Most advice on how to find a mentor is concerned with how to cold call, how to provide value, and how to connect with top performers in your given field. The problem with this approach is the top performers are often too busy studying their craft to acknowledge your poor attempts of crafting a cold email worthy of eliciting a response.
While the mainstream advice for finding a mentor may prove useful with the right amount of time and applied effort, I prefer to take a different approach that is much easier to put into practice. Even better, my method allows you to learn from the best performers right away without having to worry about getting a response.
A List of my Mentors
As of 2019, I consider the following individuals to be the mentors who have most influenced me:
Nassim Taleb – Professor and best-selling author whose most notable work, The Black Swan, was released in 2007. His fields of study include decision theory, risk, and probability. His website fooledbyrandomness.com hosts collections of his academic research and links to all of his books.
Lucius Annaeus Seneca – A Roman stoic philosopher, statesman, and advisor to emperor Nero from 54-62 AD. His essay, On the Shortness of Life, has earned a permanent spot on my nightstand, which I consistently refer back to when looking for guidance.
Charles Poliquin – Well-known strength coach and author who helped train elite athletes in over 20 sports, including Olympic gold medalists. Find his teachings on hypertrophy, nutrition, and strength training on his website, strengthsensei.com. I currently use Poliquin’s Metabolic Analytics program for curating workout plans to assist in my powerlifting training.
Mark Rippetoe – Another well-known strength coach and author whose book, Starting Strength, is often considered one of the best resources on strength training. His website, startingstrength.com, offers content on mastering the fundamentals of strength training with an emphasis on the squat, bench press, and deadlift.
Shane Parrish – Founder of the Farnam Street blog and host of The Knowledge Project podcast. He aims to help others develop an understanding of how the world works, make better decisions, and live a more meaningful life.
Of these mentors listed, three are still alive and active, one recently passed, and the other lived over 2,000 years ago. I have never met any of them before, yet these five individuals have shaped my thinking about health, wealth, learning, and personal development more than anyone else I’ve ever met. So what is my method for assembling such a team of mentors?
Finding Your Mentors
The purpose of having a mentor is to learn firsthand from somebody that has accomplished something you wish to achieve for yourself. You spend time with them learning about their successes and failures, so you can imitate the former while reducing your exposure to the latter. The goal of mentorship is not about how many hours you spend face-to-face together, but rather how you can accelerate your learning via their knowledge.
My method for making anyone your mentor is as simple as getting to know them so well you begin to understand their thoughts, motivations, and life principles. And the best way I have found to do this is to consume everything they have produced. This can be their books, articles, speeches, videos, etc. Discover what sources of information have had the most significant impact on their life so you can learn from those same sources.
You should think of this process as getting to know your mentors at an intimate level of understanding. Become familiar with the details of their life so you can internalize their teachings. Study their work until you can answer questions about their life, such as:
- Who influenced them?
- What were their biggest fears and failures?
- What systems and goals did they have in place to attain success?
Why this Method Works
Author and motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” If the people in your life are not who you inspire to be, supplement them by learning from those who do. Start spending more time consuming the writings, lectures, and videos of your mentors, and you will slowly start to think and act more like them.
The best part of this method is your learning can be a one-sided relationship. You don’t need to keep open communication or schedule an appointment to extract their knowledge; you get to set the pace. As you spend more time immersed in their teachings, learn to apply the Bruce Lee method towards their work.
“Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”
Choosing Your Mentors
If you’re not sure who your mentors should be, I would suggest you first decide what skills you want to learn. From there, do some research online to determine who the top performers are in your fields of interest. Most likely, some of the top performers will be authors or active bloggers who openly share their knowledge. Find the experts whose content you can’t seem to get enough of and proceed to consume all of their work.
For those of you who already have mentors, but are unsure how to leverage their knowledge, ask them who their mentors are. Discover whose email lists they subscribe to or Twitter accounts they often retweet. Ask them whose books they repeatedly return to or never hesitate to purchase. Knowing who your mentors look up to will get you one step closer to the source of what you want to learn.
Remember, it is those you spend the most time with who end up influencing you, not necessarily the ones who spend the most time with you.