One of the biggest mistakes I made when I started as an entrepreneur is that I tried to do it all alone. No mentors, no friends and no guidance. I would sit in Starbucks, only be productive for an hour or two and sulk for the rest of the hours. The time that could have been invested in other areas of my life. Sometimes, I would even be ‘proud’ of that fact that I spent a whole day ‘hustling’.
This is why you need to seek out mentors. When you’re out seeking out mentors, you need to understand that relationships take time and effort. When you are in University or at work, your social relationships are a product of circumstances. You don’t really consciously ‘work’ on your relationships. You just assume they are just going to be there forever.
However, assuming you’re intending to graduate, then pay attention and listen.
How does our external environment play a role in determining our success? Our environment does play a huge role in determining our habits and our behaviour. Humans are a lot more reliant on environmental cues than you think.
You often hear: ‘all you need is to hustle’. That’s rubbish. Hustle isn’t the answer. You and I are all cognitive misers and our behaviour is influenced by our environment more than you think. We’re social animals and we’re all evolved to socialize in groups. This why your groups, networks and closely knitted social circles exist. Especially so in Asian culture. You also eventually need people to bounce ideas from, to get feedback from and to talk about your problems.
Getting good at seeking out mentors or like-minded individuals is important, whether you’re in University or starting out your own business.
There’s something to be said about creating an environment of inevitable success. If you got bills to pay, you’ll be damned sure you’re waking up on time to get to that sales appointment. However, if you’re waking up in comfort and breakfast is served to you, you’re going to slack off.
When I studied at Berkeley on an exchange program, I was alone but independent. I had to be fully accountable to my health, my social life and my academic performance. It was a lot of stress. However, I ended up performing well.
However, back in Singapore, my academic results are often lacklustre. I also noticed that when I came back, my habits quickly fell back to negative ones. I couldn’t wake up on time, my bad dietary habits came back and I started feeling restless and moody.
So what made all the difference?
Firstly, in the States, I had the freedom to flex my identity. In Singapore, nobody knew me as the academically excellent kid. My grades were average at best. Through the years that’s how I identified myself as. In the States, I could be as scholarly or nerdy as I desired.
Secondly, there were no rebellious students, no one to party with on the weekends. No one to fool around with. Just me, the library and my school notes. I was also shit scared of wasting thousands of dollars invested in my summer program.
So how can you create an environment such that failure is NOT an option for you? In my experience, the biggest periods of growth in my life happened because I had no other alternative. I had no way out but to succeed.
You need to ask yourself who are the people you’ll like to hang out with at this point of my life?
Here are some ideas:
How can I connect with people from such demographics? Where do these people spend their time hanging out? They aren’t certainly hanging out at heartland malls at 12am on a Sunday night (which was what I was doing with a long time friend of mine).
They are probably attending business events, doing Yoga classes, doing martial arts classes or partying at the hottest parties on the weekend.
Here is what you can do: draft out the characteristics of the people you’ll like to connect with, find out where they spend their time, invest my time in these demographics, and then connect with them. You can also reach out to them via email and get them out for coffee.
Connecting with someone can be as easy as listening to their stories. Successful people often have untold stories that’ll like to share. You can learn so much from sitting for 1 hour over coffee with someone.
So how do you ask someone more successful than you to be your mentor? In the real world, almost everyone ranging from entrepreneurs to business owners often look for people with skillsets or work ethic. Let’s take school for an example, why should a University let you in if you DO NOT have value or the results they require?
If you have got no assets, no skills, no business, no nothing, you’re a pair of legs with close to nothing to offer, your value to the world is glitch zero. You’re not going to differentiate yourself from the hundreds of others that graduated from in the same University as you did.
The simple method to create be of value to anybody is to always ask yourself: how can I be of value to others? You need to bring minimally something to the table. This can come in the form of connections, invites to events, or minimally the ability to make others feel good about themselves.
There are heaps of YouTube videos, free content published on the internet. There’s NO reason that you are not able to cultivate a skill set to be of value for people more successful than you are.
Finding mentors can be as easy as reaching out through email and getting their advice or a particular subject.
However, successful people are normally busy people. If you put in effort by putting their needs first, taking their advice, following up on that advice and then telling them what you got out of their advice, then you’re one step to actually getting them out for coffee.
If you get to the point of getting him or her out for coffee, then it’s as SIMPLE as paying attention to him or her. Get advice and ask questions. You’ll be surprised that the majority of people do not pay any attention to these tiny details of asking questions, making someone more successful than you feel good.
You can learn conversational skill sets such as actively listening, how to get people to open up, how to compliment others, empathize with others and make them laugh. These basic conversational skill sets can be your basic value-add to anyone, that can be used across cultures, anywhere, any part of the world.
It’s rare to find someone who’s willing to listen to their problems without judgement. Everyone likes to be appreciated and listened to.
If your current peer group isn’t ‘resonating’ with you, then you have to be proactive about making steps to connect with more successful people. You’ll need to audit who you spend your time around with. If you’re always spending your time around people who don’t have much of a life going for them, then, needless to say, you’re not going to have much of your own.
If you want to get better at life in general, it’s important for you to surround yourself with people that are ahead of you. Not to mention that quality relationships contribute a lot to our happiness and emotional health.