How to Find a Mentor
We recently had a younger member of our discussion boards throw something of a temper tantrum there because he’d apparently been desperately trying to get my personal attention, but not succeeded, and became bitter and resentful toward me. I simply haven’t been on the boards a huge amount lately, because I’m swamped, and when I have been on them his posts hadn’t caught my eye as needing any specific attention or input from me beyond what was already being provided perfectly well by everyone else to him. He then waded in with a bevy of sour remarks about me – someone he’d never met who’s never (so far as I recall) interacted with him.
Needless to say, a string of personal attacks wasn’t an effective approach by this member – one who’d been spoiling the vibe on the boards for a lot of other people, too. All it managed to do was get my focus on him long enough to rebut his attacks, and then, after radio silence from him for a week or so, lock his account to make sure he wouldn’t come back and cause more drama.
Prior to this outburst, this same member had been trying to find ways to get in contact with me personally, as well as to get me to sell a small product he’d cobbled together based on site material. He’d apparently been frustrated to have interacted solely with Genaro, our customer service pro, via email (we thanked him for the offer, but it wasn’t something we were looking to do), and to not get the attention from me he desired elsewhere, either.
I share this with you because I want to point out that I understand what he was trying to accomplish – he wanted a mentor, and he wanted me, specifically... but that he went about it in all the wrong sorts of ways.
Ways that speak to some of the most common mistakes people – especially people who have yet to really develop their social intuitions – make when pursuing mentors; and when you’ve yet to have achieved any real success in your life, the process of securing a mentor can seem every bit as daunting as securing dates or relationships with beautiful women.
So how do you do it?
Our journey starts first with understanding; because, only through understanding can we take right action with a thing.
Securing a good mentor is one of the most valuable things you can do for your own progress, but most people never succeed at doing this. The reasons why seem to be because most individuals fall into one of two camps:
Moderate to high social awareness: moderate to high social awareness individuals tend to be very mindful of the fact that there are many more of those who want to learn than there are those who can teach. They’re usually aware of the fact that experts at something who are exposed to repetitive questions by newer guys can get worn out answering the same things again and again, and they’re sensitive to the value imbalance that exists when a non–expert asks an expert for help or advice. As a result, they often don’t bother to reach out to experts or seek to find a mentor, under the assumption that they’d just be inconveniencing the prospective mentor and they don’t want to seem like a leech anyway.
Low social awareness: low social awareness individuals, who are also low empathy, are genuinely not aware of there being any qualitative difference between their time and an expert’s time. Further, they lack the ability to “put themselves in another’s shoes", so to speak, and thus operate purely from a “how do I get this person to do [X]” perspective, rather than a “if I were this person, what would get *my* attention?” point–of–view. Low social awareness individuals find other people confusing and disorienting, and are frequently frustrated at the failure of their efforts to get others to respond the way they want, much like the Clueless Boring Questions Guy™ we talked about in the article on texting girls.
In other words, you get the more normal folks, who figure they have nothing to offer you and they don’t want to be a pest, and you never hear from those folks, or maybe you get the odd message here or there saying, “Thank you...!” or, “Check this out...” and that’s about it; then, you get the creepy psycho people who decide that all your knowledge are belong to them, and get upset when you don’t want to be BFFs with them even though you know nothing about them and they’ve made zero effort to add substantial value to your life in any way.
There is, however, a third group. It’s a small group, and there aren’t many people in it, but the ones who are in it just get it – and these people get to move through life hoisted up at incredible speed by great mentors, all because they know how to find a mentor and keep him.
In the long climb out of the isolation of my teenage years, I discovered that my depression and angst hadn’t been entirely for naught, because with it came a level of social intuition that I soon realized most around me did not possess.
And one of the ways I put it to use right away was in finding mentors.
I’d gotten a lot of leeway in school, in terms of making jokes in class or bending the rules, because my teachers all really liked me. I established almost familial relationships with them very quickly, and once I left high school and started working, I did the same with my bosses at work, who took me under their wings and coached me on sales and management. I soaked these lessons up like a sponge, and in rather short time went from terrible at sales and terrible at management to mediocre at both, and then one of the district stars at both.
In university, I drifted back into anonymity, in big classes with remote teachers, and few real friends. But once I emerged into the real world following graduation, I set about building mentors again, this time both socially and at work.
Mentors I’d pinpoint as some of the most important elements of success in any field. When I look back at the fields I got good at but never attained sufficient recognition in and eventually abandoned, they’re all fields where I failed to find good mentors; in fields where I succeeded and went on to build more and more good things out of them, these were fields where I found great mentors.
And it’s not just me, either; most of the most talented guys I know at pickup (even the naturals) have stories about guys who showed them the ropes on this thing or that; usually not at the very beginning of their journey, but once they’d begun showing some promise. Likewise for my friends in business; likewise the martial arts.
Being naturally great at mentors seems to be one of those things that socially attuned individuals simply have going for them from early on; it ends up being an advantage that just stacks and stacks. It’s one thing to learn material on your own and parse the lessons out of it; it’s another thing entirely to have someone looking over your shoulder saying, “Okay, I see what you’re doing wrong – I used to do that all the time. You’ll do it a million times and not get anything. Do this instead,” and then magically you’ve just jumped 6 months or a year ahead of where you’d have been without that advice.
Guys who can’t get mentors end up missing out on probably the greatest ability enhancers there are.
One of my favorite films of all time (and books too – though the book and the film are quite different from one another) is Alexander Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo (2002). You could boil this film down into a number of different categories: revenge, adventure, piracy... but one of the bins I always put it into is “mentorship":
Dantes’s friend ‘Priest’ takes him on as student and mentee, and arms him with knowledge and skill it’d have taken him a lifetime to learn otherwise. The contrast between Dantes before imprisonment – gullible, naïve, and bumbling – and Dantes after imprisonment – aware, astute, and adept – is stark, and due almost entirely to his having a great mentor.
But the thing you may not realize in watching the film, if you aren’t paying attention is that not only is Priest a great mentor, but Dantes is a great mentee. If you observe how he is with his father, how he is with the boat owner he works for, and how he is with Priest, you’ll see this; now, try imagining one of the villains of the movie in his shoes, as the student of Priest. They’d almost certainly have learned nothing, and would have emerged from prison exactly the same as they’d been going in (plus a little bitterness).
But what is this difference between those who are so open to being made more awesome through the help of mentors, and those who are not?
Every now and again, I’ll have people drop by to tell me they’re not convinced, and that I or anyone else need(s) to do a better job of convincing them. That’s people in the comments on an article, or people who sign up for the discussion boards. This can be on any number of things:
That it isn’t all about looks/money/status/etc.
That women love sex and enjoy it outside of relationships
That it’s possible to dramatically enhance your attractiveness via working on your fundamentals
That it’s possible to move fast with any kind of girl other than a “bad girl” – because “good girls don’t go for that"
That anything in this place works on hot girls / ordinary girls / rich girls / poor girls / educated girls / street smart girls / young women / older women
... and the list goes on. But that’s why I structure articles the way I do; I load them up with research, with evolutionary psychology, with a psychological exploration of what’s going on in women’s minds, with anecdotes of my own or of my friends, and a plenitude of things you can use to go out and test out the premise of the article yourself, right now, immediately, and decide whether you agree with it or not. I structure everything this way (and ask that all writers do, too) so that you don’t need to have some protracted “convince me” battle with someone – everything you could possibly need to be convinced is right there in one place.
Yet, some people still aren’t convinced. And that’s fine. But then they ask you to keep working to
When I was younger and less experienced, I’d fall for this; try explaining over and over again to someone who just isn’t getting it why something is a certain way. These days? I just say, “Look, here’s everything you need to go out and try this out and figure out for yourself if what I’m saying works or if I’m full of hot air; go do it, really genuinely honest–to–God try to make it work, and you’ll know one way or the other if I’m serving you up truth or blowing smoke up your trousers after that."
That usually gets rid of them, but not for the reason you might
think; it’s not because they’re hard at work trying stuff out.
In fact, they were never going to do that.
Instead, what’s going on with most of these people – and what the majority of individuals have going on in their own heads that make them both immune to being mentored, and unattractive to potential mentors – is that rather than looking for an answer, what they are REALLY looking for is confirmation of what they already believe.
And learning tons of stuff from a mentor does not go so well with trying to get that mentor to confirm what you already think.
Mentors don’t like pouring their hard–squeezed juice into already–filled cups.
Now let’s talk what mentors do
like... and how you turn yourself into the empty cup they need.
#1: Accept the Method
The reason that people who are “mentor naturals” know how to find a mentor so well and so consistently is because they understand that nobody who’s any good at something wants to waste time arguing with a novice! Most guys who are good don’t even like arguing their methods with other pros... and you think Richard Dawkins wants to spend hours on end arguing the evidence in favor of evolution with backwoods creationists on some random Internet forum? Or that Stephen King wants to argue the merit of writing 2,000 words a day with an aspiring writer who’s never picked up a pen before?
Yet, even if you are very good, this is what most people will do with you.
Not most of the people you end up teaching, of course. Most people who stick around for instruction are more sponge–like than the ordinary person. But the ordinary man you run across, even if he knows your credentials, his mind is slammed shut.
I used to see this all the time at work: I’d be working with some really talented boss, but rather than soak up all of his lessons, the other guys there seemed to be intent on doing it “their way” regardless, unless the boss forced them to do otherwise.
And I saw it in pickup: I wasn’t the only one hanging out around my mentors, but I was the only one I’d see who would take everything they said to do, and even the things they didn’t (but that I saw them do myself) and go do it myself repetitively until I got it down. The other guys would nod, acknowledge the information, and then do nothing with it.
I call this “accepting the method",
and it’s the first major step in securing a mentor for yourself. You
can take all the time in the world you want to figure out if a given
method is for you; but absolutely do
NOT seek out a personal mentor until you are 100% onboard with what he
Because you will never, ever get a mentor out of anyone whose method you don’t embrace wholeheartedly. I don’t care who he is; if you’re skeptical, he’s not going to mentor you.
It’s not an ego thing.
It’s not a power thing.
It’s purely a not–worth–my–time–to–argue–with–you thing. That’s because you need to...
#2: Understand the Man
If you’ve never been successful at something, and you’re not high in social awareness, this is going to be difficult to do, because you probably can’t relate to someone who’s become successful in one or more fields.
One shorthand way of thinking about someone who’s successful is thinking about a hot girl. Both successful people and hot girls:
Are very aware of what people value out of them (her looks/status/sex for the hot girl; his knowledge/status/skills for the successful man)
Are very accustomed to people coming out of the woodwork to find ways to get what they want from them
Also have lots of genuinely awesome people around them, too, in addition to all the other things they have that keep them busy, and they’d mostly prefer to spend their time on the genuinely awesome people around them
I think that last one is the most important here. If you’ve climbed the mountain of success, you soon find that success attracts other like–minded folk. That means, you end up getting more and more awesome people around you, who are:
- Contributing tons of hard–to–get value to your life
- Introducing you to more amazing, awesome people
- Teaching you great things as you teach them great things
- Providing fun, fantastic, uplifting experiences to you
Contrast that to hanging around someone dwelling in the dungeons of victim mentality and psychic vampirism, which almost all of those individuals who will batter you about endlessly on your areas of expertise are despite their relative (or total) lack of knowledge or experience compared to you, and it quickly becomes rather clear which people you’re going to devote most of your time to as you become more successful.
This is where the socially unaware person becomes incensed; how selfish of him, to spend his time on other “amazing” people and not give back to those in need! How uncaring! How greedy!
All the while, the individual thinking or uttering these statements is trying desperately to command as much of the prospective mentor’s time and focus as he humanly can, purely for his own benefit, while providing nothing in return. It is the height of entitlement mentality.
What ends up happening as you become increasingly successful is that you begin to need to insulate yourself from the masses; people start coming to you with their hands out, wanting charity, and calling you selfish if you do not give of yourself to them; and they have absolutely no empathy for the fact that no one ever gave you anything yourself, and that you had a very hard climb to where you are – one that they’ll have to make themselves if they want to succeed, and one you can only really point them in the direction of... you can’t climb it for them.
You learn the very painful lesson every successful person and every hot girl has to learn at some point: most people want what they want from you, and do not give a flying frick about you as a person.
So, you progressively withdraw from being hands on with novices as your status rises more and more and as the number of people who want “stuff” from you increases and as their demands become greater and greater.
When you’re looking for mentors in the people around you – teachers,
bosses, cool guys in your social circle who are good with girls – it
isn’t as extreme as it is with someone who has a larger audience or
fan base, but the effect is still there... there are always far more
people who want successful or attractive others to give them stuff than
there are people with stuff to give.
Which, ironically, makes finding a mentor something of a piece of cake if you understand this: just be the one guy that person knows who isn’t trying to suck his lifeblood away.
And you do that by...
#3: Implementing and Providing Feedback
Successful men – the kind you want as mentors – all have one thing in common: at some point, at some time in their lives, every single one of them worked his ass off to get good at whatever he’s good at.
As a result, men like this have a big soft spot in their hearts for kindred spirits... and get annoyed to no end by the people who complain about how they don’t have what they want without ever taking any action to change that.
If you want to win over anyone, show that person you’re just like him.
In the case of those men you want as mentors – men who’ve pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and succeeded – neither much talk nor much whining or complaining will do it. There’s only one thing these sorts of individuals care about: results.
The surefire way of showing a prospective mentor that you’re his dream mentee?
Seek his counsel. Then, take that counsel, and implement it. Exactly as he tells you to. And do it hard, and do it devotedly, and do everything in your power to make it work.
Then, once the results are back in, report back, either with success, or with a non–emotional description of lack of success, plus exactly what you did so he can figure out where you messed up.
But really, try to be successful.
This is how I’ve found pretty much every mentor I’ve had. It goes like this:
Mentor gives you a piece of advice – solicited or not, it doesn’t matter; he’s examining your shortcomings, and gives you feedback on how you can adjust
Next, you go implement that advice – ideally, without telling him you’re going to do it (pleasant surprises are always the best; under promise and over deliver). Work hard at making his suggestion work for you
Report back, and let him know that you tried out what he gave you, and he was right – it worked! Or, let him know you tried out what he gave you, and you’re still not making it happen – you feel like you’re weak in XYZ area or on ABC thing, so maybe that’s it, or there might be something else you’re missing
Repeat this process for just about everything he tells you to do
The object here is to take advantage of operant conditioning, and be rewarding your desired mentor with continual bursts of pride and satisfaction at:
Being proved right by someone else using his methods and having them work
Being appreciated for his expertise by a fellow implementer testing things out
Having helped someone and contributed meaningful positive impact
Having formed an alliance in a leadership position with a similarly determined, motivated individual to himself
By following the simple process of doing what your desired mentor tells you to do, doing it until it works, reporting back with news of success (or the occasional failure, framed in a “I think I’m doing it wrong” way, and not in a “I think your approach is wrong” way that will put him on the defensive), and making this a regular process, you build up a relationship that is very beneficial to both.
Accomplished people genuinely love helping coach promising students / up–and–comers / rising stars to success. It’s just a good feeling, knowing that you’re building allies and helping train up the next generation of successful individuals.
You just have to show the man you want as a mentor for any given
thing that you are exactly the kind of person it’s worth it for him to
invest his time in mentoring, and you’re there.
#4: Choose a Path
The final part of how you find a mentor is to choose one of the two (2) paths you can take toward a mentor–mentee relationship. These are:
- The Devoted Pupil
- The Good Friend
Each path has its advantages and its disadvantages, so let’s talk about both.
The Devoted Pupil
The devoted pupil is the more “ordinary” path to take when establishing a mentoring relationship. This is the path where the relationship primarily revolves around mentoring, and you meet up to ask your mentor questions and get his opinion on things, and he provides you feedback, coaching, and guidance.
This path has a few strong advantages:
- It’s a much easier path to execute
- It takes less time to start reaping results
- It’s a more self–guided approach (you ask the questions; the mentor responds)
- It requires less intuition, since you’re directly given your answers
With this path, you aren’t so much friends with your mentor as you are the mentor’s student and trainee. It’s a rather clear–cut relationship, where he knows he’s training you, and you know you’re being trained.
The downside of these relationships is that they tend to drift away more easily over time, and you miss some of the nuance and much of the really advanced stuff you can pick up on if you take the other route.
Establishing this relationship is simple enough, if you follow the other points above. Assuming you:
- Accept the method
- Understand the man (and are sensitive to his time / values /
- Implement his suggestions and detail your results / thank him for
... you’re pretty much already there. All you’ve got to do now is
continue to ask him for suggestions, a little bit at a time (don’t
overwhelm him with requests), then repeat the process of implementing
and providing feedback, then asking for more things to implement, over
The Good Friend
The good friend is a very different route to mentor–dom; it’s trickier, harder to pull the information you want out of it, and it takes longer to put together, and more skill to. This path revolves around becoming good friends with a mentor, not around establishing a direct mentor–mentee relationship.
Its advantages are:
- You can form mentorships with people who don’t usually mentor
- You get trained on what the mentor views is most important for you
- You build a lasting friendship that exists outside of just mentoring
- Provided your ability to observe and analyze is good, you get
access to advanced methods, strategies, and techniques that the mentor
may not even be consciously aware of himself
Essentially, with this sort of relationship, you focus more on making friends with and providing value to prospective mentors. That’s more difficult to do, because – especially if you’re starting out in a place where you are not yet successful at anything, and the mentor is – you may not have much of value to offer just yet.
For that reason, this one is most practical if you’re already successful at something, or if you’re of an intermediate level of success at a thing and can keep your mouth shut and otherwise be good, likable, enjoyable company.
Case in point: when I first moved out to California, I was picking up and getting laid here and there, but I wasn’t terribly consistent, and I had a lot wrong with my game. In quick succession though, I met a few guys who were a lot more advanced than I was. Rather than pelt them with questions – which I knew would:
Annoy them (because all the problems I had would be stuff they’d solved long ago and probably view as newbie questions), and
Cause them to scale back face time with me to only times when they felt like answering my questions... rather than just whenever, because we were friends
... I resolved to simply not ever ask them anything about girls. I wouldn’t act like a know–it–all (which any experienced guy sees through like glass); I’d just be chill, not make a big deal out of it, and learn through observation.
What I ended up learning through watching my friends ended up being tremendously good for me, although at first I mostly just watched and didn’t have much to show for it. And I only learned what I learned because I was their friend, and not their student. On the rare occasion I’d roll with some of the more experienced guys from the local pickup artist community, when they’d meet my natural friends and see what they were pulling off, they’d invariably be trying to get their phone numbers to hang out with them and interview them and learn from them, but my buddies weren’t interested – they didn’t want to be training anyone. When they had free time, they wanted to hang out, chill, drink a beer, and hit on some chicks. I got that; other guys didn’t seem to get it, though.
In truth, I don’t think 30 interview sessions with those friends of mine would’ve helped them make as much transformation as I made just hanging out around those friends of mine and adopting what I saw them do and trying it out myself. Occasionally, they’d give me suggestions, and I’d implement them and report back; but mostly, we just hung out, and I learned through osmosis.
The downside of this is that it’s hard to pull off; you’ve got to be a cool enough person with enough social intuition that a successful person finds you valuable to have around as a hang–out pal; and it takes time to learn the lessons here, and you can’t just go and tap the guy for answers whenever you hit a rough spot if you don’t want to mess up the dynamic you have.
However, for my money, this is the best kind of setup there is, because you become genuine friends with some pretty awesome people, and if you get the chance, when you’re more successful in other fields later on, you can even get back in touch and offer to help them be more successful in those fields without having to overcome a student–teacher dynamic, because there never was one.
How to Find a Mentor
You’ll notice I didn’t specify WHERE to find a mentor here. In this case, I’m a big believer in the phrase “when the student is ready, the master will appear.”
How this works is that you genuinely need to be OUT there, busting your ass hard on succeeding at whatever you want to succeed at. Whether that’s:
- Your studies
- Your career
- Your business
- Getting girls
- Martial arts
... or anything else, you’ve got to be doing and implementing to at least be good enough that you’re already somewhat proven when you come across a willing mentor, and good enough that you can tell the difference between someone who’s a true talent from someone who’s pretending like he is but doesn’t have the goods to back it up. And there are generally a lot more of the latter than there are the former in pretty much every field you look at.
The only mentors I’ve had when I was a pure beginner were mentors I was in some way attached to or paying for; my first few bosses when I was new to sales and management; the teachers I had when I paid to attend classes on meeting women in my early days. The other mentors I’ve had, whom I’ve met more organically and without any kind of structure or transaction bringing us together, I have always met from when I was intermediate on up (to borderline advanced or so).
Most very successful people won’t be interested in mentoring you if you can’t already show some promise (some early success), mostly because they don’t want to spend a lot of time answering newbie questions they’ve answered a million times already for other people, and also because it’s just not very exciting coaching a guy who shows no signs of ever being a star. Everybody wants to coach a star.
Similarly, you probably don’t want to take on an intermediate or slightly advanced coach when you yourself are a beginner. In my opinion, it’s better to train on your own (though with a good support group) when you’re just starting out, and don’t get a mentor until you can get a really good one. More harm than good comes from being coached by a guy who sounds like he knows what he’s talking about because you’re a beginner and he’s intermediate, but who then ends up leading you astray.
Focus on being that empty cup that appeals most to prospective mentors.
Don’t be the opinionated guy who wants to challenge everything and place himself on equal footing with the expert – successful people have no time for status–jockeying with people who don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s just transparent and annoying.
Be the wet clay that your mentor can shape into his own image. That’s what we all want to do anyway – make other people more like ourselves. That’s why people get so impassioned in comment sections on random news articles that they disagree with – they just want other people to agree with them and be like them.
Follow the four rules of mentorship:
- Accept the Method
- Understand the Man
- Implement and Provide Feedback
- Choose a Path (The Devoted Student or The Good Friend)
... and adhere to them religiously, and you will find yourself, perhaps sooner than you think, with some pretty awesome mentors in whatever you’re trying to be good at.
And make sure you don’t rant, whine, or attack if it doesn’t happen
overnight, of course ;) Relationships must be nurtured – they can never
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