Leading Change
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You’re Not Ready For a Mentor…

measuring stick…is a lie. Mentorship is messy but invaluable to my personal development.

Larry Chiang, a friend of mine wrote “5 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make” in Gigaom recently that presented the realities and opportunities of finding and being mentored.

Some great quotes:

“For example, when I taught baseball camp, we never said to any 5- or 6 year-old, “Nope, sorry, you’re not qualified to learn from me” (a high school hero, college zero). No one wonders if the 6-year-old is ready. The ball is one third the size of their head yet they still fling it and catch it decently well.”

“Mentorship is like school but in a more extreme, wilder, crazier way. There is no normal path. For months, a VC (Venture Capitalist) might ignore you, be mean to you, never email you back. And then he starts mentoring you so much, he sleeps on your sofa.”

“There will also be a time when your mentor drops off. You are no longer on their immediate radar Just because you’re no longer tethered to your VC mentor does not mean you should panic. Maybe he doesn’t know what to say. Maybe she is unfocused right now. Being off their radar is not off the grid, so be patient.

Linear relationships always produce linear results; your fourth grade teacher is accountable to teach you only what the average fourth grader is supposed to know. You both show up 5 days a week for 9 months and get exactly what was expected.

A relationship with a mentor is non-linear; as Larry mentioned you may not connect for months, but then when you do they share tips or wisdom that literally changes your life.

How to Maximize a Relationship with a Mentor:

  • Have more than one; spreading out your bets mitigates the gaps in communication, and rarely will all want to meet at the same time.
  • Email, email, email; didn’t hear a response last time? I’ve found that has almost no bearing on whether a mentor will answer the next one. If you really want to break through email them once a day for four days: this may seem obnoxious but if you are polite in each email it will communicate a strong desire to meet.
  • Do 98% of the work; don’t wait for a mentor to give you advice. Have lots of questions, diagrams, books, links, etc to bring up and get their thoughts. Most mentors want to help you with what’s most important to you and don’t like giving general advice.

    Have you pursued a mentor? Any of this ring true? Anything that’s missing?

    Follow Larry on Twitter by clicking here.

    photo courtesy of whiteoakart


    1. like it. biggest frustration with most wanting to be mentored is desire to passively absorb wisdom…that’s a waste of time

      If you want to be mentored you got to do your work and make sure that there’s enough of a person and passion there for somebody to come alongside.

      • agreed. the best experiences i have had are when i have emailed a list of specific questions before a phone or in person meeting. the tone is set so well when there is little room for downtime or awkward silences.

    2. chelsea morrell says

      Totally agree about having a variety of mentors. Some are great for professional growth, others woth personal, and others who spur you on towards Christ.

      I wish the last point about being willing to do 98% of the work was communicated to anyone in a discipleship relationship. The hardest people to disciple are those who have no vision behind their own growth, and the best are the ones who pretty much tell you what they want out of it but are teachable enough to be led in a different direction.

      • yep. feel that same frustration.

        after my 3rd year on staff i started minimizing the time i spent w people who were unwilling to do the work to grow. i found that i saw more fruit from doubling down on motivated/committed students. a great place for me to redistribute my time was with potential/emerging leaders.

        thanks for the comment!

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