Since I started my entrepreneurial journey, I have been told many times to find mentors. This was something I never even knew I had to do.
From a young age, I knew I had to be with hard working, diligent and smart students so I could become like them. The easiest way to do this is by making friends with people with good grades. The problem though is you end up making friends with people with similar personalities so I didn’t learn how to cope with people that were different.
But ever since I started working, I kind of stopped doing that. In a way, some of my bosses or senior people in my previous jobs were people I aspired to become but I felt less of that in the last few years of my career as some of their vulnerabilities became increasingly clear to me. So as a person, career wise, I have plateaued.
Spiritually, I haven’t grown much all my life because I simply did not know I had to grow let alone how. I tried going to church recently although it was more an intention to benefit my daughters’ schooling. In any case, I felt it didn’t speak to me very strongly.
So to me, the idea of finding mentors was very interesting because it opened up a whole new world and I started growing again.
I have spoken to a number of people in the past few months.
I think one of the key to realise is that there are actually 3 types of advisers – mentors, coaches and consultants.
My understanding is that mentors are people who have been at your position and have succeeded. These are people that you aspire to become similar to and you can simply follow their journey.
I don’t think they have to be the richest person in town but they should be someone that share the same values.
Since they are so busy with their own lives, you probably only talk to them every once a month or couple of months.
It is utmost important to find mentors that are at a really high level though because they can see things at a much higher level and only by that, they won’t limit or more brutally kill your dream, which I think in a way is almost criminal.
“If people around you don’t think what you’re doing is a bit strange, maybe it’s not strange enough.” — Patrick Collison
Not many people would actually realise and more importantly, admit they simply don’t comprehend someone’s dream and let their own ego, self esteem and reality do the job and dismiss that dream.
You must also qualify your mentor, or move on once you realise you guys don’t really match over time after knowing that person better.
There is always an urge to lean on the easy path and go with the person but you will naturally overcome that after awhile. It is like wanting to find a job during your entrepreneurial journey but you will know this is not the right path and go back to your own path after awhile.
Finding the right mentor is actually extremely difficult. There is simply no easy way out and that’s not what you are looking for anyway if you are serious in pursuing this path. It is probably as hard as finding one’s spouse and probably some of us would never find one.
I think it is easy to mistake a coach with a mentor. Even the coaches may sometimes mistaken themselves as mentors but what they are doing are more coaching rather than mentoring.
I guess the analogy of a coach is similar to football managers who never played at the highest level but still became world class football managers.
These are the guys that tell you your blind spots, strengths and weaknesses. Things that are difficult for you to identify yourself because it is inherent in your character. Therefore, coaches are more likely to be paid because they need to work with you quite closely since they need to know you enough to point out what you are doing right and wrong.
Different cultures also have an impact.
Generally speaking, I found that the Chinese are really like grand old Kung Fu masters.
Maybe it is age (they are generally older) or how we were brought up. The Chinese tend to spread more negative energy unknowingly so the apprentices need to overcome this when taking their advice. They have to distil the wisdom from the negativity.
While both Chinese and Western mentors/coaches would demonstrate their experiences to justify their credentials, the Chinese tend to focus more on their own experiences and successes than the apprentices’ personalities or characteristics.
Most Chinese were traditionally brought up that way and they grind through it so in a way, perhaps they believe the stern test is necessary for the mind.
This may create a natural filter but I certainly feel it is quite a high barrier and perhaps not necessary. The problem is that this negative energy is repulsive and builds up ego and cynicism, which affects the learning.
I also think by setting this filter up front, it limits the variety of apprentices. That is, apprentices that could not go through maybe still good entrepreneurs under the right guidance but because there is this subjective filter in place so early in the path, they are being filtered out already. In a way, it is like a great company running out of cash before it could become great.
The Chinese masters are good people with good intent but it is this culture and perhaps lack of understanding of the mind that are having this negative impact. If we are unable to overcome this, this in itself could be one of the biggest hurdle in creating more entrepreneurs because it is the blockade to knowledge transfer.
If there is an option, it is perhaps easier to be more receptive to the Western way unless the Chinese alternative can prove to be significantly better, which is difficult to prove until you know the result.
The Western way is generally more friendly and more encouraging, that is, more positive. Maybe it is to do with how failure is perceived too, the Chinese think of it as losing face whereas the Western way take it as a learning process. The Western way also speaks to the apprentices more specifically, treat them as individuals, what they want, allow them to dream, hence creates a more positive energy and with that reception.
I don’t know whether this is the culture, the way we are brought up, geography, demography or just how society is but my humble opinion is Chinese have more coaches and consultants type advisers.
There are also many great mentors on Youtube, Gary Vee, Ray Dalio, Dan Pena, Russell Brunson and a lot more others. With the variety available, I think anyone can find people that they resonate with. These people are the bridges for me to set up my mindset.
What I mean is that, before them, when I watched interviews and videos of other great people like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, I felt a bit distanced, couldn’t really connect to what they were talking about and struggled to not fall asleep sometimes. Because this was done without context but now with a more growth mindset and better foundation, I can understand better where they are coming from and connect with my own thinking. Perhaps this is the compounding of knowledge starting to take effect. It is like in school, the first year classes are setting up for the second year ones. Unfortunately, in actual life learning, there isn’t really such a thing. Everyone starts at a different place, have different interests, different learning pace so only you can find out how you learn best. The other problem is we are not really encouraged to learn after university.
Another thing I have learned is to build an internal advisory board. This consists of great people whom you respect in real life and in your mind, you imagine they are in a board room at the long table with you as the chairperson, advising you about your life. For me, for example, I have recruited Cristiano Ronaldo for my fitness, though I am failing hopelessly so far but I know he will keep pushing me to do more exercises.
In any case, modern day entrepreneurship is so much better already. A few hundred years back, being an entrepreneur, you need to be a pirate or an explorer, the odds are pretty against to make it alive coming back to your family and children, let alone with actual riches. But here I am just typing away in the internet ocean and giving my daughter a hug when I feel like a break, yet I am scared to death of not making enough money to maintain household income. It is really a different universe.