How To Find A Mentor To Fast-track Your Personal Growth And Success

The 4 Vital Steps

Oprah Winfrey With Mentor Maya Angelou
“Nobody makes it alone. Nobody has made it alone. And we are all mentors to people, even when we don’t know it.”
— Oprah Winfrey

A mentor can cut years off your learning.

But finding the right mentor isn’t easy.

Sure, you can google “business mentor,” or “personal mentor”, but that’s not likely to yield the best results. Commonly it leads to a purely transactional mentor with a one-size-fits-all template.

Before you seek a mentor, there’s work to be done.

As Robert Greene, author of Mastery, recommends:

“Choose the mentor according to your needs and inclinations… People often err in this process when they choose someone who seems the most knowledgeable, has a charming personality, or has the most stature in the field; all superficial reasons. Do not simply choose the first possible mentor who crosses your path. Be prepared to put as much thought into it as possible.”

These 4 things will help you know your needs and inclinations so that you can choose the right mentor.

1. Think Human Evolution

“Acquiring knowledge is a form of imitation.”
Jiddu Krishnamurti

The mentor/mentee relationship mirrors human evolution.

Observe-copy-adapt is the proven model of learning, far superior to being left to your own (isolated) devices.

By listening and observing when more knowledge, experience, or skill than your own is present, you grow naturally.

As you observe, and patiently pick out the gold, you ready yourself to assimilate know how and wisdom into your own being.

Over time, you adapt and make it your own.

For a child, a mentor fosters the delicate buds of potential.

A mentor who can see and acknowledge and feedback a child’s first signs of potential is a precious thing.

Encouraging words like, “you know you’re good at… {writing, painting, speaking, running, telling jokes, dancing, relating…} make an indelible imprint on the child’s psyche, and set a trajectory for self-confidence and creativity.

A mentor can also correct the child’s negative tendencies in a supportive way.

For the teenager, a mentor can turn confusion to optimism.

In teenage years hormones rage, hearts break, and identity has no fixed address. The pressure to achieve academically while strapped to an emotional rollercoaster is a rough ride.

When a mentor accepts the teenager for who they are — warts, craziness, and all — and then guides her to create a better vision of who she might become, a secure identity develops.

For the adult, the mentor can expedite education, business, fitness, and psycho-spiritual development.

You’re never too old to have someone shine a light on your potential and accompany you in developing it.

A mentor can help to strengthen your strengths and work on your weaknesses, which in adulthood become more apparent and troublesome.

Should an unrealized dream still haunt you, a mentor can support you in understanding the loss, or resurrecting the dream in a way you had not seen possible.

2. Examine Your Resistance To Authority

“A great man is always willing to be little.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sadly, many people spend years, decades, or a lifetime without mentors.

The reasons are numerous; fear, ignorance, feeling unworthy, or simply not having access or the desire to improve beyond one’s own knowledge and skills.

But more often it’s pride and wilfulness that rejects the need for mentoring.

To reach out shows vulnerability, something the ego is always trying to avoid.

At any age, too much self-determination and hyper-individualization stunt your growth through isolation.

By refusing the position of the underling, the apprentice, or student you lose opportunities for connection to someone else’s experience and mentoring.

If you are too hurried to get there, to do your own thing, you overlook what will get you there, and who may become your helper.

Even if you are a teacher or an expert, identifying with the student mind will benefit you greatly.

Steve Jobs had many mentors, but as he began to identify with the genius archetype, his character became increasingly intolerable for those close to him.

As Joanna Hoffman (Jobs’ right-hand woman) said:

“He had the uncanny capacity to know exactly what your weak point is, know what will make you feel small, to make you cringe.”

Jobs failed to see the need for a different kind of mentor.

Even when you reach enormous success, you still need to see yourself as a work in progress.

Losing your studentship erodes your sense of wonderment, curiosity, humor, humility and connection with others — the ingredients for remaining agile, energized, and fortunate.

3. Enlist Your Heroes As Mentors

“Heroes live their lives in public, broadcasting their model to anyone who cares to look. I find heroes everywhere I look. I find people who speak to me over my shoulder, virtual muses, who encourage me to solve a problem or deal with a situation the way they would. This is thrilling news, because there are so many heroes, so freely available, whenever we need them.”
— Seth Godin

Long before they met, Maya Angelou was Oprah Winfrey’s hero.

Decades later, Angelou became Oprah’s mentor, and eventually, her friend.

After Maya Angelou’s death, Oprah said this of her hero-mentor:

“She moved through the world with unshakeable calm, confidence and a fierce grace. I loved her and I know she loved me… I will profoundly miss her. She will always be the rainbow in my clouds.”

As Nassim Taleb writes in his book, Fooled By Randomness:

“Heroes are heroes because they are heroic in behavior, not because they won or lost.”

The hero-mentor captures your imagination and somehow mirrors who you want to become and the story you want to live.

You admire how they walk in the world, the traits they exemplify, and this becomes the inspiration towards your personal growth.

Bring your hero-mentor closer.

Rather than seeing your hero as above and beyond you, take him to heart and acknowledge all the things about him that you also want to become.

Study the biographies, books, articles, and manifestos of your hero-mentor. Dig under the surface of the glamour they portray to the sacrifices and choices they made to become who they are.

Examine precisely why they spark your imagination, and how they exemplify the story that you want to live.

Is it their courage, endurance, nobility, competitive spirit, acumen, curiosity, or compassion that lights you up every time you hear your hero’s name?

The hero-mentor’s symbolic value may be more alluring, affecting, and enabling than a real relationship with a mentor.

In fact, you can live in a potent relationship with your hero-mentor and never even want to meet them.

4. Foster Your Inner-Mentor

“If you follow the voice inside you, it does give you guidance.”
Gloria Steinem

The inner-mentor is the most important mentor of all because it affects all other mentors. This is the relationship you need most.

The inner-mentor runs deeper than mentality and emotion, talent and skill, and yet it affects all of these.

The inner-mentor is your intuitive intelligence. It’s feeling self-knowledge as opposed to your opinion of yourself.

Insight emanates from the inner-mentor.

But, as Malcolm Gladwell said in his book, Blink: The Power Of Thinking Without Thinking:

“Insight is not a lightbulb that goes off inside our heads. It is a flickering candle that can easily be snuffed out.”

In other words, the inner-mentor is fragile and needs intentional support.

You meet your inner-mentor when you purposefully develop your inner life.

It’s a process of coaxing it into existence through attention, awareness, and through regular activities harmonious to your personality.

Anything that develops intuition fosters your inner-mentor.

The most direct route is meditation.

Also helpful are meditative activities such as journaling (as outlined in Julia Cameron’s, The Artists Way,) prayer, gentle martial arts and yoga, reading and writing, meditative crafts, and music.

The most common way we snuff out the inner-mentor is through unhealthy consumption. Plastic, stale, excessive food creates a similar type of consciousness — dull and bloated.

Drugs and alcohol inflame insecurities and obscure your ability to hear the inner voice.

For example, recently, a young client told me that he drank heavily a few nights a week for no reason other than his peers do the same. But soon we discovered that he was running from the pain of losing a family member in his early teens.

It took months for him to let go of the drink and face that pain, but in doing so, and by simultaneously taking up a meditation technique to build mental clarity, his inner guide has returned. This young man is now making all kinds of positive, intuitive decisions for himself, including letting go of a destructive relationship.

As exemplary millennial, Ryan Holiday writes:

“This desire to obliterate oneself — endemic to the binge culture of my young friends and peers — is another one I’ve always had trouble understanding. It’s part and parcel with the angst. It’s a cycle — unhappy and unfulfilled, we make poor choices, which lead us to the escapes that make reality more tolerable.”

Conclusion

Your inner-mentor is your anchor and your compass. It shows you where you are, and orientates you to the best possible direction.

Without the inner-mentor you can no longer hear yourself, you bend to the illusions of the ego, and believe that thinking alone is a solution.

Your inner-mentor will guide you toward understanding your needs and inclinations, drive you to seek meaning and purpose, and eventually introduce you to your outer-mentors in a most natural way.

Do everything in your power to find and develop your inner-mentor.

Call To Action

Connect with your inner-mentor and learn to let go of the disempowering beliefs that you accidentally inherited.

Check out my free “Transform Beliefs Checklist.”

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by 362,117+ people.

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