Mentors: Accelerating Your Growth Through An Apprenticeship

Illustration of Merlin teaching King Arthur by PJ Lynch

This article is dedicated to my two mentors, Bernard Bullock & Maurice Bretzfield.

A mentor can change your life

The legend of King Arthur, Homer’s Odyssey, Star Wars, and many other popular myths and stories have a basic archetype within them, that of the mentor. Even real historical figures such as Plato, Lincoln, Einstein, and Mandela have had mentors to guide them throughout their careers to help make them successful.

Mentors aren’t meant to be seen as mythological creatures, benefactors of great wisdom that can bestow life-changing lessons. However, having a mentor in your life can help you make sure that you are actually progressing in the aspects of your life you want to improve (career, familial life, exercise, etc.). If given the opportunity to have a mentor in your life, do not decline. A mentor can significantly benefit your life in a variety of ways.

The benefits of obtaining a mentor

There are many practical reasons as to why having a mentor in your life can help you grow. Mentors are privy to information you don’t have access to. Having a mentor, particularly someone who is substantially older than you, enables you to gain to an indispensable resource: life experience. Mentors who have more life experience than you have access to a plethora of questions, lessons learned from mistakes, and insights that you wouldn’t be able to gather on your own. When a mentor provides advice and console, the benefit of this comes from their ability to offer you shortcuts. The wise student doesn’t only learn from their own mistakes they also learn from the mistakes of others so that they don’t need to go through them as well. When a mentor leverages their life experience to help you, they help accelerate your growth faster than if you were to take on challenges on your own.

Additionally, mentors help to humble you and also show you what aspects of yourself deserve your respect. Often, especially when we are young (in our early 20s), we may have delusions of our how skilled we may be because of how fast we learn things. When we are young and first starting in our careers, there comes a point in our learning curve where we begin to plateau because we aren’t aware that that is when the learning of any skill or craft begins. A mentor can help you stick to the path you’re own and put things into perspective. They help to illuminate why you should be confident in yourself while making sure you’re not arrogant due to your current progress.

Great mentors tend to challenge you even when you don’t welcome the challenges. You will eventually get frustrated with them; this is when they are pushing you past your limits. Personally, this was when one of my mentors challenged me to start learning how to analyze data for my first job (this was something I never needed to do in college because I was studying musical theory). What I didn’t notice at the time was that what my mentor was providing was the ability to ask myself new questions I wouldn’t have been able to come up with on my own. Mentors can help expand your capacity to be curious.

Taking into account all of these benefits, finding a mentor can prove to be an issue in and of itself. Where does one find a mentor? How do we make sure that they are the right fit for the goals that we have?

Related: Creating Your Own Curriculum For Self-Education After College

How to find a mentor

The principal challenge in finding a mentor comes from realizing that they have to discover you. However, being recognized by potential mentors directly comes down to location, location, location. How are you making yourself discoverable?

An easy way to start networking with anyone, especially your ideal mentor, is by creating a list of all the related people in their industry. Who are the other notable people in their field of work and study? Who is in their team? Who are their competitors and rivals? Once you’ve identified these people, try approaching them first before contacting your ideal mentor. Become acquainted with people that your dream mentor may know before approaching them with a cold call, email, or direct message on social media. If you’re able to be introduced or referred to them by someone in their network, the opportunity for them to discover you as a potential apprentice becomes that much higher. It’s all about putting yourself in environments to be found, both offline and online.

Additionally, a mentor doesn’t need to be someone that you generally meet in person. It’s crucial that we expose ourselves to the published work of the people we admire. Having a long-distance mentor, (a term coined by Shane Snow in his book “Smartcuts”) can be a useful alternative while you build opportunities to become more desirable and discoverable. Mimicry is one method of learning that we develop as children. One easy way to get started with learning from a long-distance mentor is by mimicking their behavior through the use of biographies, autobiographies, documentaries, and other content about them and how they behave. Many valuable lessons that come from successful people are obtained by simple observation. Learn from any work your desired mentors have already published. The chances are that you may never get the chance to work and learn from your desired mentor, so you might as well maximize the resources they’ve left available to the public. Some of my long-distance mentors include Tim Ferriss, Gary Vaynerchuk, Alan Watts, and Jiddu Krishnamurti. Two are alive, and two are not. That doesn’t stop me from learning from them. I don’t have intimate relationships with these men, nor will I never get the chance to be their students due to their tremendously busy schedules but, that doesn’t mean that I cannot learn from them.

When it comes to the implementation of making yourself discoverable, one question you must ask yourself continually is, “How will any potential mentors benefit from forming a relationship with you?” Furthermore, it’s vital that any potential student considers the long term benefits that he will be indebted to providing his mentor after he’s learned all that he can from them. Mentors and teachers of all fields often find added benefit from investing their time into pupils that can help them in return. When we teach, we learn. What will they learn from teaching you?

It’s important to make the relationship that you form with any mentor, mutually beneficial.

Lessons gained from my mentors

wanted to provide a list of lessons I’ve learned from two of my mentors: Bernard Bullock and Maurice Bretzfield. I had the fortunate pleasure of meeting these two wise men at different times throughout my life (one in high school and one in college). Hopefully, some of these lessons resonate with you, and I hope that you find ways to create relationships with a mentor of your own someday (or to be more grateful for any mentor-mentee relationships you already have).

Lessons from Bernard Bullock

  • Don’t ever work for people who simply tolerate your presence. Try your best to find teams and groups of people who celebrate who you are and the uniqueness that you bring to the table.
  • Creativity comes from just having fun with the process.
  • There’s a big difference between busy-ness and business. The former fools you into thinking you’re doing something productive, the latter actually leads to visual results.
  • You do yourself a disservice when you only rely on your knowledge, you also need a gut/instincts/EQ. You need to be able to navigate the world even when nothing seems structured. The American public school system coddles children so much that they begin to believe life is like a classroom. Sometimes, adults won’t have all of the answers and you will have to discover what the answers are for yourself.
  • Any plan is subject to change whenever you involve people. People are always the key variables you need to consider when planning anything.
  • Knowledge isn’t the key, action is. You can’t intellectualize everything, sometimes you just need to jump into the abyss and see what happens. Inaction and over-analyzation are the biggest barriers for people who are cerebral.

Lessons from Maurice Bretzfield

  • Life long learning is essential for being a successful person after graduating college. Don’t rely solely on collegiate institutions to educate you. A human’s life is a struggle between, ignorance and illumination. School is sometimes the end not the beginning for most people.
  • Always think of the change around you exponentially and not linearly. Predictions about the future may come faster than one may think.
  • Always search for an answer to a question on Google first before asking it out loud. It saves your team time.
  • Personal branding, the importance of staying relevant online, cannot be overlooked. People will Google you in almost any professional capacity in the 21st-century workforce. Even if it’s an entry-level position, a hiring manager will do their due diligence before even offering you an in-person interview.
  • There’s always a different way of using the Internet; you just have to keep your mind open to the possibilities.
  • All young people should travel after college. The experiences gained from travel will be some of the most important ones that they can gain.

Do you currently have a mentor? What lessons have you gained from your relationship with them? What other pieces of advice do you have to share?

Leave a comment below or send me a direct message, I am always open to starting new conversations!

Works Cited:

  1. Snow, Shane. Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success, Page 72–75. HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., 2014.