Even Warren Buffett Relied on a Mentor
Whether you have traveled far in your entrepreneurial adventure or are taking your first bold steps, look out for if you do not wish your journey to hit a dead end. Don't become so deeply attached to your own views that you fail to tap into the knowledge of those who see life differently or who can see beyond your horizons.
In his book, The Upside of Irrationality, psychologist Dan Ariely refers to the phenomenon of being too wedded to a personal philosophy as the "toothbrush theory." As is the case with a toothbrush, everybody needs and has a philosophy to believe in, but no one wants to use anyone else’s.
I'll admit that setting aside your beliefs and theories requires a degree of openness and courage, especially when you might feel that you already have the answers or wish to give the impression of being knowledgeable about a particular subject. After all, whether you're an entrepreneur or another kind of leader, your followers frequently expect to see conviction in your decision making. “Authority flows from the one who knows," a saying goes.
But the most progressive individuals, in my experience, are secure enough in themselves to admit that they don't always know it all. Instead, they are forever seeking greater knowledge and insight.
And how do they find such inspiration? They encounter it by being humble enough to look up to someone who can help them to see beyond what they know. As Sir Isaac Newton eloquently put it, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulder of giants.”
1. Warren Buffett's guide.
A heavyweight in the world of financial investment, Warren Buffett sought out his mentor Benjamin Graham.
After reading Graham's book The Intelligent Investor in 1949, the author became Buffett's idol. As Buffett has shared in a video clip, the book changed not only his investment philosophy but also the course of his life. Buffett applied to Columbia Business School where Graham was a professor. There Buffett got to know his idol personally.
Later Graham hired Buffett to work at his company, and the two cemented a strong friendship that led to Buffett's transformation into the billionaire investor he is today.
2. George Soros' inspiration.
Like Buffett, Soros sought out his mentor by similar means.
The billionaire investor George Soros is an ardent believer in the principle of fallibilism, the philosophical notion that anything one believes may, in fact, be wrong and therefore worth questioning. A belief in fallibilism has helped Soros consistently challenge and stay ahead of prevailing market wisdom.
These ideas, however, owe much to the philosopher and prior London School of Economics professor Karl Popper, a mentor that Soros intentionally sought out. As Soros revealed, he choose to study under Popper after his book The Open Society and Its Enemies made a deep impression.
3. Simon Cowell's advisor.
The usually unflappable Simon Cowell, the producer of the highly successful TV show American Idol, has discussed turning to a mentor -- billionaire British businessman Sir Phillip Green -- after feeling overwhelmed by life.
In a candid interview with The Guardian, Cowell disclosed that he had experienced difficulty in coping. "I was trying to deal with everything -- my business, the artists, the shows, everything," he said.
"He’s incredibly well-meaning," Cowell said of Green. "And very kind. He became someone I could always go to. He makes you confront everything and find a solution.”
Given how influential a wise mentor can be, I urge you to proactively seek the best mentor you can find.
It's likely that this person will already have great demands on his or her time. But if you're serious about your success and can find a way to impress this potential mentor by your passion, you stand a greater chance of his or her taking an interest in your personal journey.
Not until after I took a major risk in my career of quitting my job as a banker and spending two years researching and writing my second book did my mentor take me under his wing and open up for me a valuable stream of knowledge, people and opportunities that have inspired my journey ever since.
But don’t worry if you’re still struggling to find a mentor. Instead, take heart from another saying: “When the student is ready the teacher shall appear.”