Do you know what’s harder than starting a successful business? Starting one alone. There’s going to come a point where you feel like you need a helping hand. Someone who guides your journey, pushes you forward, and shows you the shortcut to the success you desperately crave.
You need to find a mentor. At least that’s what people tell you. Mentors have wisdom that could save you years of time and effort, they have experience that could accelerate the growth of your business, and they have status that represents everything you want to achieve.
But here’s the harsh truth. If you put all your faith in a single person you’re in for a nasty shock.
Here are 3 reasons why mentors are overrated and what you should do instead:
1. Mentorship is a crutch
We imitate successful people because we want to be like them. And that makes perfect sense. After all, if we think, act and conduct ourselves like they do – we will be successful too, right?
It’s more complicated than that. Your mentor represents everything you want to achieve for yourself. But the truth is they couldn’t be more different to you if they tried. They’re established, you’re starting out. They’re experienced, you’re learning. They’re accomplished, you’ve still got something to prove.
But while these differences aren’t necessarily a bad thing, you can become over reliant on your mentor’s ability to bridge the gap between where you are right now and where you want to be tomorrow. And if this happens, it’s easy to feel like you’re living in someone’s shadow.
Take your mentor off their pedestal. They don’t always have the answers to your problems, and that’s okay because they’re human just like you. You don’t need someone to hold your hand every step of the way. Sometimes you need to walk your path alone.
“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” – Buddha
2. Mentorship is out-dated
Finding success in the working world used to be a linear process. You’d start when you were young, devote decades of your life to a single company, and if you were smart, hard working and lucky you’d eventually end up at the top.
That’s why the concept of mentorship made perfect sense. The path to success was predictable, and it wasn’t difficult to find experienced people who had already reached the end.
They offered you a crystal ball that let you anticipate challenges, capitalise on opportunities and act on insights that might never have occurred to you in the first place. Mentorship was the rocket fuel that propelled you to the end of your journey faster than you could’ve ever done alone.
Unfortunately for you, the working world isn’t straightforward anymore. In fact, people are expected to completely change their careers 5 to 7 times during their working lives. The linear path of yesteryear has been replaced by a winding road with many twists and turns, and this constant change of direction is making it impossible for mentors to keep up.
Sure, they’ll be able to guide you during certain phases. But there will come a point where the territory you’re walking in is just as unfamiliar to them as it is to you – and when that happens their advice will no longer be useful.
Stop placing all your faith in one person. You’re just going to end up disappointed. Instead look for inspiration from everyone around you. Try to understand your current situation and seek direction from people who can help you get to where you want to be in 5 years time.
3. Mentorship can be dubious
Mentorship comes in many forms – some more suspicious than others. Yes, there will always be generous people who’ll go out of their way to help you for free, but they are few and far between.
The truth is mentorship is often just a thinly disguised façade for expensive business coaching. It doesn’t stem from a sincere desire to help you or your business (despite what they keep telling you). And it probably won’t get you the results you so desperately want to achieve. In reality, this type of “mentorship” is designed to do one thing – make your mentors rich through consultation sessions and membership fees.
That’s not ideal. In fact, you can quickly start to feel exploited when the money you make is being used to line the pockets of glorified motivational speakers, rather than fuelling the trajectory of the business you are working so hard to grow.
Learning new skills is important. And to learn effectively you need great teachers. But don’t fall into the trap of confusing sleazy business coaches with idealistic, Yoda-like clichés who are willing to bend over backwards to ensure that you succeed. If you do, you’re in serious danger of being manipulated.
It’s time to move forward. Achieving success involves determination, vision and sacrifice. It’s a long, winding road – and sometimes it can get a little lonely. That’s why it’s tempting to reach for every helping hand that comes your way, but sometimes the true test of your commitment lies in knowing which hands to turn away.
Times have changed, and it’s high time that mentorship changes too. Realise when it’s time to work alone, understand when people truly have your best interests at heart, and learn to attract people who help achieve your short-term goals so that you can consistently build towards your overarching vision.
“The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” – Steven Spielberg