So the other day I’m training in Gold’s Gym Venice Beach California and I spotted one of my earliest mentors Arnold Schwarzenegger.
A few minutes later we ended up getting into a conversation, doing a few sets together, and share in a laugh with a couple of friends who happened to be in the gym as well.
As you can imagine, Arnold attracts a crowd everywhere he goes.
Before he left, I shook his hand and thanked him for inspiring me many years. He said it’s been a pleasure before he made his way to the front door.
The experience was both natural in surreal.
You see I have had a million conversations with Arnold since I was a boy of fifteen after I saw him in Conan the Barbarian. Then came pumping iron, the books, “Education of a Bodybuilder”, “Arnold’s Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding” and many more articles, interviews and movies.
Arnold – was a mentor.
He taught me about a positive attitude, self discipline, and hard work.
Visualization, goal setting, business, and a host of other topics.
The ironic part is: That day in Gold’s gym was the first time we spoke directly in the 30 years he’s mentored me. In fact although, we had spoke personally before we both were well aware he had mentored me for years.
He saw it in my eyes and I thanked him with mine.
Arnold understands mentorship.
Want to reach higher levels of success? What to truly become as successful as possible in life? If you answered YES to either of these questions, mentorship is something you need to know about.
Not to be confused with a coach, a mentor is a special relationship type that everyone who wants to become their absolute best needs.
Check out the video below where I talk about my experience with a mentor and why I feel this is so hugely important.
So now that you have a bit of background information about my personal experience, let’s discuss this concept further and go into the details that you need to know.
What Does A Mentor Do?
First things first. What does a mentor really do? Or more importantly, what can they do for you?
A mentor is someone who serves as a source of motivation, a source of knowledge, and a source of advice.
They are not someone who is going to hold your hand every step of the way as you go about your journey or someone who is going to be checking in with you regularly, monitoring your progress.
While some mentors may be a little more invested in you (depending on your personal relationship with them), they are never going to be ‘teaching’ you like that of a coach.
It’s important that you get this difference straight in your mind. A mentor is not a coach. While the two roles may overlap at times, they are never going to be one and the same.
What’s the difference?
- Defined Period Of Time
First, when you hire a coach, the relationship is usually more structured. You are working with them for ‘X’ period of time upon which, you will either renew with them for another set period of time or you both will move on.
If you were to get ready for a special event – a marathon or fitness contest for example, chances are you’d hire your coach for the 16 week period to get you ready.
With a mentor, there usually is not set period. You are instead learning from them on an ongoing basis, often for many years.
- Structured Setting
The next thing that you’ll notice with a mentor is that the interaction is far less structured. Coaching is usually done on a one-on-one basis where you meet with the coach personally (or via phone) and discuss your progress.
With mentorship, while it may sometimes be done face to face or over the phone, it can also be done indirectly by reading their books or watching interviews they’ve been featured in.
You can learn from a mentor without ever actually personally knowing them, however the same cannot be said for coaching.
When working with a coach, you will be working directly with them.
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- Broader Focus
Another key difference between mentorship and coaching is that for the most part, mentorship takes a broader focus. Usually mentors will look at all areas of your life and how they are integrated into what you are trying to achieve. If you are working with a mentor face to face, they tend to step back and look at the ‘big picture’ more often than a coach would. A coach, on the other hand, usually is quite specific and looking directly at whatever it is you hired them to coach you on. They tend to have a much more narrow focus, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can exclude other areas of your life that could be impacting your results.
- Scheduling Of The Interaction
Finally, the last big difference you may notice between a mentor and a coach is the way in which your interactions are scheduled. When working with a mentor, usually meetings or interactions will be set on their terms – if you see them in person at all. With a coach however, you’ll find they are working more around your schedule and are going to accommodate to you far more. So there you have the main differences between a mentor and a coach. Of course each unique situation may be slightly different, however in general, this are the differences that you can expect to run into. All of this said, what does a mentor do for you? Mentors can be many things depending on you and the situation. Let’s look at the three key roles that mentors will fill. Motivation/Inspiration The first role that a mentor fills is to help motivate and inspire you. Typically when selecting your mentor, you’ll be choosing someone who is at the top of their field and whom you look up to and respect. As such, you’ll find that they serve to help you get more excited about your own journey. If you interact with them directly, you should feel energized and like your passion to excel at what you are trying to accomplish has been re-awakened as you are ready to move forward, full speed ahead. Mentors, in short, are an excellent source of inspiration as you move forward with your own path.
The next big benefit you’ll gain from having a mentor is guidance and information. While a coach will take on the role of specifically designing a program of sorts for you to do, a mentor typically will take on a more general role, providing some guidance and feedback based on their own knowledge. With a coach, you’ll be updating them regularly on all that you are doing, while with a mentor, this happens less often. Instead, you will focus more on listening to the advice and knowledge they wish to share with you, soaking it up and using it however you can as you go about your journey.
Fast-Track On Experience
Perhaps the biggest benefit you stand to gain from having a mentor to guide your way is a fast track through experience. Chances are, you’ve heard that one of the best ways to learn is by mistake. With every mistake you make, you learn not to do that same thing again (or at least hopefully you do!). What you need to remember however is that nothing says you have to learn from your own mistakes. You can, in actuality, learn from other’s mistakes, and prevent yourself from having to make them on your own. This is a win-win because you get the lesson without losing time (or suffering the pain that often comes from making the mistake in the first place). For most people, this is a very important benefit, not to be overlooked. Finding a mentor who has overcome many obstacles throughout their career (in whatever you are trying to learn from them for) is a great way to learn what not to do along with what you should be doing. In some cases, learning the ‘do not’s’ are just as important as learning what you should be doing.
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These are the three key benefits you’ll get from working with a mentor. Once again, each interaction and relationship will vary, so you may find you get many other benefits over and beyond these three.
How To Find A Mentor
Now that you know the benefits of working with a mentor, how do you go about selecting a mentor to work with?
While it may seem obvious – just choose someone who most motivates you and whom you are able to connect with, it’s not always this black and white.
Here are some things to consider when picking your mentor.
First you’ll want to look at gender. Now, I’m not saying this to be sexist or to put one gender ‘ahead’ of the other, but do consider whether you think you would work better with one particular gender over the other.
For instance, many people will feel they work better with the same gender. Perhaps they can’t exactly put their finger on why this is, it just is.
Don’t stress about it. It’s perfectly natural. Some people do have preferences and you simply have to work within these preferences.
If you don’t have a preference one way or another, then great – you have the option of working with just about anyone.
Age is another important factor that you’ll want to take into account. Again, this isn’t to discriminate anyone, but generally speaking, you want to find someone who is about 10 years or so older than you (or the equivalent of about 10 years ahead of you so to speak in terms of where they are).
The reason for this? If you select someone too close to your own age, there’s a good chance that they are going through much of what you are going through right now as well.
And while they may be excelling at whatever it is they are doing, they don’t have that level of experience yet that you are looking for. Emotionally and mentally, they aren’t as developed as you’d probably like them to be.
Likewise, if you select someone who is too old, they may have lots of experience under their belt and be very wise, but the big problem here is the fact that they are further removed from what you are going through.
If it’s been 20-30 years since they were in your position, they may not as clearly remember what it’s like and be as up to date with current trends.
Times change and while 10 years isn’t too far removed to be giving accurate advice and guidance, 20-30 years may be.
So 10 years is the sweet spot you’re looking for. Now in rare cases you may find someone who is close to your own age but in reality, is about 10 years ahead of their time. Whether they got a head start at a very young age or were just exceptional performers and were able to progress far faster than anyone else, this can work as well.
Just do keep in mind that while experience-wise they may be those 10 years ahead of you, their emotional development may not. So this may not be as ideal as that person who is also has a chronological age of about 10 years ahead.
Experience is the next thing that you’ll definitely want to take into account with anyone who you are considering having mentor you.
How many years of experience do they have? What all have they accomplished in their career? Do they have experience going through harder times – similar say to what you are possibly concerned you may experience?
As much as possible, you want to pair up with a mentor who has gone through a similar experience that you are going through.
To put this into example, let’s say you are trying to build your physique. You are someone who is naturally thin – what they’d call a ‘hardgainer’.
If you pair up with someone who has built a remarkable physique, one that you would by any standards love to have, but they are naturally able to build muscle easily, this isn’t going to be that good of a pairing.
Sure, they may have great experience and have had a very successful outcome, but the fact is, their experience will be much different than yours given your two body types.
The individual who can build muscle relatively easily is going to have had a far different journey than someone who struggles to gain even a pound.
As such, the information and experience they share with you may not be all that accurate. And, in this specific example, what they tell you could actually lead you down the wrong path entirely.
This is why simply choosing your mentor based on their results and experience isn’t enough. You need to take into account their unique situation and how that mimics the situation you find yourself in.
Along with experience, you obviously also want to find someone who has had a good deal of success before. Someone may have plenty of experience, but if they’ve made mistake after mistake and haven’t overcome it to go on to be very success, this isn’t someone you want to be learning from (unless of course, you are only looking for information on what not to do!).
Most people will, by nature, choose someone who is successful as they are selecting a mentor they look up to and respect, so this one should come as a given, so to speak.
Just remember that as you go through your journey, what you view as successful may change and in that case, so may your mentor.
For instance, early on your career, you may decide that you consider ‘successful’ to be someone who is making 7 figures. As such, you set out to find the person who is earning this much money and at the youngest age possible.
For you, that is the life that you want.
But as you get older and more involved in your career, you might then decide that it isn’t seven figures you want – you’d be happy earning six figures but only working an hour or two a day.
If your previous mentor was working around the clock to bring in those 7 figures, this no longer fits your definition of success.
As such, your mentor may need to change.
Don’t ever feel like you are tied to one mentor for life. Your goals and desires change, and as such, your mentor may need to change along with this.
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Accessibility is another thing to factor in when selecting a mentor. For some people, this may not be that big of an issue as they are fine simply reading their mentor’s books, watching videos of them, and learning from them in an indirect manner.
But other people want a more hands-on connection. They want their mentor to be accessible for face to face contact.
If that’s your preference, you need to ensure this is going to be possible. Some mentors love this and personally get great joy from watching their mentees experience the success they want for them.
Others simply don’t have the time because they are too wrapped up in what they are doing in their own lives. In that case, this may not be the best fit for you.
Consider just how regularly you want to be interacting with this mentor and then make your decision based on that.
You’ll also want to take into account the personality of your mentor as well. Are they warm and inviting? Are they someone who is going to offer encouragement for you along the way?
Or, are they less warm and more about giving you advice and sharing their own knowledge?
There isn’t any specific type of personality that is right here, but rather, it’s about what personality is going to work best for you.
Some people mesh well with certain types of people, so you’ll want to be sure that whomever you are pairing up with, you work well with them.
Just as you need to spend some time picking the right workout partner to ensure you both have similar styles in personality, you also need to spend some time thinking about your mentor’s personality as well.
- Overall Level Of Satisfaction/Happiness
Finally, be sure to take into account their overall level of happiness and satisfaction.
How pleased do they seem in their day to day life? Are they overall very positive? If you were in their same position in a few years, would you be happy with where you are?
You want to find a mentor who’s life/situation you truly want to emulate. Sometimes people can be highly successful and/or experienced but still not happy.
If they are unhappy despite all their success, they may not be the best person to embark wisdom on you. Perhaps they haven’t figured out the proper way to balance their life or something critical is missing.
While of course there’s always the chance that whatever is causing their unhappiness has absolutely nothing to do with the topic they would be mentoring you on, if they have been unhappy for quite some time, chances are they are not the best person to be following so closely.
There you have a closer look on what a mentor does and how you should go about choosing a mentor. Make no mistake, mentors are extremely beneficial and just about every very successful person has had one at one time or another.
What has your experience with mentors been? If you are using a mentor, how did you find the mentor you are working with? Share your experience with us below.
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