Successful business people who were once young, brash, and then hit up hard against the walls of their own making are the first to step back and say, “Maybe I don’t know everything there is to know here.”
Indeed, with success often comes humility.
As a successful entrepreneur, Daymond John, Founder of FUBU, says, “As an entrepreneur, you never stop learning.”
A key way to learn about business is to find and spend time with a business mentor.
Business mentorship does not need to involve lengthy discussions. Famously, Mark Zuckerberg once mentioned that comment from Steve Jobs opened the door for Zuckerberg to formalise his vision of what he wanted Facebook to become.
Even though you might spend just a few minutes with a mentor, behind those minutes lies a lifetime of experience.
Here are five ways those few minutes with a business mentor can set you on the path to success:
Harvard? Yale? Oxford? Those second-class institutions can’t hold a candle to the University of Experience!
And, guess what, with a mentor by your side, you get all that experience for free!
Probably, the first lesson any wet-behind-the-ears entrepreneur has to learn well to start on the path to success is to realise they don’t know everything there is to know about business.
Entrepreneurs never stop learning. And the lessons which the vast and extensive experience of a successful mentor can bring are priceless.
Sometimes, those mentors don’t even realise that their advice is so invaluable. They give it as easily as if they were ordering a hamburger at a diner.
That’s how it goes with professionals: They do something so many times until it becomes second-nature, while others stand around and watch in awe.
That vast well of experience also serves as the finest spectacles known to humankind. These spectacles provide for a keen business insight that has no truck with ambiguity.
A mentor who has achieved true success will look at a problem and know its intricacies immediately. They will see things in the problem that others have missed. If you show them a new concept or design and they’ve seen one like that before, which failed, they’ll tell you directly.
Success comes at a price. Mentors have no time to cuddle and coddle. They know the pain of failing at business and want to save others that pain by simply telling them something like it is.
Better the quick slap to the face that wakes the sleeping driver and avoids a car crash.
This doesn’t mean mentors must be haughty or arrogant. Indeed, the best ones are not. They are driven by a genuine desire to assist their proteges.
It does mean, however, that a mentor’s advice, however sparsely offered, should be given the weight it deserves, and often heeded.
A mentor’s job is to get you to stand on your own two feet, not to turn you into an employee.
A mentor understands that you are not an employee. You are an entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurs are made of a special kind of substance — they are difficult to tame, impossible to hold down, filled with high-flown ideas.
An entrepreneur can’t spread their wings if they are constantly held inside the cage or chained to a post.
A mentor’s final goal is to have their protege “outgrow” the mentor’s advice and maybe even become mentors themselves.
Maybe the business idea you had turned out to be a terrible one. Maybe the idea was brilliant, but the market wasn’t ready for it. Maybe both the idea and the business plan are solid, but you’ve had several setbacks and are struggling to find the motivation to continue (much like Mark Zuckerberg was when he received that nugget of advice from Steve Jobs).
An astute mentor will tell you bluntly when an idea should be dumped and a better one discovered.
It doesn’t matter how many businesses you start. What matters is the one that you take to the top.
Getting “back on the horse” doesn’t mean continuing endlessly down a path that leads nowhere. It means knowing when to abandon a faulty course and pick up a new one.
In this sense, a mentor won’t only get you back on the horse. They might get you to choose an entirely different horse as well!
Probably the most rewarding (and mutually beneficial) aspect of mentorship is the long-lasting friendship
based on mutual respect which can form.
This is the greatest payback that a mentor can receive from their protege.
And, knowing you have a veritable friend to talk to, who is deeply interested in your business’s success, is often the only thing needed to guarantee that business’s success.
It tends to be lonely at the top. A mentor can ease that loneliness.
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