Over the course of one day, an aspiring entrepreneur asked me to connect her with Richard Branson, an aspiring musician sought to reach Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett, and a person struggling with depression wanted to talk with Michael Phelps.
Three different people with the same basic goal: Each was seeking--in the entrepreneur's case, "desperately" seeking--a mentor.
When I get the opportunity, I'll ask questions. But I can't ever say, ever, where I've said, "I'm going to call this guy and see what he thinks, or this woman."
Because at some point, I'm going to have to be responsible for whatever that knowledge is.
I've always had the attitude that there's always something new coming, and whatever it is, it's new to everyone except the people who invented it. I'm at first base like everybody else. Then it's a question of effort.
In fact, Cuban had a one-word answer when asked if there were ever people in his life he considered mentors: No.
The Problem With Mentors.
When asked, Jeff Bezos's boss at a hedge fund told him not to leave to start Amazon, saying it was, "Probably a better idea for someone who doesn't have a good job."
Each was, in effect, a mentor--because each provided advice.
In most cases, that's what mentors do: They share perspectives. They share experiences. They give advice.
Granted, I cherry-picked examples, but still: No matter how smart or experienced, no matter how many lessons they've learned, what no mentor can truly know is you.
Nor are you necessarily a good judge of whom to choose as a mentor--because who you choose usually says more about you than that person. We tend to admire certain people because we think we see something of ourselves in them. We like to think that what they do, and how they do it, reflects some as-yet-untapped aspect of ourselves.
In short, that their mentorship will mean all the difference.
Not according to Cuban, who feels relying too much on other people can actually get in the way of helping yourself.
"This will be kind of counterintuitive," Cuban said at another Inc. event, "but don't ask for help. One of the things that is challenging new companies right now is that they want a mentor. They want a tutor.
"Get out there. Ready. Fire. Aim. Go."
How to Mentor Yourself.
Whatever you hope to achieve, get started.
If you want to start a business, don't ask others to mentor you. Be responsible for acquiring the knowledge you need.
Put in the effort and much of the knowledge you need is readily available.
Then, if in time you still feel you need guidance, don't ask for advice.
Ask someone who has skills, expertise, and experience you admire to help you determine how you can go about the process of making the best decision. Ask for help in finding the right questions to ask yourself.
One of those could be, like Bezos, whether you will someday regret never having tried more than having tried and failed. Or, to extend the Disney analogy, whether you believe customers will love a comprehensive suite when bite-size offerings are the norm. Or, like Buffett, whether you believe your passion, determination, and work ethic can overcome poor market conditions.
The next time you think you need a mentor--or more importantly, the next time you're holding back because you can't find the "perfect" mentor--think about what you really need.
As Cuban said, "By figuring it out [myself], that creates a platform for me to go forward."
Because no matter how much you might think you need a particular person's advice, what you know--and the effort you are willing to put behind that knowledge--is what really matters.