The Foolproof Tactic to Getting a Mentor

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Ask any leader about the ingredients needed for success and except for a few narcissistic fools, they will all include good mentors as part of the recipe. If you meet a leader who says they didn't have or need any mentors, you should run away as fast as you can.

It seems like at almost every training or conference I attend these days, the topic of mentoring comes up. Specifically, there is a lot of interest and consternation around how to get a mentor, considering a lot of the best mentors are very busy and are probably already mentoring several people.

An unfortunate reality of life is when we have a lot of uncertainty about how to go about something, we tend to put it off and in the end, do nothing about it. Also, no one like rejection so asking someone you admire to be your mentor only to be told “No,” can be one of those confidence-shattering moments. Don’t break into a cold-sweat just yet, though, because there is a foolproof tactic to getting a mentor.

Instead of rolling up on your target mentor like an army, with your tanks and infantry and air support and dropping the big bomb of a question, “Will you be my mentor?” go for a lower-key approach.

I like to call this Guerilla mentoring. To get good mentoring, you don’t need a contract written in blood and a life-long relationship. Sometimes, even just a short conversation for them can be a game-changer for you. So with that in mind, take the pressure off. Don’t even mention the world “mentor.” Instead, ask a question that they can answer simply, but will make a world of difference for you. You can choose your own questions, but here are a few examples to get you started.

What would you say are some of the key decisions you made in your career?

What do you know now that you wished you known when you were my age?

What book could you recommend that had a big impact on your leadership?

If these questions seem familiar it may be because they were adapted from Great Leaders Grow: Becoming a Leader for Life, by Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller.

So the next time you have you’re eye on a mentor, fear not. Ask them a simple question and get much needed mentoring without all the awkwardness of asking someone to prom. Do this enough times and surprise, you will have a mentor without having ever formally asked for them to be your mentor. Just do it. Guerilla style.

Let me know how it goes in the comments below!

The Hidden Key to Success

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Do you know someone you view as a success and who accomplishes an astonishing amount using the same 24 hours we all possess? Do you know someone who seems to get all the breaks and is always in the right place at the right time? Do you remember a time you got a burst of inspiration and dusted off your bucket list? You picked something you truly wanted to do, but upon reflection the task seemed so daunting you never even got started. Cue guilt, shame, throw in a dash of denial and let the hedonistic Forgetting Games begin. My game of choice starts with an “N” and ends with “flix.”

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What is going on here? And what do “they” know that helps them succeed time and time again while I race round and round the track of best intentions with no finish line in sight? You may have heard the best way to hide something is to hide it in plain sight. As it turns out, there is hidden key to success that has been right in front of our eyes all along. It’s so simple, you won’t believe it, but in the past year or so acting on this has had a tremendous impact on my results. Okay, enough teasing, let’s get to the key.

The hidden key to success is to do what is easy.

THE FAKEOUT

The reason this has been hidden is we have a bias towards hard work being the be all and end all of success. You’ve probably heard these sayings growing up.

  • No pain, no gain.

  • Genius is one per cent inspiration, ninety-nine per cent perspiration. - Thomas Edison

  • “Nothing worth having comes easy.” - Theodore Roosevelt

And what images come to mind when you think of accomplishing something great?

  • Scaling Kilaminjaro.

  • Winning an Olympic Gold medal.

  • Any Rocky training montage

After a while, you get the sense that if you aren’t experiencing excruciating pain and struggle, you are a slacker and not deserving of success. Okay, here is where I get to disappoint you. If you think I’m going to say you don’t need to work hard to succeed, that’s not where I’m going. And if you think I’m going to share some secret to EZ Street, you obviously don’t know how horribly bad I am with directions. Just ask my wife.

THE HIDDEN KEY

What I’m here to do is reframe the whole it’s has to be hard all the time or you’re cheating mentality. In fact, for most people, the reason they never succeed is they never even got to the hard part because they failed to do the easy thing that preceded it. In other words, the first step is usually not be a supreme test of your will and motivation. More often than not, it’s as easy as getting off the couch, making a phone call, or pressing a button.

This hard work mentality hurts us in two specific ways. First, it makes us think that every action must be hard, which I think is ridiculous. Ask anyone who has succeeded in anything. I dare you. No one, and I mean no one will tell you that it was hard all the time. Second, it stops us from taking easy first steps that get us headed in the direction of success. Let’s get back to Kilimanjaro. If you focus on the climb, you’ll never see the summit. Instead, any one of these EZPZ steps will help you more.

  1. Get off the couch and start walking more to boost your cardio.

  2. Call someone who has experience mountain climbing and learn from them and get excited about the prospect.

  3. Hit a key on your computer and read an article about the basics of mountain climbing.

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All of these steps are super easy and a first step in being successful. Nobody starts scaling Kilimanjaro by scaling Kilimanjaro. That’s simply a non-starter.

A few examples from my own life.

  1. I pressed a button to apply for a KPMG task force. The application was already filled out by me earlier, I just needed to press “SUBMIT,” but I hesitated. I finally did hit the button with about 15 minutes left until the deadline and as a result, I’ve met fantastic people I never would have met and had many more opportunities to grow.

  2. I called a woman I met at a volunteer event who was recently laid off and asked her to send me her resume so I could enter her into my company’s referral program. She agreed and about 3 months later, I had a nice, fat referral check in my bank account. I felt almost guilty accepting the money, but I quickly moved past that.

  3. I got off my couch and drove to a local Aikido dojo to check out the class and pick up training after being physically passive for several years. I was rocking the stereotypical dad bod. Or maybe you prefer corporate marshmallow. After a year or so of training again, my energy and fitness levels are much improved.

Bonus tip: In everything you do, exercise the principle of EZPZ.

"In everything, be as soft as possible and as firm as it takes."

Think about your golf swing. Or disciplining your child. Or negotiating a deal.

Only fools go harder than they need to out of some sense of ego, hubris or insecurity - take your pick. Really successful people, and I don’t mean just materially successful, know how to lose AND win with grace. They know that sometimes they will be up and sometimes they will be down. They save their energy for when it matters. Finally, they have compassion for those with whom they compete as members of our shared humanity.

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NEXT STEPS FOR YOU…

  • Think about that thing you keep telling yourself you are going to do, but never get around to doing. Pick the biggest and baddest one.

  • Come up with one, eensy-weensy, teeny-tiny step you could take to get started. The smaller and easier the better. We’ll call this STEP 1.

  • Commit to nothing other than STEP 1. If you think about anything other than STEP 1, I’m here to tell you that’s quite natural and what has been sabotaging you in the past. The key is not to dwell on those pesky future steps. Acknowledge them, let them pass and refocus on STEP 1.

  • Finally, as soon as you can, perhaps now, do STEP 1 and see what happens.

Good luck!

If you try this, I’d love to hear how it goes. Please email me or leave a comment below. Thanks!


P.S. If you need a little inspiration, look no further than a Rocky training montage. Which one is your favorite?

The original is the classic and obvious choice, but then again, I’m torn between the transformation that results from Rocky and Apollo training together in Rocky III and the scenes from Rocky IV training in the Soviet Union juxtaposing his low-tech, natural regimen with Ivan Drago’s high tech, chemically-enhanced regimen.