How to Build your own Personal Board of Directors
Based on my own experience and observation of other millennials like me, I think there are 2 large mistakes people make when desiring mentors.
Mistake # 1 is simply that we don’t ask someone to mentor us, expecting that the mentor will somehow magically be drawn to us and desire to teach us everything they know. That almost never happens.
Mistake # 2 is that when we do find a mentor, we expect one mentor to be able to offer wisdom on nearly every aspect of our life. They are not our saviour.
This is why more and more I’ve come to describe my own pursuit of mentorship as my “Personal Board of Directors”. The word “mentor” tends to carry strange baggage of also being our gurus, pseudo-parents, bosses, business consultants, pastors, therapists, financial advisors, and health coaches all in one person.
How to Fix Mistake # 1
The first mistake is easily rectified. Since mentors don’t typically approach you first, who do you want to mentor you? You should ask that person for their time. Not all their time, but just a simple coffee or lunch- on you. Then, if there’s a good and natural mentoring connection, see if you can gain more of their time by asking them directly for a specific amount of time. “Can I meet with you monthly via Skype to discuss X area of my life?” or “Twice a year can I buy you lunch and pick your brain about X topic of your expertise?”. Just like with a corporate board, pursue people to be your board members, as typically these sorts of volunteer positions are not sought after by the expert, but they are asked for their time within specific boundaries by the corporation.
Don’t jump into a marriage before you’ve had a first date. Don’t jump into asking someone to mentor you without asking directly for their time, and then seeing if it’s a good fit to keep pursuing the relationship. Within clear parameters of what you’re asking, even the most busy people will likely give you their time. (And remember, it’s usually the people who are super busy and successful in some aspect of their life that attracted you to them in the first place as a mentor. So make it work around their schedule.)
How to Fix Mistake # 2
The second mistake is more subtle, and can lead to disappointments in relationships. One person cannot be all things to you. Yet without even realizing it until they’ve not met our expectations later on, we can put way too much on one mentor.
This is why you should consider them as part of a Board of Directors.
Find someone you admire for their handling of finances, another for relationships, another for their spiritual life, and another for the their professional accomplishments. Meet with each of these people for counsel at various times in your year, rather than expecting one mentor to be able to bring wisdom to all categories of your life. Bring in the person of expertise as necessary, and you won’t be hurt or disappointed when the person who cares for your spiritual health cannot advise you on the right career moves and educational choices.
The Bottom Line
Identify areas you’d like mentorship in. Find people who are good at those things. Ask them for a small commitment of time. If it works, ask them for more of their time within clear boundaries. Diversify your mentoring portfolio with various skill sets and people. And finally, pay it forward to someone coming up behind you who needs mentorship too.