Thursday, June 12, 2008

Mentorship—A Shortcut to Success

I received an email recently from one of the readers of my book about mentorship. Below are the answers to his questions.

Question: How were your mentor relationships formed?

I have had several mentors and several different mentors are references throughout the book. Some of the people I learned from I have only spoken to on the phone or taken to lunch one time. Others I have a more established relationship. For example, I have sought advice and help from other successful authors on marketing and promotion. I made a list of all the authors I had questions for and wanted to learn from and then began contacting them by phone, email and mail. I was not able to talk with all of them but I was able to talk with many of them and many were very willing and excited to help out an aspiring author.

Others I have established a relationship with. For example, Jack Canfield, author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, was someone I wanted to learn about book marketing from. He has sold over 100 million books. At the time I was working with a publishing company that produced and sold a magazine to corporations for employee training, and I knew that Jack Canfield wanted to do more in the corporate market. I worked with the publishing company and Jack Canfield to create a product that that was a win for both. Jack Canfield flew to Utah to meet with us and I established a relationship.

Here is how I worked with the two mentors that I had most involved relationships with. I was invited to hear a multimillionaire businessman speak by a friend. I went and liked what I heard and liked the guy. He stayed after to talk with people so I stayed until I had a chance to talk to him. I then found out when he was speaking and went to each of his lectures. I learned that after many of his lectures he went out to dinner with some of his partners so I asked if I could come and was invited. At the dinners I tried to sit next to him and asked questions and worked to establish a relationship. I learned that he wanted to write a book and at this time my first book had been published and I was writing other books so I proposed that I help him write a book for only $10/hour. He liked the idea and we began working on a book together. I was able to get paid to learn from him and shadow him as I was writing a book for him.

I first heard of the other multimillionaire who eventually became on of my mentors from my brother who saw him lecture at the local university. I was doing a lecture series at the university so I invited him in as a guest lecturer. I organized the lecture series because I felt prompted by the Spirit to do so and it provided a way for me to meet and establish relationships with successful people I wanted to learn from as I invited them in to speak. After I invited this person into teach and we met and talk, he wanted to meet with me to discuss potentially working together. He had a list of business ideas he needed an entrepreneur to build and I was looking for a business to build. After a couple meetings, we agreed on partnering on one of the business idea and we began working together. This was April 2001. Over the next 5 years, I learned a great deal from him and as instruments in the hand of God, we built the company to over $10 million a year in revenue with $2 million a year in profit.

Question: Do you have any suggested reads on mentorship?

I suggest reading biographies of successful people. I have learned a great deal this way. One of my favorite biographies is Sam Walton by Sam Walton. He was always learning from others. In his biography he wrote, “I probably visited more headquarters offices of more discounters than anybody else—ever. I would just show up and say, ‘Hi, I’m Sam Walton from Bentonville, Arkansas. We’ve got a few stores out there, and I’d like to visit with Mr. So-and-So—whoever the head of the company was—about this business.’ And as often as not, they’d let me in, maybe out of curiosity, and I’d ask lots of questions about pricing and distribution, whatever. I learned a lot that way.”

Question: I have someone in mind but I'm not quite sure how to best establish the mentor relationship. Is there a formal process?

There is no formal process I know of except those at some schools that have setup various mentoring programs. I personally have not had a formal process for my mentors. If you can come up with a way that you can help the person with a project they are pursuing or desire to pursue, you can usually get a meeting and present your ideas and then take it from there.

Conclusion: The Perfect Mentor
Jesus Christ is the perfect example to follow. We must strive to emulate the Savior by fulfilling his directive to “. . . always act like your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:48, Contemporary English Version) If we are to become truly successful and prosperous, Christ is our pattern. All the enabling and perfect virtues are to be found in the Master Jesus Christ. As we follow the example of the Savior, we become like the wise man who has built his house upon a rock. As we make Christ our foundation, we will avoid the great fall of foolish men who have built upon the shifting sands of business ethics and the marshlands of the philosophies of man. Much of the world seeks not the Lord as their guide but the blind “. . . and if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” (Matthew 15:14, King James Version) We should seek our mentors among those who can say as the apostle Paul, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1, New International Version)

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