Aaron Levie is a big fan of reaching out to mentors. He is the twentysomething CEO of Box, the leading enterprise tech company that opened on the NYSE with a market cap of nearly $3 billion. In the early years, before setting up Box, Levie worked hard to find mentors and big-name leaders for advice. In a Wired Interview, Levie says: "There's no risk in somebody not responding to your email. The cool thing about Silicon Valley--and this is something that is remarkable about this ecosystem--is the mentorship network, the appreciation I think everybody has for the fight and struggle of building companies. I've benefited greatly from people who had built enterprise software companies or just big companies in general, and they were very helpful in the kind of things we should watch out for, the kind of things we should optimize for, and how to build an organization that can last as long as possible."
Here are 5 great reasons why smart mentors raise your game.
1. Intelligence Squared.
Good mentors raise your mental game as well as amplify big picture thinking and the courage to step up when the going gets tough. Warren Buffett is a notable mentor to Bill Gates, and when Steve Jobs passed away, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook acknowledged that the Apple founder had been an "incredibly important mentor."
2. Eat Problems for Breakfast.
The barrage of noise and battles for your attention make it difficult to focus on what really matters. Small problems become emergencies and can stop you in your track. Mentors ask perspective-shifting questions and challenge outdated assumptions to help you duck hazards, grab opportunities and seize the day.
3. Will Power and Way Power.
What boxes are you limiting yourself to? Many entrepreneurs are stuck in a holding pattern, drifting and at best not listening, not believing, and not leading either themselves or others. A mentor will help grow your 'will power' (determination) and 'way power' (eye on the future). Jack Dorsey, CEO of Square and cofounder of Twitter, credits philanthropist Ray Chambers as one of his closet mentors who helped him to make big bets on the future.
4. Blind Spots.
As psychologist Daniel Kahneman said, "you are blind to your own blindness." Every entrepreneur has a blind spot, visible to others but not to themselves. What will you do today that your future self will thank you for? Mentors will help you pinpoint your blind spot and give candid feedback so that you're always thinking about what can be better.
6. Speed as Habit.
The speed as habit skill excels at decisive action. Pivoting quickly between fast and slow is a universal challenge for any entrepreneur: grow too quickly and you risk burnout; take too long and you miss the best opportunities. In a world of flux, only the most nimble survive. Mentors will future proof your mindset by giving you the cognitive tools to think big, act bold and test ideas light fast and often.
Why learn from your own mistakes in business when you can learn from someone else's? Mentors are indispensable: they provide the insights we are missing and open doors to new connections that might otherwise take years to build. Mentors are the secret sauce of success.