Make the move from burnt-out employee to visionary entrepreneur by surrounding yourself with the right mentors and the right ideas.
“Be more interested in them than trying to get them to think that you are interesting.” -Geoff Woods
The Cheat Sheet:
- Learn why you should consider making the move from employee to entrepreneur.
- What are the five steps you can take to find your ideal mentor?
- How do you grab a potential mentor’s interest?
- Become a person who constantly adds value to the mentor-mentee relationship..
- Discover what it takes to become a master networker.
- And so much more…
What is a mentor? It’s a word that’s thrown around with such abandon that it’s hard to always know exactly what someone means when they use it in a sentence. To clarify, Geoff Woods defines a mentor as “someone who is light years ahead of you in a specific area and they give you their most valuable resource: their time. They pour into you with the sole goal of accelerating you in that specific area.”
The mentor-mentee relationship goes beyond casual advice thrown your way during a conversation or two; it’s a meaningful friendship based on one person (the mentor) acting as a teacher to the other (the mentee). But it’s not a one-way street; a good mentee knows how to bring their own value to the experience in ways that benefit the mentor. In episode 428 of The Art of Charm, entrepreneur Geoff Woods tells us how he cultivates such relationships and shares what he learns with the world in his podcast — appropriately dubbed The Mentee.
More About This Show
When Geoff Woods was faced with a drastic and instant pay cut at his sales job one day, it was a wakeup call. It began his quest to pursue passive revenue streams that would get him and his family through any other unpleasant economic surprises that might lurk in their future. But how does one begin such a quest to go from employee to entrepreneur? Geoff considered a famous quote by entrepreneur Jim Rohn: “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
Now, he surrounds himself with people who are where he’d like to be in 10-15 years — mentors who have succeeded in their chosen endeavors and are willing to spend some of their precious time giving him life-changing advice. To pay it forward, Geoff hosts The Mentee, a weekly podcast that allows him to share the bounty of this acquired wisdom with others who are on a similar quest.
There’s nobody so brilliant that they can’t be served by association with a mentor — or many. Warren Buffet had a mentor (The Intelligent Investor author Benjamin Graham). Bill Gates had a mentor (Dr. Ed Roberts, father of the personal computer). Even if you don’t aspire to accomplish as much in your lifetime as these heavy hitters, there’s no denying that establishing a good mentor-mentee relationship will make you better at what you do — whatever you do.
Five Steps to Finding Your Ideal Mentor
In order to find a mentor who will be a good fit, Geoff lays out these five steps that should help you figure out where to begin looking — and what you’re looking for.
- Get clarity about what it is you want. If you’re not focused on this first and foremost, you might waste a lot of time and get discouraged about the process. You want this to be a positive experience!
- Start talking about it. It’s like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon; you may not realize how close you are to meeting your mentor (or Kevin Bacon) by way of people who you already know. Geoff says that 80% of everything you need is already within your circle of influence. Even if the people you talk to about a goal you’re trying to accomplish or a solution you seek aren’t in that area of expertise, they may know someone who is and help you connect. (Likewise, you may help them do the same — and you’ll be in their thoughts if they happen upon a way to help you in the future.) Geoff recommends pausing the podcast and calling up a close friend right now with the sole intention of touching bases and letting them know what you’re trying to accomplish. It’s easy. And as you learn to incorporate this into all of your conversations, you’ll be amazed at how chances to connect with potential mentors (as well as other opportunities) will begin to find you.
- Get out of your house and hang out with people. Go to the events, seminars, conferences, and places where like-minded people gather. Geoff says that trying to get a little time with a potential mentor by approaching them in person may still not work every time, but it’s worth the practice. As he tells us: “I get a lot more yeses now than I used to.”
- Be more interested than interesting. A potential mentor has a lot to offer (which is what attracted your attention to them in the first place); on the other side of it, you may feel like you don’t have much to offer in return. We talk about this in more detail below, but focus on letting this person know what it is about them that fascinates you rather than trying to impress them with stories about your own accomplishments.
- Lather, rinse, repeat. Keep doing it. It’ll all become natural to your routine the more you practice.
How to Introduce Yourself to a Potential Mentor
When you feel like a fresh-faced nobody with nothing to offer a potential mentor, it pays to do a little background digging to find out what they’re passionate about. As Geoff says: “Be more interested in them than trying to get them to think that you are interesting.” If you know that this person will take time out of their day to support educational initiatives in Africa, for instance, Geoff might recommend approaching them with this kind of an introduction:
“I know that you do a lot of work in Africa and you’ve been working on these initiatives with the education system; I have some people I’d like to connect you with. Could we schedule a time — 10 minutes — for me to learn specifically where you need help so I can form the right connections for you?”
There’s still no guarantee this person will be motivated to give you any of their time, but chances are good that most approaches they get aren’t as memorable. Geoff had the advantage of a sales background that gave him the confidence to try exactly such an introduction with entrepreneur Jeff Hoffman (and it worked, by the way). If he had the self-limiting mindset of a lot of introverts he knows, he could have given up before even trying — which is what the majority of people do.
Finding Your Own Value as a Mentee
When trying to ascertain your own value to the mentor-mentee equation, Geoff has this advice:
“Look at every interaction you have with a person as a puzzle piece. If I were to open up a big, 500-piece puzzle for you, jumble all the pieces — you never saw the original picture — you pick up one piece, you have no idea what it is, what it’s going to lead to, where it could possibly connect. As you continue to gather these puzzle pieces, you start to find that certain ones will connect together; you start connecting people. You continue to do this, and all of a sudden you start to get a glimpse of what the big picture is until the point where it’s totally unveiled for you.
“As you go out and meet new people with the sincere intention of just getting to know them — they’re a puzzle piece. And you never know when you’re going to meet another person [who] you can connect [with that piece]. In that moment — [by making] that connection — you have value. When you bring two people together, you are valuable. This is when it really starts to spiral and compound. Everything changes when you become a connector.”
How to Find Time for a Mentor
Geoff concedes that we’re all pretty busy, and trying to incorporate new routines — like finding and interacting with mentors — can seem overwhelming. So every night, before he goes to bed, he acknowledges the four things that are most important to him: his medical device job, his own business, his family, and himself. He asks himself one question: “what is the highest income/impact action I can take for each of these four things?” Then he writes down the answer for each on a sheet of paper. In this way, he identifies what’s really important to tackle the next day, and he transfers it all to his calendar. By pre-assigning tasks to specific times every day, he already knows what the best use of his time is without wasting it by pausing and considering his next move.
Geoff says: “As soon as I started doing this consistently, I was getting more done in a day than I was getting done in weeks before. All of a sudden, I freed up time to make meaningful connections with people.”
Geoff has lots more to say about seeking mentors, being a mentee, and the joys of sharing what he learns with the rest of us. Tune in to episode 428 of The Art of Charm for the full story!
THANKS, GEOFF WOODS!
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