor I would definitely recommend it. I hope this blog proves useful in your search.
Thanks for reading.