Mentoring is valuable when someone at the peak of his craft is willing to share his experience and the lessons learned along the way with you. Many people are stuck in limbo trying to find a mentor to help them make the next move. The biggest problem with mentors has always been scalability. If you are one of the millions of people waiting for a mentor to come along, you are probably asking yourself how you could speed up the process. The truth is that your ideal mentor is not coming. Why am I telling you that your mentor is not coming? I am telling you this because mentors are not scalable and you may not even have the connections you need to find the right one.
Mentors belong to a select group of people who we admire and who have accomplished feats that we would also like to accomplish one day, be it running a global business or become wildly successful in our chosen field. There are millions of people looking for mentors. Even the most optimistic and generous of all mentors can only accommodate a small number of people who need the help.
When you finally are lucky enough to find a mentor, he or she may not have the same background. In my sound engineering instructor days, I always cautioned my students against taking literally the advice in books that purport to teach them how to become amazing mixing engineers. The problem with this type of advice is that it assumes wrongly that the reader has the means to create the perfect environment for sound mixing. However, most people are operating in spaces with awful wall symmetry, noisy environment, and low budget equipment. Even an exceptionally talented engineer can only perform at the level of the equipment in front of him. The same line of thinking applies when trying to find mentors. It is extremely difficult to find one, and when you do, he may not have the background to give you the right advice. What I mean here is that you will need to do a lot of extra work to adapt the advice and make it work for your particular situation.
If you are looking for a mentor, you may have to shop around quite a bit before finding someone who might have the ability to provide what you need. To find this person, you need to have a strong network. A group of people that you help when they require help and that will help you if and when you require help. Most people do not understand how networking works. They only look to access the network if they need it. Without a viable network, it’s impossible to find the mentor you want. With a strong network, you stand a chance. This still leaves us with the mentoring problem. So how do we solve it?
To solve the mentor availability problem, I propose you develop models. Anyone can be your model. The only requirement is that you admire the person enough to want to emulate the attributes that allowed him to reach the peak of the mountain. I stopped the search for my mentor half a decade ago ounce I understood that I will not find a mentor with a similar background who can give me the right advice. The beauty with models is that you never have to speak to them, take their time, or make time to meet them. You can create a composite of attributes that suit your needs. You don’t have to take the good with the bad. You can take the working ethics of Quincy Jones, the visionary expression of Steve Jobs, and the persuasive style of Barak Obama because those attributes will best serve you on your way to success. You can still wait for a mentor, but you may have to wait a long time. And while you are waiting, you lose nothing by trying the models approach. Who knows, it might just unlock the door that has been in your way for a long time.