Mentoring is an important aspect of life and business.
For teens, mentorship increases the likelihood of success later in life.
For new businesses, they’re more than twice as like to make it past five years if they have a mentor.
I have been reading a biography of James J. Hill. He was a tycoon at the turn of the 20th Century with railroads, freight and more.
He didn’t start as a tycoon. He came from a very regular farming family in Canada. He moved to St. Paul, Minnesota as a young teenager and began learning the shipping industry. Paddleboat shipping specifically.
He worked his way up through that industry and accumulated some wealth. It was at this point when something interesting happened…
Hill partnered with some very successful businessmen to purchase a bankrupt railroad and turn it around. Hill didn’t have the financial resources to buy it himself…not even close.
Yet these partners wanted to partner with him and the result was one of the greatest success stories in American business history.
Mentors & Partners
Behind many successful people, in business or in other areas, you’ll often find mentors and partners.
Humans look for knowledge throughout life. We look to others for examples on how to live. We look from afar. We foster relationships. We also look to partner. The old cliche about two being better than one is a cliche for a reason.
James Hill had mentors throughout his life especially early in his business life. He also found success with a number of partners and partnerships.
He was a driven man, but without those relationships it’s unlikely he would have reached the success he found.
If you’re looking to attract mentors and partners into your life, here are some tips that can help.
1. Go Where They Are
This seems obvious. I almost didn’t want to discuss it because it seems obvious, but it’s too important to overlook.
One of the nice coincidences in my life has been that I love golf.
Golf has been a great way for me to meet new people. It hasn’t just been businesspeople. It’s been all kinds of people, but usually ones with drive to succeed in life.
I don’t know why, but there seems to be a correlation.
When I was in high school my dad was in a weekly golf league. Sometimes he would have to miss a week and I would fill in for him.
During these leagues I’d get to meet 2-3 new people during the round and also eat dinner with them.
Talk about a great experience for a 17 year old kid. I was very interested in business and a lot of the guys were successful businessmen. I’d mostly just sit there and listen to them talk.
I grew comfortable around them. I learned what they were interested in…
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The key takeaway here is to put yourself in the places where successful people are spending their time. Both business and personal.
Golf is one example, but Jim Hill, the railroad tycoon I mentioned earlier, was very involved in his community. He joined business groups and hunting clubs and sporting clubs. He made sure to spend time with successful people where they were spending their time.
2. Listen More Than Talk
I got ahead of myself earlier when I mentioned that in those meetings I would often listen more than talk.
That’s been a good life lesson for me in many respects, but especially when talking with mentors and with partners.
From mentors, you learn so much just by listening. If you’re having dinner or coffee just ask them about their life. Don’t ask for tips or specific advice.
Get them telling stories.
From those stories you can gain incredible knowledge.
With partners, also listen for what they’re struggling with and what they’re succeeding with. This provides insight into potential opportunities where working together could lead to dual success.
3. Filter Their Information
As with most stories there is a lot of information when you listen to people.
Over time, it’s important to develop a filter for what information is important. It’s not always easy especially at first.
I remember those first few times golfing with those local businessmen. I would hear one say something; almost kind of bragging on himself.
And the next week I’d play with another successful guy that had a different insight into the situation.
What I’ve found is that over time you build a little BS Radar. It’s not perfect science, but the more you listen and the more you pay attention to results the better your radar.
You’ll learn what information is really valuable to your own development and what information you should just bypass.
4. Identify Shared Core Values
This is a big one. You don’t want to overlook this one.
It’s another little thing I noticed about those early golf outings.
Some people just don’t matchup with your way of living. They might be more outgoing than you. They might be less outgoing than you. They might not treat other people the way you want to treat others. Their morals may not line up with yours.
This involves knowing about yourself.
If you’re not sure what your own core values are you’ll have to do some thinking.
What makes you feel good? What acts that you perform make you feel good about your life?
You can also look at others for inspiration on how you want to live your life.
I kind of did that in those golf meetings. There were certain people that stood out to me as people I would want to emulate. These are the types of people I looked for and still look for when it comes to mentors and partners.
Patience is a virtue in any aspect of life.
Even Jim Hill rarely jumped into things. Usually when he was hasty with his work it led to potential issues. In fact, he built his railroad in a very meticulous way. His track was known to be sturdy with low grading and few curves.
It took longer to build, but was incredibly more efficient in the long run. He was all about the marathon and not the sprint.
It’s a good lesson for business and for life, but also good when picking mentors and partners.
You don’t have to pick a mentor just to pick one. Maybe when you’re young you can get to know the first person that shows interest in helping you find your way.
But as you go you can be a little more choosy. And that’s especially true with partners. No need to rush into things if you feel that it’s not going to be the right fit.
6. Identify What You Want In Life
Just mentioned this one a little bit.
When I think of what I want in life I try to think back to when I was a kid. And I also look at kids that are just learning all they can about life.
It seems that we gravitate toward things that we show early signs of ability in. But not always…
Kids are kind of unique. They’ll try things without fear of failure. They don’t even really seem to care about failure at all. They’re just curious to try things…all kinds of things.
Start by thinking back to when you were a kid. Did you like drawing and being creative?
If that’s the case it might make sense to look in the creative world for someone successful. Maybe someone started as a kid with pencils and markers and turned into a fulfilled architect or screen printer.
You never know.
Start with your interests and go from there.
And if you’re still not really sure look to try some new things. Meet new people. See what piques your interest and try out a few things.
When we’re kids we often gravitate toward things that we’re pretty good at. Like a kid that can throw the ball pretty good. He might turn into a baseball player as he follows his passion. Or the kid with the Lego set that turns into a construction business owner.
7. Listen For Opportunity
This has been sprinkled in here and there. And it’s not really that easy. I’m still figuring this one out.
In business, you rarely find that people come right out and express exactly what they need. We often need to see it before we know that it’s good for us.
Opportunity is often born from frustration.
So one way to listen for opportunity is to listen to frustration.
And if you surround yourself with successful people that have frustration you can find opportunity in the form of partnerships.
Jim Hill spent his time around successful freight shippers. They struggled with shipping various goods. He listened to this for years and over time developed his ideas for the most efficient rail system the world had ever seen.
8. Turn Down Opportunity By Default
This was a good one I heard from Toby Keith recently.
He said that he gets about 100 ideas coming his way for using his name in some kind of business a year. He said one of the keys to his success has been to turn down 99 of those ideas.
There are lots of ideas in the world. Many fail.
Many are just not good ideas. Other times, the ideas are fine, but the people with the ideas are not capable of seeing them through.
If you’re going to work with others you need both: a good idea and a good partner.
A good rule of thumb is to turn down much more than you accept. You’ll miss out on a few great opportunities, but you’ll avoid many more potential failures.
9. Look For Ways To Be Appealing
Now here is a key part. I know for most of this I’ve been focusing on what you can get from mentors and partners.
But the whole crux of this concept is the idea that you have to look for ways to be appealing to mentors and partners.
People are good. They want to help others. But they’re not going to give and give and give without something in return. That’s just the way it works in life. People don’t like takers.
And that’s totally fine.
A mutually beneficial relationship is the best kind.
Look for ways you can be appealing to your mentors. See if they’re struggling with some kind of task. Offer to help. Maybe they’re holding some kind of community event. Offer to volunteer or to help organize. There are lots of ways you can make hanging out with you appealing to them.
This also involves just being a good person. Make the other person feel good. Listen intently to their stories. Ask them questions. Make them feeling interesting. Feed their ego a bit.
10. Look For Ways To Give
This is close to the previous one, but it’s just a good rule in general.
The more you give, the more you get in life. And it feels good to give. It feels good to give your time and effort. It feels good to help others even if you’re not sure exactly what you’re going to get in return.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say that the most rewarding things in their lives resulted from things they didn’t do for the money.
And that includes financially rewarding efforts. Even James Hill entered into partnerships with local towns, businesspeople and farmers. He wanted to help them make a life for themselves. He felt good about it.
And he also benefitted financially as well.
Mentors and partners are keys to many successful people. I talked about James Hill earlier, but another one that comes to mind is Stan Kroenke. He’s mega successful in real estate and he also owns a few sports teams. He spent a lot of time with the leaders of Walmart, learning all he could about real estate.
If you can find the right people to spend your time with in life it can be one of the best ways to learn. Follow the tips above and you’ll be putting yourself in a great position to succeed.