When I reflect on all the people I’ve met in my career and all the people I’ve had friendships with, it struck me that almost all of them are smarter than me.
I would put money on anybody beating me in a game of chess, Jeopardy or poker. Hell, I still need to count my fingers when I’m playing blackjack.
So no, I don’t think anybody would feel challenged by my intellectual prowess.
And it is because I’m so dumb, that I’m drawn to smarter people.
Everybody needs a mentor. If you want to get better at something, find somebody who is better than you at the thing you want to get better at. Befriend them, or pay them, but do whatever you can to learn from them. They don’t need to be the best in the world. They just need to be better than you. The same way there are minor league coaches and major leagues coaches. If you commit to something, the right teacher will appear when you’re ready. This is not esoteric Zen-speak. I’ve lived this my entire life.
I’ve been fortunate to have good people come into my life and stay in my life. But I’m also extremely selective of who I let in and actively cull people out who are negative, non-committal or pointless.
“Among three, I will find a teacher” – Confucius.
Confucius gets quoted all the time because unlike a lot of other stuff attributed to Asian mysticism (which I can assure you is just regular stuff ancient Chinese dudes would say to each other but somehow became awesome due to bad translation and the need for East Asian Studies profs to make something out of nothing), he was the king of real-world meritocracy. He believed that everybody should ‘earn’ their way up in society, through a successive series of tests, exams and adherence to a rigid set of societal rules. Name and lineage was secondary. Society was a corporation and the only way up was education. This gave hope to a billion peasants in Asia and has contributed to the world’s highest suicide rate amongst school children living there today…
But I digress.
He was on to something. He was keen on life-long learning. He told everybody that anybody could be a teacher. He knew that the more you learned, the more you should realize how little you knew. He valued teachers the most. Something we seemed to have forgotten.
So back to me being dumb. How the heck did I ever manage to get anywhere?
Because I acknowledge I am. By acknowledging that I know so little, I force myself to constantly learn. And by forcing myself to constantly learn, I’ve met good mentors at every stage of my career. People who offered their wisdom and guidance simply because they wanted to see me succeed. But just as you can attract good mentors, you can attract false ones. Be discerning who you take advice from.
Here are 3 ways you can ‘attract’ a good mentor.
1. Don’t be an ass. Be someone that somebody wants to help. Nobody wants to help a pompous dirtbag, no matter how much apparent raw talent there is. Nobody wants to help an unfeeling, calculating android either.
2. Know what you need to learn. Nobody can teach you anything if you don’t know what you need to learn. There are learning opportunities all around you and there’s no way you can know everything. Commit to becoming great at one thing. Do one thing really, really well. And the right mentor will show up at the right time.
3. Be somebody of value. Some people like to share simply because they like to share. Your value to them is your willingness to learn. In you, they can leave a legacy. And if you’re intelligent, perhaps become a future ally.
I have a great friend and mentor.
I hope you find yours.