STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTSReading Time: 6 minutes
Imagine this. You are just about to trespass into a new place and you do not have a map of the area. You have two options. You can either go on your own and figure out your way or you can ask someone to guide you around. Which one do you pick?
Maybe that wasn’t interesting enough. Let me give it another shot
I once paid an entrance fee to a national park TWICE. Not that I visited the park twice on that day or I had previously attended on credit. No. I had simply refused to pay the extra fee of having a tour guide accompany our team. Since we had seen very little on our initial tour, we agreed to pay for the tour guide on our second attempt.
On my initial visit, we had seen very few animals. We had used the wrong routes which hardly had any animals. Our driver, who was used to hooting recklessly and speeding until the exhaust pipe got chocked brought his- on the road maniacs- in the park. These animals were unlike the angry road users who just watch him and shake their heads. Having taken away their quiet and tranquil peace, they punished us by hiding until we had dissipated.
On my second visit, however, the mastery of the tour guide was dumbfounding. He knew all the sweet spots of the National park the same way I know all the homesteads in my village.
It was as if he was calling the animals to come out of their hiding places as we passed. The now calm driver even joked that the animals were parading for the second time visitors. We felt honored!
WHAT MENTORSHIP CAN DO FOR YOU
Mentorship works in the same way. It doesn’t matter the field you are in or what you are after in life. There are people who have done it before you. When you decide to go on your own, you cut yourself short.
Mentorship is a cheat code in life. When you have a mentor, you are effective and ruthless like a snipper. You don’t waste bullets. You don’t waste time. You don’t waste opportunities. You hardly miss the target. Your work is way much easier.
Mentorship can accelerate your career. Think of all the detours we make when we visit a place for the first time without guidance. These detours also happen in our careers. What can take more than ten years without a mentor can end up lasting for just two years.
Remember it’s only a fool who awaits to learn from his own mistakes.
WHERE WE ALL GO WRONG
Some of us tend to fool ourselves that we can do it on our own. That we are geniuses the world is yet to discover. And that’s how we fall.
If you ever second guess the impact of mentorship, you may spare some time with Isaac Newton.
Everyone knows Isaac Newton but very few people know Isaac Newton’s mentor – Edmund Halley. Everyone knows that Newton discovered gravity but very few people realize that if it wasn’t for Edmund, Newton would not have discovered anything.
Halley challenged Isaac to think through his original notions. He corrected mathematical errors Isaac Newton made and even prepared geometrical figures to support his inventions.
Watch a child who is learning how to walk. He will support himself with anything near him. Immediately he lets go of the external support, he hardly makes it beyond the next step. And when he does he falls in the next one.
There is an old saying in my local language which I hope won’t lose its meaning in translation. It says that an old man seated on the ground can see far than a boy on top of a tree. This is how mentors work. They see far than we can because they have been in the process of getting what we want and eventually got it.
Like that guide who guides you when you visit a new place, mentors will help you find easier ways of doing things. You will not have to experiment with everything. They already know what will and what won’t work.
MENTORSHIP UNLOCKS NEW LEVELS
As Isaac Newton famously wrote, “If I have seen further it’s by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
One of the superpowers we as humans wish for is the ability to calculate the future cost of our current decisions.
Through mentorship, this becomes a possibility. You can now leverage the experiences of others and learn from their mistakes.
If you want to be the next world marathon record holder, how do you think it would be like to learn from the great Eliud Kipchoge. If you are running a startup wishing to make it a global leading company, what about learning from Amazon? If you are an aspiring leader, why not learn from the late Nelson Mandela? If you want to be a billionaire from writing books, why not learn from J.K. Rowlins? Why not?
THE PRESENT DAY MENTORSHIP
Mentorship is the missing puzzle in the careers of many people. While young people continue finding it hard to get mentors and as adults wonder if the advice given by mentors works, I hereby introduce to you the modern era of mentorship.
Forget the old-school mentorship where you have to book appointments with industry leaders, show up with a gazillion of questions and even dress to kill while your main purpose is to learn. Not that it doesn’t work. But why use an outdated version of something when the updated version is cheaper and has better quality
Not that it is a poor form of mentorship, but what do you do when you have an upgrade available?
Since the world became a global village, you can only limit yourself to the teachers you choose.
Recently, I have been into the rabbit hole of investing and I chose for myself the best teachers in the world- Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger. And it’s not free. I have to pay attention. I have spent lots of hours reading everything they ever wrote or was written about them. From the annual letters at Hathaway Berkshire to books like ‘Poor Charlie’s Almanac’ and ‘Snowballing with warren buffet.’
FROM MENTORS TO A BOARD OF GOVERNORS
Any good drawing is preceded by a sketch. Any good painting is preceded by an undercoat. Mentors will help you draw that sketch that you will use to make a great piece of drawing.
You can learn from anyone. Through books, videos, biographies, podcasts.
In this way, we can have multiple mentors in our various life trajectories.
Having multiple mentors unlocks new capabilities. In all spheres of my life, I have mentors who I consult often. You will find me chairing a meeting with my board of governors. I consult Charlie Munger when it comes to Investing. I consult David Foster Wallace when it comes to great writing. I consult David Perell when it comes to writing online. I consult Seth Godin when it comes to marketing.
These people don’t know me, but they make my board of management. We have never met with them physically but I absorb their expertise and experience in a manner close to osmosis.
This is the new level of mentorship that has been unlocked by the internet.
By following great people- thought leaders and the best people in your areas of interest, you have unlocked a new level of mentorship. You can engage with them in their comments sections when you ask them well-thought-out questions. You can even experience their thought processes by reading what they write.
THE MENTOR’S GOLDEN TOUCH
Charlie Munger, who is among the very few people I admire and try to emulate in my life was the best mentee ever. To those wondering who Charlie Munger is. He is warren buffet’s close friend, investment partner and vice chairman of one of the greatest companies in the world- Berkshire Hathaway.
He emulated Benjamin Franklin in investing. He not only learned from him, but he also advanced his mentor’s techniques and eventually came up with a hybrid of investment knowledge.
Here’s what he says about making friends with the dead,” I am a biography nut myself. And I think when you’re trying to teach the great concepts that work, it helps to tie them into the lives and personalities of the people who developed them. I think you learn economics better if you make Adam Smith your friend. That sounds funny, making friends among ‘the eminent dead,’ but if you go through life making friends with the eminent dead who had the right ideas, I think it will work better for you in life and work better in education. It’s way better than just giving the basic concepts.”
“A lot of people have gone further than they thought possible because someone else thought they could.” ~ Unknown
We all realize the positive impacts mentorship has on our careers and lives.
There is no better time to be a mentee. With books, biographies, autobiographies, podcasts, videos, and social media, you can only limit yourself when it comes to choosing your mentors.
Instead of following celebrities on social media, why not follow thought leaders and the best people in your areas of interest? People you can learn from.
Remember the earth rotates around the sun to the length of its radius. Whatever you choose is what you get. If you choose to learn from the best, you become a world-beater. If you choose to learn from yourself, I doubt you know what you will become considering that you do not even know yourself.
You do not have to go out there asking everyone to be your mentor. Mentors are already out there crying for mentees in their books.
They have stretched their hands to hold and walk with you on your career path. Only a fool can ignore!