How to find a great mentor

9 min read
11 Dec 2018

o one said finding a mentor was easy, but it’s definitely not impossible. Some of the key things you need to consider when it comes to finding one is how you will grab the person’s attention and how you can then build a long-term relationship.

This article was written by the original owner of, Ryan Allis, and published on his website in 2012. Read more about why Ryan was happy to hand over his website domain to us here.

In Star Wars, Luke had one of the best mentors out there. The training with Yoda was essential in his preparation to battle Darth Vader. Yet in the real world, very few people have mentors, let alone have invested time in finding a high quality mentor.

Here’s how to find and convince high quality mentors (Jedis) to help guide you to another level on your path toward making a difference in the world.

Mentorship is absolutely critical to living the life you want. Your mentors, like your friends, have a huge effect on who you become. The people who mentor you often determine which networks you’re able to find out about, let alone access and become part of.

A shared practice among all the highest achievers of our world I’ve ever met is that each of them had a mentor who was essential to their success and who helped them achieve much more than they thought or even knew was possible.

How to find a Jedi mentor

Finding good mentors can be tough. Growing up in the suburbs of Middle America, as I did, it can be difficult to identify high-integrity, amazing, caring, competent, and smart mentors. So, how do you find the right people? Here’s what I’ve learned from my own experience.

First, go to the Internet and search for organizations that have missions you’re passionate about. See if you can find people working for those organizations who have the qualities that you are looking for, and who are about fifteen to twenty years ahead of you. Create what’s called a pipeline, a list of twenty prospects to become your potential mentors.

Once you identify these twenty potential mentors through your Internet search, existing networks, and the networks of people that you know, your job is to convince two of them – just two great, amazing people – that you are worth an investment of their time.

In my experience, adults who are really successful would love to help out more young people. I know that I would. The problem we run into is that we don’t know which people need our help the most. We don’t know who is the most motivated to actually achieve something that aligns with our life’s mission.

Often it takes more than just an email, a tweet, or one message to find an appropriate mentor. It takes persistence over weeks, sometimes months, to get into the network of someone who can really help you out.

How to get connected to awesome mentors

The best way to connect with people who are really busy is to get introduced to them by someone who is one of their trusted connections.

People have different numbers of trusted connections. The key to getting the opportunity to take your prospective mentor to lunch is to connect to them through the right person.

Most often, when someone is looking for my mentorship, I’ll get an email. It might be from an ambitious 15 or 16 year old who says, “Ryan, I’m a young entrepreneur and I’m looking for advice,” followed by nine paragraphs of explanation and detail. And no matter how much I authentically care about helping young entrepreneurs, I don’t have time to read that.

Often it takes more than just an email, a tweet, or one message to find an appropriate mentor. It takes persistence over weeks, sometimes months, to get into the network of someone who can really help you out.

If an email doesn’t come from someone who I already know and trust, who can vouch for the credibility, integrity, and work ethic of the young person seeking my advice, too often I simply will not see the email or have time to follow-up on it.

This is why it’s up to you, as someone seeking mentorship, to pursue the heck out of people. Oftentimes, the way we filter people is by seeing who is the most persistent. By that I don’t mean who’s the most annoying, but who tries, over a series of weeks or even months, to demonstrate that they are serious. Perseverance and persistence correlate highly with seriousness.

Find someone who can vouch for you, then succinctly explain your passion, and pursue your prospective mentor until you connect with him or her, even if it takes six months.

How to get the attention of busy people

If you can’t find a common connection, it’s time to resort to Master Jedi tactics.

There’s one trick I have found to be really effective in getting through to important, busy people. If you really want to get someone’s attention, send them a FedEx package. Not a simple letter, but something a little bulky.

Let’s consider at the number of messages a busy public figure or company leader might receive on a monthly basis. These are just estimates, of course, but a busy person like myself might get 300 emails a day, which adds up to 10,000 a month. We might get 30 texts a day, which adds up to 1,000 a month. We might get three or four letters, or sometimes many more than that, every day via USPS.

But I’ll bet we get less than one FedEx package every three days—a couple a week, at best. And we may insist that those FedEx packages are given to us to open personally rather than opened by our assistants, because they often come from our loved ones or contain items we’ve asked for, or ordered online.

So if you really want to get someone’s attention, send them a FedEx package. Spend a few dollars and include something that adds a little bit of dimensionality to the package, something that might be memorable. Include a brief note about who you are and specifically why you think connecting would be valuable. That’s all you need to say.

If you have the person’s email address, follow up via email and simply ask them for a time that you can take them to lunch. If you don’t have their email, include yours in the note. Often, at least one out of two or three times, you’ll get a reply.

Another trick you can use to connect to busy people who are in the public eye is to send them @ messages on Twitter. To this day, I’ll get a few hundred emails a day, but I’ll only get five or six people who are @ mentioning me on Twitter.

If you can include their @ name in a message on Twitter, they’ll almost certainly see it, if not respond. If you can get them to follow you because of, perhaps, being interested in the same topics, oftentimes that @ message will go directly to a push notification on the their smartphone. What better way to get the immediate attention of someone who you’re trying to seek out as a mentor?

How to be prepared

Once you get the meeting, make sure you are ready. You need to know in advance what they are passionate about. Read their research. Figure out what they care about and what they’re interested in. Learn about their field. If you spend months trying to get a meeting but no time researching and doing your due diligence on the person you’re going to meet, what’s the point?

When it comes to being knowledgeable and informed, aim to be in the top 5 percent of all the people that they’ve met in their life, regardless of your age. That will build trust. Once that initial trust is established, ask them if they would be willing to informally mentor you.

If this person is one of the twenty potential people in the world who can enable to you to achieve your dreams, there’s very little that you should allow to prevent you from being able to meet with them.

I say “informally” because your goal should not be to get them to make a formal commitment. Busy people have too many commitments and too many obligations, and one of the things that value driven people try to do is not take on more commitments than they can handle. We believe in under-promising and over-delivering.

Once your prospective mentor says yes to this informal mentorship, follow up. Send brief emails when you have questions. Go to the same networking events.

Frequency and recency are the things that people remember. If you can have repetitive interactions, however brief, every month or two, that person will definitely remember you.

How to build a lifelong relationship

When you’ve made the initial connection, be patient and think about the long term. You’re building a lifelong relationship. Develop that relationship over time, and really invest in it.

If you’ve spent three months getting a twenty-minute meeting with the person, don’t simply try to get one particular piece of information you want and then move on. It’s not a transactional relationship. It’s about how you can both help each other in the decades to come.

Ideally, as you grow older and you become more influential in your field, you will be able help that person with their own goals and dreams.

At the end of the day, one of the goals of almost every successful person as they enter the later parts of their life is to ensure their legacy continues—to ensure they can share the information and knowledge that they have gained over the years. They might do that through writing a book or making a video, but they might also be very happy to share what they know one-on-one with people they believe will carry it forward.

If you can be one of those people who helps someone create their legacy, learns from them and can eventually help them, all the better.

If you can build around you a council or “mastermind” of ten amazing people from whom you can seek advice on particular topics whenever you need it, you’ll be ahead of 99.5% percent of the world, if not more, in terms of your ability to execute and achieve your dreams.

But don’t accept just any mentor. Don’t settle for a person you just happened to run into, unless he or she is truly great. Find a true Jedi. Find someone from whom you can learn amazing things.

Main photo: Nik Macmillan

*This article was originally published on October 17th, 2018 and updated on December 11th, 2018.