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Thomas De Moor for X-Team

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How to Find Mentors Who Serve as Stepping Stones to Mastery

As we scour the Internet for life hacks that will make us that tiny bit more productive and efficient, we neglect the single best, time-tested recipe to become better at what we do: a mentorship.

It feels like an antiquated idea, a throwback to Medieval Times; the experienced person teaching his protégé how to improve their craft. In the age of instant information and razor-sharp tweets, a mentorship feels imperfect, cumbersome, too slow.

Ironically, it's the fastest way to a better you. You walk in the footsteps of someone who tells you where the rocks are. "Watch out here, don't step into the mud, walk this way instead," they say, laying bare the tacit knowledge and hidden connections of your field so you achieve your goal in one year instead of three.

"But why would anyone want to mentor me?"

This is a good question that requires a multi-faceted answer. Firstly, it's important to realize that you are worthy. Self-doubt is harmful and should have no place in your thoughts. You're not making a realistic assessment of yourself by questioning your worth, because you're judging yourself based on your assessment. Additionally, "realistic" is the dream-squash word people use as an excuse not to improve their lives.

If you want to make an accurate, objective assessment of yourself, it should simply be "I'm here now, this is where I want to go, and this is how I think I can get there." No emotions attached. It's with this mindset that you should answer the question of why anyone would want to mentor you. Because you're right, why would anyone want to mentor you? It's not because you were able to fix the printer that Bill Gates will agree to mentor you.

The shift in perspective that's required here is that you don't need the best mentor. You need a mentor who's better than you. Immediately, thinking this way, there are thousands of people that you can find online who would be willing to mentor you, in whichever field you like.

The next step is to get on the radar of those people. Read their blogs, buy their courses, join their Facebook groups, reply to their tweets. A mentorship is never one-sided; it's symbiotic. Add value to their lives and they will add value to yours.

Additionally, once you've established an online relationship with your mentor, try to meet them in person. The Internet is wonderful, but so are two coffees on a table. You'll stand out from all the other people vying for your mentor's attention if you meet them in person, and they'll feel more inclined to help you as a result.

As Robert Greene says in his book Mastery, your goal as a mentee should always be to surpass your mentor in brilliance. As such, the approach of a "better is good enough" mentor implies that you'll need multiple mentors as you get better at what you do. Think of them as your stepping stones to mastery.

Summon the Counselors

I appreciate I might just have said that Bill Gates won't give you his attention, but that's not entirely true. There is a way to get not only his attention, but the attention of anyone you want, even if that person is no longer alive. And no, it doesn't require an Ouija board. I present to you: the cabinet of invisible counselors.

The general idea of the cabinet is that you picture yourself together with the mentors you've always wanted to have. Personally, when I close my eyes, I see myself sitting around a table with Leonardo da Vinci, Elon Musk, Ursula Le Guin, Isaac Asimov, Richard Feynman, and Alan Watts.

Whenever I have a difficult decision to make, I consult my invisible counselors and hear their opinions. Considering the diverging personalities of these individuals, their opinions might differ wildly, but that helps me see things from different perspectives.

Of course, for this to work, you need to know these individuals in and out. You need to know what they look like and you need to be intimately familiar with their work. Ideally, you'll have read biographies about every individual, so you understand their personalities. The better informed you are about your cabinet of counselors, the better they'll be able to help you.

I know this idea might sound a little out there, but it comes from a reputable source: Napoleon Hill presented it in his seminal book Think and Grow Rich, published in 1937. It was the book that single-handedly started the self-help industry.

There's no need to make this too mystical. The cabinet of invisible counselors is simply a good technique to look at a decision or a problem from different angles, through the varying personalities and viewpoints of people you admire. It does not serve as a replacement for a real mentor, but it's a great way to make better decisions.

In Conclusion

Mentors place you on the highway of success. There are many willing to teach you their craft, because you are worthy and because you needn't be taught by the absolute best, but simply by someone better than you. Create a symbiotic relationship with them and aim to surpass them in skill. Then, repeat the process.

Additionally, create a cabinet of invisible counselors who can offer you guidance on difficult decisions and problems. Learn about their lives as best you can and listen to their advice. Behind closed eyelids, there's a mountain of wisdom.

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