I actually had an entirely different post planned for today.
It's going to have to sit on the shelf for now.
I just got back from having a cup of coffee with a mentor who will be instrumental in my success in real estate. This is someone who could completely change the trajectory of my life.
This was my first time meeting with him, and it really drove home just how important having qualified mentors is.
So, today I want to talk to you about mentors.
This was a customer of mine at the bank I worked at. I had helped him out with opening an account and we got to talking about real estate somehow.
I told him a little bit about the project I was working on and then learned that he too was in real estate.
He started telling me a little about the company he had started 10 years prior. It quickly became apparent that this guy was a serious player in real estate.
Over that 10-year time frame, he and his business partner had collectively acquired, renovated and repositioned just shy of $2 Billion in real estate.
Obviously, in order to do that he had to raise significant capital from outside investors. In total, he and his partner raised over $500 Million in equity, with the rest of the money being debt financing.
After hearing this I was shocked. Not only was it incredibly impressive, it was more or less exactly the type of model I wanted my real estate business to grow into.
I shared that with him, and he immediately offered to grab a cup of coffee so I could learn more about how he got started.
I guess Steve Jobs was right:
We ended up grabbing the cup of coffee earlier today and it went better than I could have imagined.
He offered me incredible help in each of the four main ways I've found that mentors can help you.
Mentors have been there, done that.
They've lived through and overcome the challenges that you're facing.
They know what worked for them and what didn't.
When you come across an obstacle, being able to turn to somebody who's seen that same scenario and can give you the “cheat code” for how to get past it can make your life dramatically easier.
It can cut countless hours off the learning curve and save you the massive headaches that can come with any new venture.
Now, this type of coaching is what most people think of when they think about how mentors help. It actually only scratches the surface, though.
There are three other distinct ways mentors can be valuable along your journey:
When somebody has become incredibly successful in a particular industry, they've almost always done it in large part because of their network.
Simply put, you cannot be successful without the help of others.
Unfortunately, building up connections with the right people can be incredibly difficult and time-consuming. There's usually gatekeepers involved and when you're just getting started, you often times lack the types of characteristics that would make others want to connect with you in the first place.
Luckily, your mentor can short-circuit this process for you.
Just in this one meeting, my mentor offered to introduce me to a handful of different people who can dramatically improve my ability to put deals together.
This is something that you have to be proactive with. When you're meeting with your mentors, ask them if they know anybody you should know. You'd be amazed by the answers.
Now, you can't just be a value leech. You have to actually offer value in return, not only to your mentor, but also to the people in his network.
Maybe you're a great web developer and can help them redesign their website. Analyze your unique skills and make sure these people always understand how you can help them.
When you first start a new venture, you suffer from a severe lack of credibility.
You simply don't have a track record that you can point to in order to prove yourself to others.
As mentioned in the last point, at some point you will need to get others to buy into your vision in order to succeed. Without a credible track record, this can be an incredibly difficult feat to accomplish.
Luckily, you don't have to actually have the proven track record yourself. If you have your mentor on board with whatever project you're working on, you can leverage their credibility.
For example, let's say an up and coming actor hustles his ass off and somehow gets connected with Steven Spielberg. If he's able to put together a project that compels Spielberg to jump on board, do you think the actor will have any trouble pushing that project through?
If I apply this to my real estate ventures, let's say I find the perfect deal but I need to raise $50 Million to make it happen. Do you think I'll have much luck raising $50 Million as some random kid who just finished his first three-flat renovation?
But, if somehow I'm able to get my mentor on board, I can leverage his credibility and proven track record when I approach investors. Then it simply becomes about selling the actual deal to them.
This begs the question, “How do I get my mentors on board with my projects?”
Once again, it comes back to offering value. Think, “what's in it for them?”
Maybe you have somebody in your network who your mentor would like to work with. By bringing them together, you can benefit both of them.
Maybe you offer them 80% of the equity you would normally get on a particular deal.
Whatever it is, it has to be a win-win for both you and your mentor. Otherwise, you're wasting everybody's time.
Any endeavor worth pursuing is full of challenges and roadblocks. It can be incredibly frustrating.
When you inevitably hit these obstacles, the temptation to give up and move onto something new can be all too real.
If, however, you have a mentor to talk through things with, it can give you a whole new perspective.
We live in a world dominated by our news feeds. They're constantly showing us these totally unrealistic portrayals of people who seem to have nothing but success. It would appear they never face any difficulties and they're successful because they have some superhuman quality that you're just missing.
When you sit down and talk with a successful mentor in person, though, these limiting beliefs tend to melt away.
You realize that they didn't have some superhuman quality that was responsible for their success. Rather, they're just a normal person who simply wanted success bad enough that when obstacles arose, they doubled down and found a way around them.
This can be incredibly motivating because it can make you realize that success is possible for you.
When you begin to gain certainty that success is possible, it changes everything.
Your mentor will fill any gap you have in your certainty that success is possible for you.
Only then will you start to take the level of action required to get the results you're after. Once you start getting some of these results, it will feed back into your certainty that it's possible. This then turns around and causes you to take even more action. It's one of the most powerful things you can experience.
Hopefully I've done a good enough job of selling the benefits of working with a mentor.
Now you're probably wondering how the hell to actually find one.
Well, there's a couple of strategic ways to go about this. Let's examine each:
Too much of the advice out there for finding mentors suggests that you first need to go out there and build this massive network before you'll be able to find a mentor who can truly help you.
Personally, I feel this makes the process unapproachable and daunting.
Think about your existing network. Chances are, there is somebody you know who could be a good mentor for you.
Maybe they're not in your exact niche. Instead, maybe they're just somebody who's had some solid success in a different endeavor.
At the end of the day, no matter what path somebody chooses in life, it will inevitably bring challenges. Sometimes having a mentor is more about motivating you to overcome challenges than it is about showing you the nuts and bolts of whatever industry you're in.
So think about all the different people you're connected to. Maybe it's a friend of your parents. Maybe it's a parent of one of your friends. Maybe it's somebody you're connected to through work (like it was for me).
Why do a bunch of unnecessary work to find a mentor from scratch when you might have somebody great already in your circle?
Don't fret. There's a number of great ways to find a mentor even if you don't have one in your existing network.
There are a couple of distinct things you can do to expand your network in such a way that makes it more likely you'll find a mentor.
This is a great way to interact with potential mentors.
Search for local meetups online that are focused on your niche.
For example, I'm part of the Chicago Creative Investors Association, which is an association for people interested in real estate. They bring in some great guest speakers and have a vibrant community of local investors.
The key here is being consistent. You can't expect to show up once every 5 or 6 months and find a mentor.
First of all, you have to be there enough to actually build a relationship with these people. Second, if you're not showing up consistently, it just sends the message that you're not really committed – so why would anybody want to mentor you in the first place?
If you can't find a niche association in your area, you may want to look at a more general one.
For example, Ivy Social University is a nationwide organization that connects young leaders. Sometimes your most meaningful mentor will be somebody who's just slightly ahead of you because they'll be the one you can relate to the most.
Another great option is SCORE, which is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to help small businesses get off the ground via mentorship. It's totally free to get paired with a qualified mentor (yes, you read that correctly).
Although it's not nearly as ideal as interacting in person, there are ways for you to build relationships with mentors digitally.
Again the key here is consistency. In fact, it's even more important here than it is in person because there are fewer reasons for somebody to remember you online.
You need to be putting yourself in front of these potential mentors at every chance you get. Comment on their blog posts. Share their videos. Message them and let them know you think they're inspiring.
However you do it, make yourself known.
The two key things that underly any of these strategies are:
I want to wrap this post up by really encouraging you to go out there and actually take action on this.
It's entirely too easy in this age of information overload to see another post about finding mentors and brush it off, ultimately never doing anything to actually change your situation.
But please understand this – there are ultimately two options here: one where you do take action and find a mentor, the other where you do nothing and end up flying blind.
Because if you choose not to find a mentor, flying blind is precisely what you're doing. You'll end up guaranteeing that you fall into unnecessary traps and you'll make the journey that much more difficult.
Not only that, when you do fall into these traps, without the guidance of your mentor it will be that much more tempting to give up.
It will degrade your certainty that success is possible, you'll end up taking less action as a result, and it will ultimately lead to your results being substantially less than what you were hoping for.
I implore you, go find a mentor.
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As always, enjoy!
Alex is a serial entrepreneur, coach, and active investor who drives growth and scale for his portfolio companies.