How Do I Find A Mentor?

Steven Kneiser
7-minute read ⚠️ Work In Progress

“I wish someone had told me:
‘there ARE others just like you

…but distributed more evenly around the globe, just not clustered in your city and around you.’ “

I see what you’re lookin’ for

No ordinary mentor will do
You want the mentor

You’re serious
You’re ready to level up
You’re ready to do whatever it takes

This is the part of the movie where our hero “goes for a walk” & they always stumble across The Person™ who has been hardened by decades of wordly wisdom. They always have a scar to show for it too.

I don’t write the rules

Oh yeah they always die too
…like right near the beginning
Just so our hero can replace them?

I don’t write the rules

So what gives?
HOW DO WE “go for a meaningful walk”?
Where are all the knights in shining armor?

The mentor with a scar
The mentor who is too busy
The mentor who is often reluctant
The mentor who appreciates “the fundamentals”

Warning: they don’t give easy answers

You’re probably not going to find them giving Leadership Seminars™ either. Why? Because the best mentors force you to face paradox & discover the truth for yourself.

*quietly puts on Will-Mentor-For-Money hat*
“…but first you must learn
when NOT to find one

The Half-Life of Advice

Some words just hit you at the right time
just stroke the flames of fresh wounds
just open up that Door #3

but sometimes you hit a dead-end

What got you from A to B
ain’t getting you from B to C

Stop honking & switch ~>

~> switch lanes, so you can speed around that someone or something. You don’t put up with it in traffic so why does your growth, ideology, or lifestyle have to be any different? Stop driving behind that slowpoke. You’ve got places to go, people to see, & things to do.

TODO: multi-pane illustration coming soon!

Convergent Advice:

Who said you were pre-destined
for just one mentor?

What about “getting outside your head”
screams “one, true, all-knowing person”?

Sometimes, getting perspective is overkill
when you really just need feedback

Typically, you just need more of it
Often, you just need it sooner

Let’s say I have a 🌈 Business Idea™

Should I seek out “business expert”
or just talk with more customers?

Feedback is why I preferred tennis to homework

Everyone you will ever meet
knows something you don’t

(& vice versa)

I label feedback as “Convergent Advice”
because it helps you converge
it helps you zoom in
it helps you settle

Overwhelmed by the trivial many?
Feedback finds the essential few

Don’t get lost seeking wisdom
when fresh eyes will do

but what if you’re stuck with too few?

Divergent Advice:

“A/B test everything, and you’ll get stuck on the treadmill of local maxima.

A/B test nothing, and you’ll leave lots of compounding growth on the table.

A/B test optimizations, not product concepts.”

–Julie Zhuo, Design VP @ Facebook

Get Feedback to optimize your current self,
not find your future self

…that’s what Perspective is for

Now we’re really talkin’!

Perspective is for unknown unknowns
that you haven’t even realized
that you don’t know yet

when what got you here
ain’t gettin’ you there

What if you’re not even asking the right questions?

You need “Divergent Advice”
with answers that don’t sit right
answers that only spawn more questions

Here’s another perspective:

Have you ever ignored advice?

I know
Stupid question
Sorry I even asked
Probably not the case with you

You’re way smarter & attractive-er than me

If we shared the same parents,
you’d clearly be the favorite


…this stays between us

Where were we?

So have you ever ignored advice?

You may have even solicited it!

Maybe an extra eye from a coworker
Maybe even a paid coach or consultant
Maybe someone who knew you for decades

What the heck is going on there?
3 words:

Suspension of Disbelief

“the intentional avoidance of critical thinking or logic in examining something surreal, such as a work of speculative fiction, in order to believe it for the sake of enjoyment.”

NOTE: This is a working draft of a raw brain-dump that I’ll revisit & refine later (thanks for being patient! I’d rather get the ideas out sooner than procrastinate on getting them perfect on the first try)

Perspective comes in many forms,
but what are you willing to accept?

Have you ever gotten advice from someone so close to you, that you almost disrespect their credibility?

Hear me out…

Have you ever gotten identical advice from someone less familiar, yet really took it to heart? Sometimes you just need a fresh face, someone who helps you suspend your stubborn disbelief (because you can’t rationalize “oh that’s just what Ricky would say”), someone who can really speak your language, or someone who really grips your attention & respect.

That’s how Perspective works: a Suspension of Disbelief

Your mind sets aside the typical thought patterns (entering a “diffuse mode”) & wanders much more freely beyond the rigid boundaries of self-censorship

For example, when you start calculating a tip at a restaurant, your brain does a great job at focusing your ideas so that “The Pyramids” & “what I read on the internet last night” don’t interrupt your thinking

At any point in time, you can only grasp so many new ideas at once. There’s a context-switching cost/burden/debt that comes from interacting with someone who is in a different context. Stop praising the obvious big names in your field & start noticing the best sources for personal growth within your immediate reach.

This is why you shouldn’t learn “Business™” from the big names like Forbes, Entrepreneur, Bloomberg, etc.

Shark Tank probably won’t be your salvation

…you’ll get more out of the people who are trying to figure it out who are closer to you. The best for you are often just 3 months to 3 years ahead of you in your journey. You need to find the people that are just far enough to have substantial ability & availability to help you, but not so much that they’re both divorced from your context.

You need people who can bridge that divide using relevant modern techniques. There’s a good chance Those who came before you found a window of opportunity that has since closed. That’s what you’re here for anyways! Bridge that divide between you & them. Don’t push too much without others pulling.

It’s fascinating how much we obsess over getting perspective from others (e.g. I’m going to find someone whose perpsective I uniquely value) when most of the perspective has more to do with US than anyone else. There might be the perfect monk for you in a small corner of the earth somewhere, but you’re making an extreme trade-off between what you percieve to be correct versus what’s actionable enough to help your context today. Sometimes you don’t have months & years to invest.

What do I mean?

The best teacher is the one
who speaks your language

Find the others
who speak your language

[more closely]

This is yet another reason why most ideas come from a diversified portfolio of peers, compared to the wise old sage that has wandered all the lands. If you’re pursuing specialized knowledge in a very specific craft (e.g. sports, chess, storytelling), then there’s value to seeking out the true grandmasters and investing years to really soak up their knowledge, but I advocate a much more practical portfolio of living & breathing communities of people to breathe perspective into your life. Best of all, you won’t fall so hard into the shortcomings of one teacher’s blindspots. Often enough, you end up discovering a better teacher than if you’d have committed to the first one you came across.

To be continued: on becoming someone worthy of world-class mentorship. …umm, this draft is starting to take on the water-weight of 2 related topics that should really be seperate essays. I want these to be focused & actionable, so I’ll divide them up soon

Welcome aboard

Got your dream team?
This is your personal Board of Advisors

That’s right!
You’re running a company: You, Inc.

Once every month,
send separate, personalized emails:

NOTE: this section is particularly rough & incomplete

⚠️ Full story: coming soon…

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