LESSON 9You’re Never Too Smart—or Too Old—for a Mentor

Line up any group of people from least to most successful, and you are likely to find that the ones in the more successful half of the line have had deep experiences with mentors. That’s especially the case with entrepreneurs. The other half of the line will have lots of excuses why they never were able to find the right person to be their mentor. “It saves a lot of time, frustration, and mistakes if you have someone who knows what he’s doing giving you advice,” says John Bridge from Chicago, who has depended on mentors while starting four different businesses.

I have benefited from multiple mentors, beginning with the president of the company I worked for in my first full-time job at 17, through every stage of my career. Mentors have helped me become a better entrepreneur, investor, manager, citizen, and, I like to think, person. By definition, a mentor is an experienced guide. The term derives from the character Mentor in the Odyssey, whom Odysseus put in charge of his household and only son Telemachus before he set off for the Trojan War.

Mentors can play any number of roles, depending on your needs:

  • Wise veteran—Willing to give a younger person the benefit of her experience and success.
  • Eager teacher—Willing to pass on specific knowledge and skills to newcomers, peers, or, in the case of new technologies, superiors.
  • Generous peer—Willing to help colleagues or friends learn skills, gain information, network new business ...

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