A Funny Acronym Reveals the 4 Keys to Gaining a Mentor

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It’s something we all want: A successful mentor who can guide, inspire and open doors for us. Someone who can teach us their ways and help us achieve our dreams.

But how do you get someone who is so busy and so successful to want to mentor you -- over everyone else?

Funny enough, the answer lies in a TV show.

Related: 7 Entrepreneurial Lessons a 'Happy Days' Star Learned From an Unlikely Mentor

Alec Baldwin’s character in NBC’s 30 Rock, the GE executive Jack Donaghy, said in one episode:

I don't choose my mentees lightly. They have to have the drive and ambition to be worth my time. The intelligence to understand the challenges they're going to face. The humility to accept my help. And finally, a life that is a bottomless swamp of chaos. Drive, intelligence, humility, chaos, or the acronym DIHC. I'm looking for d**k … and I'm going to take it wherever I can find it.

Clearly, the acronym makes for good comedy. But when examined closer, those four keys can teach us a lot.

1. Drive

Why would a successful person mentor you over someone else? Because they can sense that you have more potential than the rest.

And how do mentors sense potential? They can see it in your eyes, in the heat of your face, in the tone of your voice -- and most clearly, in the size of your ideas.

Successful people don’t want to waste their time mentoring someone working on small things. You need to show your mentor that you’re making no small plans -- and that you have the burning desire to will those plans to life.

A warning: It’s possible to have too much drive, to the point that you can come off as arrogant. Be conscientious of this and remember that being likable is just as or even more important than any of these four keys.

2. Intelligence

A mentor can open a door for you, but you need the intelligence to know how to run through. You need to show your mentor that you have the ability to figure stuff out and make the most of opportunities.

If a mentor is going to invest their time and resources into you, they need to be certain you have the aptitude to put their advice to good use. Again, you need to prove that you’re a worthy investment.

A practical tip: If your mentor tells you to do something, and you don't fully understand what it is, don't go back to them a week later and say, "Oh, I didn't do it because I couldn't figure it out."

Rather, hustle and figure it out yourself. If you still have trouble, go find another teacher to help you figure it out. Or just Google it. Of course, it’s important to be authentic with a mentor, but you also don’t want to come across as lazy when you could have figured it out with a little extra effort.

Related: Why Would a Successful Entrepreneur Hire a Coach?

3. Humility (the most important one)

Why is this the most important? Because humility not only helps you get a mentor -- it helps you keep one.

People tend to get the words humility and modesty mixed up. Humility is an internal sense of gratitude whereas modesty is a facade of meekness. Being humble is one of the most important virtues in life, it is a state of gratitude in which you acknowledge that all the opportunities available to you today are thanks to the tracks laid out by the people who came before you. Modesty, however, is an attempt to mask how awesome you are as a way to charm others. Modesty is fool’s gold.

How does this play out in life? If you take the advice of a mentor, put it to use, succeed and then thank your mentor, it creates a positive-feedback loop that reinforces your mentor’s desire to continue helping you. To put it simply: people like to help others who are humble and grateful.

Another tip: Use your mentor’s birthday as a chance to really let him or her know how grateful you are for them. No, don’t buy presents. Monetary gifts are actually counter-productive. What’s best is for you to carve out a few hours and write a hand-written letter. Let them know how much they mean to you. Don’t just say you’re grateful, explain why. Write from the heart.

4. Chaos 

OK, Jack Donaghy took this one a bit over the top, but the core of it is true: you need to show some vulnerability.

If you try to engage a mentor and tell them: "Life is perfect! I'm crushing it!” then why do they need to help you? Be honest. Be yourself. Authenticity is always the key.

But be careful: There's a point of over-vulnerability. A mentor, at least in the early phases, does not want to deal with someone who has so many problems that they are a total mess. Don't come crying and dumping all of your personal problems on your mentor's shoulders. Stick to one or two professional areas that you want to improve upon, and then you can move on to more personal things later. 

How to pay back your mentor

There's no question that mentors are a key to success. Warren Buffett had Benjamin Graham. Kanye West had Jay Z. Oprah had Maya Angelou.

Mentors are the secret turbo fuel that will help you launch your career.

And you want to know the best way to say thank you to your mentor? Pay it forward. Use what your mentor taught you to help others.

It’s the circle of life.

When you get, give. When you learn, teach. -- Maya Angelou

What do you think is the fifth most important key to gaining a mentor? Share your insights with the community in the comments section below.