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?

Read More

New Thinking for the New Era of Business

Albert Einstein famously noted, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that we used when we created them.” In our post-COVID world of ...

When an Astronaut Needs a Pen

Ever get stuck on a problem, only to realize you're solving for the wrong thing? That's exactly what happened when the rocket scientists at NASA ...

How Shake Shack Drives Innovation

Do you prefer the crispy mozzarella, tempura watercress, and black garlic mayonnaise cheeseburger or the pumpkin mustard, bacon, cranberries, and sage hot dog? For something ...

Lady Gaga’s Secret to Creativity

Just before she won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, I watched Lady Gaga dazzle the live audience with a pitch perfect performance of ...

Creativity: Does Size Matter?

For some reason, we’ve been taught that for creativity and innovation to count they need to have a magnitude the size of the 1989 San ...

The Lexicon of Creativity

There’s more confusion around the meaning of the word innovation than the chaos at the airline ticket counter after a cancelled flight. Is there a difference between ...

The Brain Science of Becoming More Creative

When we hear stories about iconic leaders like Salesforce.com’s founder Marc Benioff, or widely celebrated virtuosos like Lin-Manuel Miranda for that matter, we immediately think ...

Correct the Overcorrect

When the misguided leaders at Enron, Tyco and Worldcom committed fraud and marred their shareholders with huge losses, the Securities and Exchange Commission rightfully swooped ...

Learning to Color

Fact: Creativity has become the most needed skill in business. It’s gone from a nice-to-have to becoming mission-critical. Fact: Creativity is a learnable skill. All humans have ...