Many of today's high school and college students obsess over GPA. They've been taught by their parents to look at a B or a C like a bad Yelp review--a black mark that can badly damage the reputation of their personal brand. As someone who graduated with a 2.6 GPA, I spent my undergraduate years focusing more on the value of real world learning over academics. But there you need teachers as well to show you the best path.
YPO Member Chuck Hall, Founder and President of Charles Hall Construction, had similar experiences as a student and growing professional. He recalls, "High school was not really a time of positive learning for me. It was more about constant reminders where I was lacking. I often heard that I was smart, ambitious and hard working, but just not getting it. Teachers would say 'Don't bother with college, find a trade.'" As a young man Hall enjoyed both sports and entrepreneurship, and eventually began to see what those two fields had in common. It was the opportunity to work with great coaches and mentors. He found that these people were his accelerators and gave him the fuel others found in making good grades.
Now a successful entrepreneur, Hall credits his achievements to great mentoring and has focused on mentoring others as a committed activity. Here are his suggestions for creating and nurturing relationships with the people who can help you achieve your highest potential.
1. Be clear on what you need from a mentor.
"A mentor to me is someone who has been on a path that I wanted to follow," says Hall, "They're willing to share the ups and also the downs of that journey so I can learn from their experience and make commitments to follow up on." Hall is not suggesting you attempt to control or dictate the terms of the relationship, of course. But you should know the areas where you want guidance so you can spot the people who can provide it.
2. Let your confidence and determination show.
Hall noticed early on that worthy mentors want to work with confident individuals. He explains: "I learned that when I believed in myself, others believed in me and were willing to invest their time in helping me be better." He saw the difference between humility and self-doubt, and showed them that, not only was he willing to learn from them, but that he was capable of mastering what they taught him.
3. Be motivated by their belief.
"At first, school conditioned me to believe I wasn't smart enough to achieve my dreams," he admits. "But when others were willing to invest their time in helping me be better, I struggled harder and longer to succeed. I refused to let them down. I wanted to achieve what they saw in me, even when I couldn't see it in myself." Mentors want their protégée to succeed, partly because they want to see a return on the investment of their time and knowledge. Show them your appreciation by making everything you can out of the opportunities they give you.
4. Give the commitment you want to get.
"It's always taken me longer to achieve goals--to finish college and to grow my business--but I always do what I set out to do. In fact, I usually surpass my peers' notions of what I could do and my notion of success!" Hall could have succumbed to frustration and doubt when success did not happen quickly. Instead, he honored his mentors' commitment to him by sticking with the goals he set even when they seemed impossible. Not only did this show gratitude and drive his success, "I learned that my character grew exponentially through making commitments to others. How I choose to execute on goals became a way to prove the friend/mentor/coach right for believing in me."
5. Risk being honest.
Hall laughs, "That is, blunt and opinionated." It is tempting to resort to quiet politeness when a successful professional takes you under their wing. Of course, you want to keep your ego in check--why would someone take the time to guide you if you act like you have nothing to learn from them? But if you commit to being earnest and forthright about your ambitions, needs, and opinions, you stand a much better chance of getting personalized help. Also, mentors tend to stick around for the people whom they feel they know well and respect.
Each week Kevin explores exclusive stories inside YPO, the world's premiere peer-to-peer organization for chief executives, eligible at age 45 or younger.