Never Bring on a Mentor Too Early

Why wait to bring on a mentor?

You have to fail first to really get ready to learn. You have to know enough about the industry to formulate meaningful questions. Then you’ll get a lot of value from any industry expert.

You have to be a superb auto-didact if you’re going to learn a complex industry from scratch quickly. No mentor or advisor can substitute for the sheer amount of hours of proactive learning you can give to your business. Don’t fall for the myth of the Omniscient Advisor who can somehow download All-You-Need-To-Know in minutes or hours. This is a digital native fallacy.

And don’t believe accelerators who promise the moon either.

They attract folks looking for a crutch. This is why there’s no correlation between accelerator participation and long-term success or scaling your business.

Don’t ask for a mentor to help you start either.

This is a bad student habit.

I blame modern, hand-holding Career Services departments. You need to have enough initiative to launch without professional guidance. You must crawl through the mud and dirt and learn the ropes yourself.

Proactive, curious self-learners tend to benefit most later from mentors and advisors.

If you force yourself to learn everything initially, you will gain an enormous skill: the ability to vet true experts later when you need advanced help (or need to hire it). 

If you bring on a mentor too early, chances are excellent you have one of two social needs: a) need for validation or b) need for a partner. A mentor can fulfill the first but shouldn’t. They can’t ever achieve the latter need. Validation should come from peers for free. If you are overworked, you probably do need a partner or an Ops chief. 

Mentors excel at retaining enough distance from your business to see quickly what your blind spots are. To point out the questions you’re not asking. 

Dr. James Richardson

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