Benjamin Franklin once said, "There are two ways to acquire wisdom; you can either buy it or borrow it." By buying it, you pay full price in terms of time and cost to learn the lessons you need to learn. By borrowing it, you go to those men and women who have already paid the price to learn the lessons and get their wisdom from them.
This is the essence of the mentor-protégé relationship. By going to people who are ahead of you in the personal or professional arena and opening yourself to their input, advice and guidance, you can save yourself the many months (maybe even years) it would take and the thousands of dollars it would cost to learn what you need to learn all by yourself.
M.R. "Kop" Kopmeyer, a respected success authority, once told me that perhaps the fastest way to get ahead was to study the experts and to do what they do, rather than trying to learn it all by yourself. In fact, he mentioned that no one lives long enough to learn everything he needs to learn starting from scratch. To be successful, we absolutely, positively have to find people who have already paid the price to help us learn the things that we need to learn to achieve our goals.
The mentors you choose should be people you respect, admire and want to be like. The advice you seek should be guidance regarding your character and personality and specific ideas on how you can do your job better and faster.
Remember, you can't figure it all out by yourself. You must have the help of others. You must find men and women who will guide you and advise you on the road of life, or you will take a long, long time getting anywhere.
There are two vital qualities to look for in a mentor. The first is character and the second is competence.
Character is by far the most important. Look for a mentor who has the kind of character you admire and respect. Look for a person who has high degrees of intelligence, integrity, judgment and wisdom. The more you associate with men and women who are advanced in the development of their character, the more you will tend to pattern them and to become like them.
The second quality you look for in a mentor is competence. This means that the person is extremely good at what he or she does. A good mentor in your career is one who has the knowledge, skills, and abilities to move ahead far more rapidly than his or her peers.
The impact of a mentor on your life is dependent on two additional factors.
The first is your degree of openness to being influenced by another person.
Openness is so important because many people, especially young people, are extremely impatient, always looking for shortcuts. When they get advice on something that another person has spent many years learning, they often try to add their own variations and improve on it without ever having mastered the original instruction.
Remember, when you open yourself up to guidance and input from another person, concentrate first on understanding and learning exactly what that person has to teach you. Afterward, you can modify and change that lesson to suit your changing circumstances.
The second factor that determines the influence of a mentor on your life is the willingness of the mentor to help you in every way possible to achieve your goals. We know that the more emotionally involved someone is in our lives, the more susceptible we are to being influenced by that person. When you seek out a mentor, you must look for someone who genuinely cares about you as a person and who really wants you to be successful in your endeavors.
So, for a good mentor-protégé relationship, you must be wide open to the influence and instruction of the other person, and at the same time, the mentor must be genuinely concerned about your well-being and your ultimate success. These are the two essentials.
Your ability to choose your mentors can be a crucial step toward achievement in all areas of your life. So here are 12 steps for building successful mentor-protégé relationships:
1. Set clear goals for yourself in every area of your life. Know exactly what you want to accomplish before you start thinking of the type of person who can help you accomplish it.
2. Determine the things you will have to do in order to achieve your goals, the obstacles you will have to overcome, and the roadblocks you will have to surmount.
3. Identify the areas of knowledge, skill, and expertise you will have to acquire in order to overcome the obstacles existing between you and your goals.
4. Look around for the most successful people in the areas in which you will need the most help.
5. Join the clubs, organizations and business associations to which these people belong.
6. Once you have joined these organizations, become actively involved and volunteer for responsibilities. This will bring you to the attention of the people you want to meet faster than anything else.
7. Work, study, and practice continually to get better and better at what you do. The very best mentors are interested in helping you only if they feel it is going to be worth their time. You will have no problem attracting people to you when you develop a reputation for being up-and-coming in your field.
8. When you find a potential mentor, don't make a nuisance of yourself. Instead, ask for 10 minutes of his or her time, in person, in private. Nothing more. Remember, most potential mentors are busy people, and they may be opposed to someone's trying to take up a lot of their time. It's not personal.
9. When you meet with a potential mentor, express your eagerness to be more successful in your field. Tell him or her that you would very much appreciate a little guidance and advice to help you move ahead. Ask for an answer to a specific question, for a specific book or audio program recommendation, or for a specific idea that has been helpful to him or her in the past.
10. After the initial meeting, send a thank-you note expressing your gratitude and appreciation for his or her time and guidance. Mention that you hope to meet again if you have another question.
11. Each month, drop your mentor a short note telling him or her about what you are doing and how you are progressing. Nothing makes a mentor more open to helping you further than your making it clear that the previous help has done you some good.
12. Arrange to meet with your mentor again, perhaps on a monthly basis, or even more often if you work closely together.
Over the course of your life, you will have many mentor-protégé relationships. As you grow and develop, you will seek out different mentors, the people who can give you the kind of advice that is most relevant to your current situation.
Successful people are very open to helping other people who want to be successful. This is especially true if they know you are willing to be a mentor to others who are younger and less experienced than you. The more open you are to helping others up the ladder of success, the more open others will be to helping you.
About the author
Brian Tracy is a subject matter expert in the fields of management, leadership and sales. He has produced more than 350 audio/video programs and has written more than 40 books, including his just-released book "The Way To Wealth." To receive a free copy of one of Brian's CDs, go to www.briantracy.com and click on the Special Offers, Free Audio Program. Also, check out www.briantracyu.com. Brian can be reached at 858-481-2977 or www.briantracy.com.