Getting Advice From A Great Mentor Isn’t Just Useful …
It’s Damn Indispensable If You’re Serious About Discovering What’s Possible On The Path
Mentoring is the process of renting your brain to someone else to use for a while as their own…
– Alan Weiss, Ph.D.
Author of “Million Dollar Consulting”
One of the most significant things that you can do is to allow yourself to receive input from people who have been down the path before you, that you find yourself walking in this moment.
These people know what is on the trail. These are people who understand what is about to come up that you can’t see because it is not visible – and the only reason that they know it is there isn’t because they can see it, but because they have been there before and they know the obstacles, they know the traps on the trail. These people have seen the traps before and they can anticipate from the gleanings in the wind where they’ll be before they see them again. These people also get that even those things that are visible and recognizable to them are sometimes not visible or not available to be seen by someone who hasn’t seen them before.
On the other side of this coin these people also have the ability to sniff out opportunity in the fermentation stage, before it the process finishes and reaches completion where others become aware of it. This gives them the advantage of being where the opportunity will be before it appears. Instead of running with the pack to get to the opportunity after the fact, these people are sitting there waiting for it to appear knowing just where to be and when so by the time the pack reaches them they’re already picking their teeth from the meal they’ve already consumed – and the others are left to dine on left-overs.
Essentially a great mentor has a number of well honed qualities, including but not limited to having “been there and done that” with the t-shirt to prove it. In fact having the t-shirt just indicates the smallest essential part of the puzzle, and by itself alone would never justify adopting someone as a mentor IMO.
Far more essential than just having had the experience would be the learning that was ingested and digested along the way – the stuff that has become part and parcel of who the mentor has become. This shows up in the skill set they possess, and even more plainly in their day t0 day behavior – especially in who they are off stage.
Finding a mentor who has moved beyond “talk the talk” to “walk the walk” may be the single most valuable thing you can do in finding and walking your own path when it coincides with they one they’ve learned to walk so well.
I want to share a little example of this unique skill set.
In Addition To The Jersey Devil There’s Another Incredibly Fascinating Character Living In The Pine Barrens Of New Jersey, And His Name Is Tom Brown, Jr.
There is a man in New Jersey here where I live by the name of Tom Brown. He grew up on the edge of the NJ Pine Barrens, and still makes him home there today. Tom is probably the world’s most outstanding tracker.
As a young boy Tom made a decision that he was going to be a tracker. He spent every free minute he had, after school, on weekends, holidays, over the summers … learning how to track from an old Indian scout who was the grandfather of one of his best friends. They went out tracking together from the time he was 15 years old learning how to find animal tracks in the fields, in the woods and along the streams where he lived.
When he graduated high-school, around the age of eighteen, his father confronted him with a choice; “… go to college and get a degree, or get a job and go to work.” Tom choose getting a job … he would be a tracker. The way he tells the story this didn’t necessarily go over so well in his home at the time, but in a few years he proved his ability and was consulting with police, law enforcement and rescue teams around the United States based on his amazing skills as a tracker.
By the time that I met Tom he was in his 50’s, and was incredibly accomplished. He had worked with law enforcement agencies around the world teaching tracking skills. He ran a tracking school in a place called Asbury, NJ on the edge of the Pine Barrens. which is a remote wilderness area near the southern center of state of New Jersey; and he taking executives and put them through a week or two week program where he would teach them wilderness skills. He specifically emphasized the idea of tracking and noticing for information that was present, but to the untrained eye invisible.
I spent a weekend with Tom learning tracking with him and there was a moment in which we walked around a field that surrounded a parking lot. At the edge where the field met the asphalt of the parking lot there was an area about 10 feet or 12 feet wide where the asphalt of the parking lot turned into dirt, the dirt turned into grass, and then the grass entered into the woods. Walking at a normal walking pace, let’s say about 3 mph, Tom was able to walk the perimeter of the parking lot and point out tracks that were present there – squirrel, fox, rabbit. When I looked down what I saw was dirt, dirt, dirt.
Then we slowed down, and Tom took me down to ground level, he put my hand in the track and said, “Feel this. Can you feel that indentation?” Of course it was there and I said I could. He said, “Look at those two little dots. Do you see them near the indentation?” When he pointed them out I could see the two little dots. He told me they were the nails of a squirrel. He could see moving at a walking pace around the perimeter of the parking lot two little dots in the ground that were the nails of a squirrel!
Tom knew that those two little dots he had seen meant that the squirrel that had left those tracks behind was running away from something, because he could see from the length of the squirrel’s stride that it had been running frantically. We then went backwards and he showed me where the fox had been at the edge of the woods, because the grass had been beaten down in a particular way. We went on this way for about 1 ½ hours. It was stunning. Tom could see what had happened in that small portion of the wilderness several hours before like he was looking at in unfolding before him in the moment.
The world that Tom Brown lives in and was obvious to him … inescapably obvious … was completely invisible to me. After two hours with him I was aware that there was a world out there that was still invisible to me, but I was no longer ignorant of its presence. If I chose to spend two, or three, or five years with Tom maybe I could get to the point where I could walk around the perimeter of a parking lot and see the trail, and the markings of the animals that had been there before – but I couldn’t do it that morning.
Despite the fact that I now know there are animal tracks and a story there in the dirt between the parking lot and the grass I still can’t do it. I don’t have the training, or the skills, or the knowledge to even know what to look for in that small space. But if Tom were walking with me on a trail I know there would be so much more present for me in my world than I ever experience as being present for me when I am just walking that trail by myself.
Walking Along The Trail With A Mentor Of Your Own
The same thing is true of walking along any mentor who knows the trail they’ve lived as well as Tom knows how to track. That domain of expertise can be mentoring in the area of business development, the area of specific skills development or it can be in the area of building a life that works. It doesn’t matter what area of domain of expertise the mentor possesses, if they are skillful enough they live in a world that the untrained person doesn’t ever see, let alone experience. Yet, it would be possible to experience the world in that way if they had a mentor who knew how to find the tracks, signals and signs, and was pointing them out along the way.
Mentors see things that are there, and obvious to the trained eye, that simply don’t exist for the person who doesn’t have the skill set they possess. They create leverage in the possibility of learning and growing that would be impossible to access without that expertise. Mentors make this kind of advanced learning and acuity available to you, and I know of no substitute for it. At every turn when I’ve wanted to take the next steps on my own life’s journey, first before all else, I’ve found myself a brilliant mentor to walk the path with me. I still surround myself with mentors, young and old as necessary and required, to guide the steps I take as continue moving forward in the adventure.
If you are really serious and you really intend to make enormous leaps and gains in any area of skill development or improvement in your life … and raise the level of your performance beyond the capacity that you currently possess by performing on your own … find someone who has been there before and to engage them as a mentor doing whatever it takes to allow them to take you to where you aren’t yet, and they have already been.
A Small Bit Of Friendly Closing Advice
(NOTE: This Bit Is Only For Those Who Are Serious & Thick Skinned Enough For The Raw Truth … Proceed With Caution)
I’m sure you get that the message here has been that when you decide to make the leap of faith required to commit and engage on a path of your own … one you haven’t yet mastered but sense a compulsion to pursue … start by finding a mentor who can and will guide you in the journey you’re about to undertake. What I’d like to share in closing from what I’ve learned about taking this advice myself would be this …
Start by keeping your mouth shut. I know some of you will find that advice harsh. Many of you reading this have likely grown up in a culture where you’ve been taught that “learning should be a participative activity” and that “you should be a partner in the learning experience” and other such B.S. that doesn’t apply here at all IMO. In the mentoring relationship the mentor has the expertise that you do not yet possess, but desire to own for yourself. The fastest way to build the skills you desire for yourself almost always means doing what your told (AGGGHHHH!!!! I know you hate that one!).
NOW … AFTER YOU’VE DONE IT (unquestioningly) … ask all your questions … make all your comments … have all the disagreements you need or want. Because AFTER you’ve done it you’ll have an experience you can talk about that has depth and value … instead of engaging in mental masturbation about what you think but don’t know yet.
I agree that we can’t handle the truth, or it is difficult to handle it , but if you apply the technique of the persuasive communication, I think we can handle the truth at our pleasure !!!
Help me a little more with this one … what do you mean when you write, “persuasive communication?”
Just love that scene! Great lines and also a great actor.
Thank You for sharing.
Joseph, another invaluable insight you provide here. Having a mentor that knows the path, the obstacles, it is the key. Rohn spoke of it at length. That and surrounding yourself with people you want to be like.
My question is, since you have a few 6 and 7-figure earners who go to you, an NLP therapist, to become 8-figure earners, why do they not heed your advice? Why do they go to you, someone who clearly is doing well, but has never reached that 8-figure/year mark? Do you send them away?
FWIW I don’t spend too much time focusing on getting clients from seven figures to eight – money just ain’t that high on my list of the most important criteria in life.
However, by the same token I’m probably one of the best business development consultants out there – and if I’m going to work with someone in this domain it’s likely to be a consultant, coach, therapist or the like in a Private Professional Practice to get them to a solid seven figure practice with a much higher level of satisfaction then they might have imagined was possible.
When I do work with folks around business issues it’s two things IMO:
A) A question of my values and choices. If it were possible to create an eight figure (or even more) income without compromising what is most important to me I would be happy to do so – but so far that hasn’t been the case. I’m unwilling to do what that would take, and I’m willing to accept the consequence of not doing it. What I get instead are the things I get, e.g.: holding the position that I do, pursuing the fascinations I pursue, spending the time with my family that I spend, attending to extending my interests by attending to the things I do …
More simply making money is a pursuit and like all others must be given its due to succeed in that domain. I am rewarded well for what I do as the society I live in at this time values what I do in the way I do it at the level it is valued. I’m unwilling to do it in a way that would be rewarded at a higher level (for many reasons and for discussion another time maybe). Today for instance a baseball player can ask for and get 8 figures in salary … thirty or forty years ago that figure would have been extraordinary if it reached 6 figures. In the U.S. being a surgeon can be a very highly paid profession, in the U.K. it is a much more moderately compensated professional comparatively.
B) One of my heroes was Vince Lombardi, he couldn’t play as well as the men he coached – but he could coach them to play better than they could without him, and from the evidence he was a much better coach than other coaches who had been better players. I myself have had coaches and mentors who were not as good as I was in terms of performance in the domain of their expertise, but as a result of their guidance my performance increased enormously.
I am a great coach for some aspects of business development. You ask about seven figure earners wanting to become eight figure earners, but you fail to mention the billion dollar companies I’ve consulted with at ten and eleven figures. Surely if the logic you imply held it would be foolish for any billion dollar company to hire any consultant who isn’t a billionaire themselves – but I don’t know of a single billionaire management consultant working at any of the major firms or for that matter any of the boutique firms either.
Back to your question though – the ones I work with choose to work with me to supercede their limiting behaviors with behaviors that help them excel. In this domain, helping clients create extraordinary performances, I’m about as good as it gets … but that’s a biased position of course. FWIW I don’t work with everyone who knocks on the door of the consulting room – there are those who are a fit and match for me, and for whom I’m a fit and match as well. One of the most valuable things I possess as well is a “Roladex” with the names of some of the most remarkable people on the planet, so it’s not only me they get ‘`~>
Thanks for the comments and the questions!
Lisa Phillips says
I really enjoy your posts. I agree about having a mentor. I had one about ten years ago, who taught me so much.. even though he moved overseas he still inspires me to this day.
I will continue to read your posts.. Thanks for inspiring me today! : ) Lisa
The idea that comes to mind for me, as you wrote about one keeping their mouth shut in order to learn more effectively, is the importance of ‘listening’ in the broadest sense possible.
Hank – Like speaking well, listening well IMO is an art.
My distinction here with regard to working with a mentor is somewhat specific, i.e.: if you’ve done your homework your mentor is “pre-vetted” – meaning that you’ve checked them out in some way that satisfies your personal criteria for selection and you’re ready to accept advice from them unquestionably to have the experience that will give you the experience you need.
As you work with them you continue to vet the experience of working with them by the input they offer and the results you gain (or not). At some point it is possible that in your mind the mentor will be fully vetted – meaning you have enough personal experience to know what to trust from them and what not to listen to in the same way.
For instance sometimes I’m telling stories to amuse an audience, and sometimes I’m making profound statements with the stories I tell … and sometimes I tell stories just to hear myself speak … a great client/mentee/apprentice will recognize the difference with time.
The challenge some people have with listening is that they don’t know when not to listen. Have a great deletion strategy can be an incredibly valuable resource too.
Thanks for the cautionary words, Mr. Riggio. The unvarnished truth is palatable to those willing to listen. I will take them to heart. Speaking of another silence, the narrative about Tom is about a person so in tune with a different dimension of life, one which is constantly present, but only to those quiet enough to apprehend it. I have often felt that the people who
know these skills are living on a deeper level, and have enormous value to those of us trained in a typical academic way. That appears to be real living….fine attunement with one’s immediate surroundings. I look forward to learning from you.
Marla – My pleasure. Tom was amazing in his skill set for sure! I have spent the better part of my own life learning to track silent signals … and very subtle ones at that. Knowing the precision it takes to recognize a signal of this quality from the ‘noise’ that surrounds them I truly appreciated Tom’s expertise.
Like with all learning experiences it’s useful to take away what you need and what is valuable – and to leave the rest with the trainer/teacher/therapist/mentor/coach/guru … whatever.
Once I was with Roye and I made a comment about to him about trusting him. His reply was succinct and potent, “Don’t trust me … trust my skills.”
Rick Falls says
It is really a pleasure to read your words.
I especially enjoyed “I am rewarded well for what I do as the society I live in at this time values what I do in the way I do it at the level it is valued”.
This strikes me as being a very key issue.
I have had some confusion about the the proper growth path of my business due to it’s seeming conflict with the “growth” businesses that seek to be built into behemoths and then sold off, and I find myself reluctant to go that route, mainly because it isn’t how and where I see my desire.
While there are a few things that I’d like to have done without my involvement, I truly enjoy much of what I do as I guide people local (largely under served) small business towards more effective media opportunities, that involve them as contributors to their projected internet presence, and save them precious time and profits that might otherwise have been spent carelessly on false promises, and I do it all as largely a “lifestyle business”.
I look forward to working with you as you discover any of my remaining, unseen, or underlying causes of any possible inability of my own, to generate sufficient income to support the lifestyle that I’ve come to value more highly, than the larger pursuit of a larger business than I may care to create.
I suppose, if I knew, what you’ll no doubt see in me, I’d be more readily able to just commit to working with you, from the stronger financial position that my work with you will bring.
Soon ! Thank you Dr Riggio.
Rick – My apologies for not coming back a bit sooner, but I have been a busy man these last few days. I don’t think I’ve been writing as much as I am now ever before.
I think you have to follow the basic intuitions you are having about how to direct your business and your activities. However, I’d add in that there is value in considering also “WHY” you are doing any or all of it.
I have some strong ideas about this that I’m writing as another post about the development of the modern business model.
When you’re ready let’s talk about working together … start here: How I Work … and click through the links on that page to Leadership Performance Design and 7Figure Professional Mentoring
Bruce I. Lipton says
A business man whose name escapes me at the moment said, “Listening is wanting to hear.” I also relish in the biological lesson that we have two ears and one mouth for a purpose which is obvious.
I have many mentors that I have never met but travel with me in my mind and my electronic memory for reference. You Joseph are on that I met and I carry with me – thank you for being there for me.
I especially appreciated above the comment about there being a world out there invisible to me and the message that we should not be ignorant to its presence. Walk with a mentor. I do at the level I am at financially. As my finances grow I plan for my interactions with mentors to grow on a more personal basis (there is a Hebrew expression translated meaning eyeball to eyeball).
Thanx … and looking forward to it!
Hi, Joe, thanks for your great article, so deep and useful. I would have a question, for me really important: I am italian, so it is impossible for me to get a mentorship with you – that I appreciate so much, you know -, for so obvious reasons. Right, so is it possible to get a mentorship with you, for a right price, via mail or by your video send by mail, etc.? Best, Raffaele
Raffaele – first, thank for the kind words. Next, I must set up a bad impression of sorts …
I do a significant amount of mentoring via telephone, Skype and on my private Internet video site at JosephRiggio.tv. These are much more affordable ways to access mentoring with me – and you’ve made it clear I need to make these offers more available. Give me a few more days and I’ll make that happen … promise!
In the meantime if you want to set up a time to discuss the various ways you can mentor with me reach out to Niki at niki.d-AT-josephriggio.com, she’ll set up at time for us to speak. The first consultation call with me is always gratis … if you get past Niki’s scrutiny ‘`~>