Leveraging Mentors

Learning from others who have succeeded before you can be a difference-maker in your own pursuits. In fact, strong advisers have played a key role in the achievement of nearly every celebrated leader. The challenge is, how do you connect with the best mentors and persuade them to contribute to your success?

I’ve observed that successful people often are willing to give back and “pay it forward.” They likely had someone help them along the way and they may be willing to pitch in to help others.

A good approach is to make a list of 30 ideal mentors that you believe would help you seize your full potential. From there, do your research and come up with a creative, unique, and relevant approach that will grab your potential mentor’s attention. If the person has a particular passion, try leveraging it. For example, if they support a certain nonprofit, make a donation in their honor and send the receipt along with your request for a meeting.

Make sure your approach is humble, thoughtful and authentic. Tell the person about your dreams, and respectfully ask for a single, 15-minute coffee session. If you ask for a weekly lunch, you’ll get shot down just like if you proposed marriage on a first date.

Start small, and build the relationship as you go.

Try a deliberate and personalized outreach to your list of 30. You may get 29 rejections, but if you land just one it could be a game changer. A great mentor can help you by sharing philosophy, helping navigate setbacks, making introductions and offering general support and inspiration. Mentors can become one of the most powerful weapons in your arsenal.

So what if you can’t connect with a strong mentor? Try a “virtual” version instead. Select one of the most inspiring people you can think of, living or dead. It could be Steve Jobs, Oprah, Mark Zuckerberg, or Einstein. Whomever you think could add the most value. From there, carefully and deeply study that person. Read their biography, listen to their speeches, and review articles they’ve penned.

You can find a tremendous amount of information about people of this caliber, which in turn can serve as a potent ingredient in your own success. Even though you’ll never speak to Mozart or Picasso, you can fill yourself with wisdom by studying their lives.

Whatever your goals may be — from business to parenting to community development — there are dozens of real and virtual mentors ready to help you win. Learn from their experience, and you’ll enjoy increased momentum. Make it a priority to surround yourself with inspiring advisers, and watch your performance soar. Let others who have done it before pave the way for your highest level of success.

I’m going to start with Frank Sinatra, the legendary crooner. Whom will you choose?