When you seek out a mentor, you may mistakenly want a cheerleader or supportive therapist. But, in a mentor: you need a leader. A person who can tell you the brutal truth, and expect you are strong enough to keep your unwavering faith.

A mentor is the person who creates a way for you to go where you have not been before. Especially when you aren’t feeling so brave. That doesn’t feel good most of the time.

So many clients and students are worried about asking someone to do the job of mentoring. I wonder why. To that end I ask: what are you willing to do for a mentor? Not as a payback. But, what are you willing to change about yourself and the way you are going about your career or business? It is that change that pays off a mentor’s investment.

The currency of change is courage. It’s immensely brave for you to do things differently than you have or would be nature. To get off the track you have been traveling, to get to higher ground. To stop trying and start succeeding.

A real mentor is an honest critic, not a reassuring hand-holder. A mentor is a person devoted to uncovering what is holding you back, without wasting time.

Oftentimes, a mentor reveals that the person holding you back is the person you see in the mirror. You.

That means you are going to feel criticized.

If you need bad news sugar-coated, easy to digest and in microscopic increments: you probably don’t need a mentor. You need a nanny. The type who flies in with an umbrella and has a big sweeping skirt.

A mentor is not a nanny.

Your mentor might be a gray haired elder of the tribe you would like to lead one day. He might also be your partner, an associate, a parent, a friend or a neighbor who has some wisdom to impart.

Your mentor might be a series of people you meet and have moments with, in various times of your life.  A woman who sits next to you on an airplane and questions your allegiance to Robert Kiyosaki, Napoleon Hill or whomever you are currently reading and believing. A college friend at a reunion who expresses shock upon learning you abandoned astrophysics or botany or whatever it is you once were deeply engaged in. You may not be inviting this feedback into your life or career, but you should take mentors when and where you find them.

A mentor should ask you:

  • Why are you doing this?
  • How did you go wrong?
  • Who are you blaming and why?
  • What do you need to make things right?
  • What makes you defensive, and what does that say about what you need to do now?

Search the earth if you have to, to find at least one person who helps you see and feel the brutal truth, while trusting you can maintain your unwavering faith. That is the Stockdale paradox that all successful people master: truth and faith.

I wish you the brutal truth and unwavering faith.