Since I have been fortunate to have had several life-changing mentors in my life, mentorship is a topic I explore frequently.
It is also one of the most popular discussion points in business. It’s no surprise that having a mentor can be one of the greatest gifts you could ever encounter. The challenge, however, is knowing how to both attract a mentor, and/or recognize when the opportunity has presented itself.
The reason most people never find a mentor is because, although they “think” they are looking, they are not ready for a mentor emotionally.
The mentor/apprentice relationship is emotional
This is what people do not understand.
From a mentor, you are not learning in the logical sense. You do not show up to a classroom every day where the mentor takes to the dry erase board and proceeds to explain to you, in detail, everything you need to know.
It’s the complete opposite of that.
A real mentorship is where you put your full trust in someone else. You forgo your ego, you give up trying to prove how great you are, you throw caution to the wind and you, literally, follow them around. You soak up everything from them — the way they open doors for people or order their dinner. You embody what it means to be an actual apprentice by stepping into their shoes. You walk with them. You talk with them. And you learn by following in their footsteps.
The reason most people never experience all the joys of a true mentorship is because they don’t have the guts to walk in someone else’s shoes — that’s the truth.
It takes guts to remove your ego. It takes guts to place your full trust in someone else. It takes trust to show up, every single day, and accept that you are going to feel so outside your comfort zone that it is going to make your stomach churn.
It takes guts to say, to someone you look up to,
“I don’t know what I don’t know.”
99% of people think admitting this is a weakness. Which is why 99% of people never find a real mentor.
The reason a mentor takes the time to teach someone younger, someone inexperienced, is because they see an opportunity
They see someone who is willing to put their ego aside to learn.
Someone who isn’t afraid to say, “I don’t know what I don’t know.” Someone who not only opens themselves up to be taught, but is also extraordinarily appreciative.
That’s the real challenge: Learning how to be appreciative of an opportunity that makes you feel uncomfortable.
Where a lot of people go wrong when seeking out a mentor is falling into the trap of thinking they have something to prove. They walk into the room wanting to show how much they know, instead of shutting up and just listening. They walk around wearing the discomfort on their face — they can’t stomach being seen as the “apprentice,” the “one who doesn’t know yet.” They focus entirely on protecting their ego, and as a result, they miss the opportunity.
A mentor has no interest, and no reason to teach someone who thinks they already have the answers — or worse, someone who wants to prove so badly how much they already know.
The sad reason most people never find a mentor is because they aren’t ready emotionally.
They could be very smart, very driven, successful even. But they are not capable of stepping back, setting their ego aside, and saying, “I don’t know what I don’t know. And I am ready to learn.”
I can confidently say, with every mentor I have ever had, I knew when I wanted to quit when it was hard. I could feel it. It wasn’t a thought — it was an emotion. A twisting in my stomach that wanted so badly to stop feeling uncomfortable. I wanted to be comfortable. I wanted my ego massaged. And I learned to recognize that feeling as a brutal truth: I still had more to learn.
And I can also confidently say, with every mentor I have ever had, when it was time to part ways, I did not do so because I felt like I had “learned everything.” I did not do so because I felt “better” than them. And I didn’t do so because I “couldn’t stomach it anymore.” I moved on because the path presented itself. An opportunity. And I knew it was the right time based on how I felt.
You do not find a true mentor through logic and reason.
You do not find a true mentor in the conventional sense.
You find a true mentor when you open up yourself emotionally to that vulnerable experience.
When you are willing to say, “I don’t know what I don’t know — and I genuinely want to learn.”
You have to set your ego aside.
And most people can’t do that.
This article first appeared on Medium.