Honest Creative
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Honest Creative

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Secret Mentors

How to find mentors that are only here for you.

What if the world's most accomplished people advised you at every troublesome turn in your life?

What if you had tens or even hundreds of these people? How much better would you handle trying times? Complex problems? Strategy?

What if they were with you all of the time? If you never had to reach out and schedule a call with them?

We’re going to explore how to create your own tribe of mentors. A tribe that gives you special advice that only you have access to.

These won’t be mentors in the traditional sense. You’ll never actually meet them, but they will teach you. They don’t need to be alive. For the most part, you’ll be creating them for yourself.

This idea of mentors that live within you isn’t a new idea. It’s represented in a lot of fictional works of our time

  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender there is constant reference to speaking to your past lives, the avatars of the past and seeking out advice.
  • In Star Wars you see ghostly figures of all the past Jedi who live inside the Jedi of the present.
  • In Dune some of the characters have the ability to speak to a memory version of their ancestors that live inside their minds.

The idea of creating mentors that live inside of you actually came from my secret mentors. Ryan Holiday, Tim Ferriss, and Robert Greene all write about finding mentors throughout history and using them to guide you.

We’ve all felt a bit of this. We see a Steve Jobs quote or commencement speech and feel inspired. We read a story about some historical figure who did a great thing and it influences us.

But seeing a few Instagram quotes doesn’t cut it. Turning a figure into a mentor takes much more.

Picking the right mentors

“The best mentors are often those who have wide knowledge and experience, and are not overly specialized in their field.” — Robert Greene, Mastery

Picking the right mentor is important. Not everyone is worth your time.

Find a figure who is a good model for your life.

I personally landed on Benjamin Franklin. He’s a writer, an entrepreneur, an inventor, a diplomat, and for a short period, a war hero. His wide breadth of knowledge makes him ideal.

Ask yourself who lived a life that I aspire to reflect? Even if it was at a bigger scale than you care to reach. If you are (or want to be) an investor, use Warren Buffett. You don’t have to want to be one of the richest men in the world for him to be a great model.

Look for the good, ignore that bad.

Don’t neglect George Washington because he was a slave owner. Both your mentor's great accomplishments and bad qualities are lessons for you to learn from. Life is complex, don’t look for perfection in your mentors because it doesn’t exist. Instead, focus on improving on the lives of your mentors. The student's job is to surpass the master.

Seek out their bad qualities and ponder how their lives could have been even better without them. I’m sure Steve Jobs would have had a better family life if he didn’t lie about his daughter not being his for the first 16 years of her life.

Find Someone With a Lot of Content

If there is not a ton of information on your mentor, it’s going to be hard to immerse yourself in their life. The more 800-page biographies there are on them the better. If they put out a lot of writing of their own that’s also ideal.

Devour their life and their work

“Find people you admire and ask them how they got there.” — Ryan Holiday, Stillness is The Key

The more you know and understand about their life, the more they will come alive in your thoughts.

Absorb everything you can find on them

The best way to get to know a figure is by reading the 800-page biography no one wants to read. These works accomplish a lot. Not only do they give you a detailed account of their entire life, but they also give a lot of context into the world they lived in. Allowing you to get a sense of their influences as well.

Find documentaries on them. Documentaries usually contain less information than biographies, but they do a great job of summarizing their life. You should also find documentaries about the time and place they lived in. The more context you can find on what it was like to be that person, the better.

Study their work

Biographies are a view of your mentor's life from the perspective of an objective researcher. They do a great job of giving specifics and context. Reading works directly from the mind of that person will add a completely different perspective.

We, humans, have selective memories. We remember our lives differently than they actually happened and mold our memories to fit our view of ourselves and the world. In part, this is the brilliance of your mentors. How they see the world can only come from them.

If they didn’t produce a lot of written work, you may need to use your creativity. If you’re studying Warren Buffett, look into all of the business deals he got into and out of, where he made mistakes, and what lessons he learned. If you’re studying a war general like Ulysses S. Grant, look into his strategic moves on the battlefield and the thought process behind them.

In simple terms, get in their mind.

Use The Notecard System

Ryan Holiday’s notecard system is the best tool to use for remembering the lessons of your mentors.

Just buy some notecards and a box for them. While your reading, underline all the quotes, thoughts, and little pieces of wisdom you find. Then transfer those to a notecard.

Taking notes is the most important part of the process. If you just read about your mentor, you’ll quickly forget most of it. Taking the time to go back over the material and transfer what you found onto handwritten note cards will help combat your fallible memory.

Your note cards will turn into little bites of easy-to-reflect-on wisdom that you can always reach for when in need.

Bring them into your world

“You will want as much personal interaction with the mentor as possible” — Robert Greene, Mastery

Now, you need to spend some time with your new imaginary friend. I know… It’s a bit odd. Childish even. Don’t listen to the little hater inside of you. Franklin thinks it’s cool. I just asked him.

At the end of the day, what we’re trying to do a create a positive delusion for our lives. That’s what this is. A delusion, based on the real lives of inspiring figures, that we use to guide and advise us. Nothing weird about it.

But if you never spend time in that delusion you never get the benefit.

Reflect on Your Notecards

A little bit of your mentor lives on the notecards you created. Use them.

It’s helpful to categories the notecards based on the subject. This way, when you’re having a problem with your business partner you can ask yourself, “How did benjamin franklin handle diplomatic disputes?” then go through a section of your cards about it.

When you have multiple mentors on your roster, you can see different or aligning perspectives on the same subject. You’ll have a library of secret wisdom to use to your advantage.


Have you ever seen those Lance Armstrong style rubber bracelets that say WWJD? What a perfect trigger. Anytime you're in a sticky situation you have a bracelet to remind you to ask yourself, “what would Jesus do?”.

Ask yourself that question all the time. What would Steve Jobs do? What would Voltaire do? What would Obama do? What would Michael Jordan do? What would Gandhi do? If you can create a physical trigger, like a bracelet that reminds you to ask the question, even better.

This question will force you to see your situation through their eyes. Pulling their wisdom into your world.

Keep Collecting Mentors

Just some final thoughts before you go to wrap this up.

  • Keep finding new mentors. There are millions of models for your life and you can take bits and pieces from all of them. Personally, I like to find mentors in the social circles of the original. Through Franklin, I found Thomas Pain, who is just as inspiring a figure. Because I know a lot about Franklin already, I have context regarding Pain and add new context to the life of Franklin.
  • Find real mentors too. These secret mentors are amazing, but there is no great tool for creating change in your life than a real mentor. A mentor that can give you realtime feedback and guidance is like getting a shortcut through life. Take advantage of it.
  • Find peer mentors. Don’t assume someone has to be massively accomplished for you to learn from them. You can learn just as much from peers who are working through the same issues that you are. I’m happy to be that person from you. Sign up for my email list or email me directly and we’ll get through this together.



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Adam Stinson

Adam Stinson

Helping college dropouts gain control of their lives through financial education. Go to www.adamkstinson.com for a field guide to non-traditional success.