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The Importance of Mentors

Do you really need a mentor, and how do you know when you've found "the one?"

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Trainers can't make you fit, coaches can't make you perform and mentors can't make you learn, but simply put, a mentor can help you go from being stuck to getting unstuck.

Back in 2016, as a trainer, I attended a life-altering talk and began the journey of self-transformation. I aligned with the vision and values, traits and skills of my first mentor. I found my voice. I learned so much from the programs, watching him on the stage and interacting with people, I understood what it meant to be a leader.

In 2018, I was so impressed by another mentor's freedom lifestyle, and it dawned on me that I also wanted to teach virtually. I implemented a digital ecosystem model, and now hundreds and thousands of my students follow the same. A third mentor taught me the mechanics of re-engineering oneself and following a code of honor while I mastered the discipline necessary for living as a digital guru. The value systems of all three mentors integrated seamlessly.

Related: This Is Why You Need to Find a Mentor Right Now

Who is a mentor?

Between a mentor and mentee, there exists a trusted bond, a meaningful commitment. It is modeled on an ancient expert and novice relationship, where young people learned a trade by shadowing a master or living in a gurukul. Now, you receive career advice mixed with professional and personal enrichment. Then and now, a master would help, but it was clear that your degree of growth was your own responsibility.

A mentor is someone who is a guide, a coach or a teacher, in different spaces. You need a guide who can help show you which direction you should go, a coach to help deliver what you're aiming for and maybe do some things better, and a teacher when you need more and more information.

By choosing the right mentor, you can save thousands of hours, or possibly years, learning the ropes instead of a trial and error approach. A mentor will not be recommending tools to merely promote them. They will aim to provide a solution that will help their audience move forward.

Most people look for a mentor based on feelings of trust or admiration. I could see a common thread between all my mentors in that they put family first, they were spiritually grounded, they were freedom-focused, not fame-focused individuals, and all their content was defined by value.

Related: 6 Factors You Must Consider When Choosing a Mentor

What are the traits of a mentor?

Does your mentor walk the talk?

Look for someone who, through their skills, can give solutions faster because they have tried and tested the methods they recommend with a high skill level. Their actions will create the most lasting impression.

They lead by example. Mentors have probably been good mentees themselves and always attribute their knowledge to their guiding lights. Most mentors learn from multiple places. You cannot learn to be a mentor by reading a book. After their learnings, mentors develop and apply a system with proven results, and then take it out there. Their ideal is the golden triangle, which is to learn, to do and to teach continuously.

Are they lifelong learners?

They must have their ear to the ground and respond to the marketplace with messages that are relevant. Technology is constantly evolving, making mentoring difficult, because leadership responsibilities constantly shift. That means their vision is bigger than their egos, and they can course-correct. They can reshape their ideas for the benefit of their mentees.

Are they respectful, neutral and non-judgmental?

The relationship is not primarily about them; they are building their communities. Members with different backgrounds must be respected. Varied viewpoints must be considered. No one should feel intimidated or that their views are not valued.

We now live in a digital world where learning is virtual, and there is a two-way transfer of experience and perspective. My definition of a mentor is anyone who can help you make progress towards the goals that you want to achieve. This includes the concept of reverse mentoring, where someone with less perceived experience is valued for their fresh perspective.

Overall, a collaborative spirit rather than a competitive spirit is best. There should be only constructive criticism of the learners. Tough love, but with pure intent.

Can you have multiple mentors?

In my personal opinion, choosing multiple mentors, simultaneously or over some time, can prove to be beneficial.

At the beginning of the journey, or at the start of a new career, look for someone you resonate with. A more job-specific mentor may be a good fit. A suitable mentor for you might be someone who is technically skilled and gives tangible, practical solutions to your problems. Later, you may look elsewhere for further personal and professional growth. One size does not fit all.

You may not necessarily need more knowledge and information. You could be looking for a mentoring relationship because of an intrinsic need to do better. Sometimes, mentors are best at simplifying concepts. You may manage your own learning and hone your skills, but the mentor plays a role in improving your performance. They help you step into your power and lead, so you maximize your true potential.

Once you've found a mentor with a value system you align with, follow on with teachings complementary to this, because only then can you grow with compounding of actions. When Albert Einstein was asked what he thought was the biggest wonder of this world, he said it was compound interest — not just in relation to money, it also has to do with your actions. If you stick with something long enough and keep improving it, it will hit an exponential growth curve at some point.

In your journey as a mentee, you need to be open. Empty the cup, be ready to learn. You cannot go with a cup that is full and expect the mentor to do his or her job. For the mentor, the single most important principle to follow is that no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.

Related: To Be Your Best, Choose Your Heroes and Learn From a Mentor

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