3 Rules to Reach a Mentor

How to increase your chances of winning their attention

Danny Oak
Danny Oak
Jun 25 · 7 min read

I knew early on that having a mentor was a powerful ally to achieve success in life.

That's because:

  • Mentors can guide us through the best paths.
  • Mentors can show us mistakes to avoid.
  • Mentors can introduce us to people playing above our current league.
  • Mentors have answers for many of the questions we’ll have during our journey.
  • Putting it simply, a mentor reduces our learning curve exponentially by guiding us and, if he’s really good, by challenging us to grow.

Luckily I was always humble enough to know that with the help of others I could go further, faster.

Unfortunately, I didn’t always know how to correctly define a mentor, much less how to reach one.


I used to think that having a mentor would mean to fall in the grace of someone powerful, spend whole days working with him, learning with him through the process, being truly a disciple of a master.

Only when I got older I realize that that vision was inaccurate.

What is a mentor?

A mentor is someone that knows more about a certain topic than us and that somehow passes us that knowledge.

Following that line of thought, we don’t need to pass years with a mentor to learn from him. If someone can teach us something meaningful for our goals, we can call him a mentor.

We don’t need to know him or meet him, we don’t even need to talk to him. I have mentors that are such only by the books they write or content they share online.

But sometimes we have a particular problem that we’re not quite sure how to get an answer to, so we need more personal contact with an expert.

When that happens, I look up for people that I trust to have good knowledge on the subject and I try to reach them hoping they can reply.

Although simple, I try to follow a few recommendations to have better chances to succeed.


The 3 rules to reach a potential mentor

As I said, a mentor is someone who knows more about a certain topic than me.

This means that in the hierarchy of knowledge about that topic, he has a higher rank than me.

That’s why there is a big chance that that person has a much busier life than I, hence my first recommendation is:

  • 1 — Don’t expect a reply!

Our potential mentors are in that position probably because they’ve achieved success in that field and, usually, success comes through working more and better than ordinary people, so it’s very likely they won’t have the time to help us or even to reply to our message.

  • 2 — Don’t receive that rejection or lack of response as a sample of character.

It is easy to get carried away by our emotions and think badly about someone who is not available to help us, but we need to have in mind that behind that refusal may be a good reason.

Don’t feel entitled to get a response, you have no idea how many similar requests a mentor may receive every day or how busy he may be, so if he doesn’t reply don’t judge him, be humble and keep appreciating what he already shares with you and the rest of his audience.

  • 3 — Respect their time

I get it, it’s natural to feel excited to be talking to someone we admire.

We don’t want to waste this opportunity to show them everything they represent for us and to thank them for everything they have taught us and how we have evolved thanks to them and how much this and that, blah blah blah … and suddenly we already have more than 500 words and have not even touched on the subject we really want to talk about!

Obviously, we can — and should — show our appreciation for the mentor, but the best way to do that is by respecting their time.

A brief presentation where we introduce ourselves and explain why we consider them a mentor is enough to differentiate our message.

Then we must explain our doubt or problem and ask if he has any advice he can give us.


How to gain the attention and interest of mentors

The more assertive and practical our question is, the better.

For example, it is not a good idea to ask:

“What business should I create to earn an additional 1000 dollars per month?”

or…

“How do I write a bestseller??”

These kinds of questions are not only stupid but also extremely vague for someone with authority on the subject to waste their time answering, because it reveals right away that whoever made the question did not spend much time studying the subject.

But if we try something like this instead:

Hi Mentor A.
I would like to thank you for sharing your amazing work, you’ve been such a big influencer and I’ve learned so much from you that I decided to launch my own business based on your teachings. My market tests results look positive, but I was wondering if you could have a look at them and tell me what you think? I know you’ve worked on this field previously, so your experienced analysis would be priceless.
No pressure on answering back, I’ll understand if that’s not possible at this time.
Thank you again for the inspiration, I’ll keep learning from your amazing work.
-Danny

Or something like this:

Hello Mentor Z.
I’m a long time reader of your work and it has inspired me so much that I start writing too!
I got an offer from a small publisher to publish my first novel, but I find the offer a little low so I’m considering self-publishing it since I have a blog with a few hundred followers that have already shown interest in buying the book.
I know you have used both, so what would you suggest for this case, traditional publishing or self-publishing?
I would love to have your opinion, but it’s totally fine if it’s not the best timing.
Your fan,
-Danny

These kinds of messages separate us from 95% of the usual requests that mentors receive.

This shows them that our contact is not just a random thing we remembered to do while scrolling down our news feed, because we are talking about something that the mentor can relate, and this can make all the difference in the probability of receiving an answer!


A good mentor will gladly help anyone that shows them the will to fight for what they want, to put the work necessary to succeed, instead of relying on mentors to do the hard work for them.

Remember, mentoring is an investment from the mentor. They may not be investing money or expecting a financial return, but they’re investing their time and wisdom, which are usually a lot more valuable than money, so respect that investment and do whatever you can to pay it back, or even better, to pay it forward by mentoring someone yourself.

Success cases

I have been refining my approach technique over the past few years.

Obviously, I’m not always successful, but I’ve managed to get some answers that have helped me very much in different moments of my life.

And one interesting thing I’ve noticed is that the “greatness” of the mentor we’re trying to contact is not inversely proportional to the answers rate.

Sometimes the big names in some fields are actually the ones who are more keen on helping people.

I’ve had Top Performers answering my emails with really thoughtful messages, clearly indicating they’ve spent a reasonable amount of time pondering and replying to my questions.

I’ve also had “nobodies” ignoring me completely, so don’t be afraid of reaching out to “celebrities”, as long as you keep in mind the 3 recommendations:

  • Don’t expect an answer
  • Be humble
  • Respect their time

Pro tip

If you can provide with some value to the mentor on your first contact, that would really help on having positive feedback.

Things like offering a deep analysis of his website, detecting bugs or suggesting an interesting improvement for the sales funnel of his products page, or giving him mind maps of his most successful work for him to share if he wants to, these things can take you some time and effort to create but remember that your asking for something in return, something that can bring you results many times higher than your “investment”.

There are numerous ways to provide value, just don’t make the mistake of asking “what can I do for you”, because by doing so you’re not really offering value, you're giving him homework instead, asking him to waste time thinking what can someone that he never heard of do to be useful to him.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t show yourself available for such, just be sure that that availability isn’t the only thing you‘re deliberately offering as an exchange for their help.

Remember, there are great people out there willing to help you, and if you have the correct mindset and the willingness to learn, you can have a great advantage over all of those who think they are too good to learn from others.

And don’t forget, getting mentored is a gift, show your appreciation by paying it forward.

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Danny Oak

Written by

Danny Oak

Writer | Working Everyday to Become a Better Human and Writing About it | Follow me @ImDannyOak

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +479K people. Follow to join our community.