Even before I ever knew what a mentor was, I was surrounded by them. Now, understanding how impactful they’ve been for me, I’m convinced that we all need a mentor.
I’ve been lucky to have supportive and influential parents. But I’ve also had many others who have cared enough to guide my development.
As a kid I played sports all year long. My coaches served as some of my first mentors and I grew by leaps and bounds because of them.
And going to school provided me with an opportunity to lean on my teachers to be influential parts of my life as well.
Even in my career there are relationships I leverage to use as a support and growth catalyst.
In fact, every time I’ve ever made significant progress in my life, including as an adult, it’s been when I’ve had steady mentors guiding me.
If that’s not enough validation, here are 17 reasons why you need a mentor.
1. They have experience.
Nothing speeds up progress faster than experience. The first time you do something it’s always slower than subsequent times. Having a mentor who has gone through what you’re working toward not only allows you to reach your goal faster, it helps you prevent making the same mistakes they made. There is no substitute for experience. But you can learn from someone else’s.
2. They are honest.
It’s important to have someone close to you who will give honest feedback. Sometimes parents and other close family or friends hold back on being completely honest because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. But you can’t make significant progress if you’re being misled by people trying to protect you. A mentor will be honest, sometimes brutally, but will always do it in the name of helping you get better.
3. They are inspiring.
People who become mentors usually are In that position because they’ve achieved a certain amount of success. As a result, their value as a mentor is not limited to guidance and consult. They also provide inspiration as proof that what you’re chasing can be accomplished. They don’t have to say or do anything, just knowing that they’re out there is an inspiration that we can do it too.
4. They won’t let you lie to yourself.
When things get tough, it’s natural to rationalize why quitting is okay or why we’re not worthy. A good mentor will cut through the bullshit and call you out on your lies. They won’t allow you to make excuses. They won’t allow you to tell yourself stories that soften the blow of failure. Mentors are there to remind you that there is a path to success, especially when you try to convince yourself otherwise.
5. They will listen.
A mentor knows how to encourage. He or she also knows how and when to listen. Sometimes we don’t need to be motivated or inspired or taught. Sometimes we just need to vent. A good mentor serves as a sounding board, able to listen when it’s time to listen without feeling the need to interject with opinions or directives. There is a time for instruction. A time for guidance. And a time for just lending an ear.
6. They have a network.
When seeking mentorship we first think about guidance, inspiration, and accountability. But a hidden (and powerful) byproduct of working with a mentor is access to their network. Mentors are successful people. And successful people have vast, influential contacts. Demonstrating that you are committed and capable will encourage them to connect you with the appropriate people. And who knows, these connections could lead to your next job, your next business opportunity, or even another mentor.
7. They provide structure.
Part of the challenge when pursuing a big goal or a new skill is knowing the best way to go about it. A mentor helps to provide framework in the plan and support during the execution — two pieces that are crucial to any successful pursuit. Find a strong mentor and you will benefit from their ability to advise guidelines, saving time and strife.
8. They see weakness when we can’t.
Sometimes we are too close to our own efforts that we can’t easily see how well or poorly we’re doing. The perspective of a mentor is close enough to understand what we’re seeking, but removed enough to see it with clear eyes. Like a football coach watching from a box high above the field, mentors have greater vision on the big picture and can weigh in accordingly.
9. They ask questions.
Mentors rarely tell you what you should do. Instead, they prompt you to think about the right things when making decisions on your own. Of course, they’re available to provide direct feedback if the situation calls for it. But they are most effective when they ask the right questions and call you out when you dodge them (see #4).
10. They hold you accountable.
The relationship you develop with a mentor goes beyond strategy and guidance. They also make excellent accountability partners. It’s invaluable to have someone in your corner who understands what you are trying to accomplish, has done it before themselves, and will keep you on task as you pursue it.
11. They will pick you up.
You’re going to run into challenges. You’ll have moments (or months) when it seems impossible. The key, of course, is not to avoid these obstacles. You can’t. But you can find a way to fight through them. Having a mentor is like having a personal motivator who will step in and pick you up when you’re feeling defeated.
12. They are free.
It shouldn’t always be about money, but there is something unique about someone wanting to help just for the sake of helping. Coaches are great. It’s admirable work and they can really improve the performance of their clients. But a mentor often looks at it as a way to give back — to help someone who is where they once were. They aren’t seeking to make a living off of their work as a mentor and instead are focused on developing their mentee over the long-term. Again, not a knock on coaches, but more so an advantage of having one or some mentors in your corner.
13. They are not competitors.
Most of the time your mentor will be someone who is far enough ahead of you that you are not in direct competition. Even if you’re in the same area of expertise, it’s unlikely to be a problem. Instead, you are allies, working toward a common goal. In this case, the goal is to make you more of the person you want to be.
14. They will protect you.
Sometimes it’s nice to have someone looking out for you who knows how the game is played. There are people out there who will take advantage of your naivete if you’re not careful, and a mentor will make you aware of potential risks. They’ll also protect you from yourself. Ambitious people are prone to getting out over their skis. A mentor will temper your ambition, keeping you on a path to progress while also limiting the risk of overwhelm.
15. They understand.
We connect best with people who can relate to us. They know how we’re feeling because they’ve been where we are. They understand us. A mentor is al those things. They’ve faced the same (or similar) hardships. They’ve known the same successes. And they’ve chased the same dreams. Mentors are cut from the same cloth as their mentees and that is the foundation of a successful relationship.
16. They are your champion.
We all have insecurities. For those who are prone to modesty, a mentor is great because they will promote your successes and celebrate your wins. They become your biggest champion. Mentors genuinely care about those they are guiding and they will feel as proud of your success as they do of their own — maybe even more.
17. They instill confidence.
The other sixteen reasons all lead to this one. Until we’ve achieved success on our own, confidence can be tough to generate. But the better you perform, and the more comfortable and supported you feel, the more confident you’ll become. And the more confident you are, the more success you’ll experience. It’s a circle that continuously feeds itself. A circle that all starts with a strong mentor.
Convinced You Need a Mentor Yet?
Can you achieve your goals without the help of a mentor? Sure. It’s been done before. It’ll happen again. But it’s not the easiest path. Having a mentor gets you there faster. And with less trouble. Find one. Find a few. Ask for their help and then listen to them. Not only will you see your dreams take shape quicker than you ever expected, you’ll start to build a team of supportive people dedicated to and excited about your success.