Aaron Levie is a big fan of reaching out to mentors. He is the the co-founder 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. 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 4 great reasons why mentors raise your game.
1. Solve Problems.
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 Mentors ask perspective-shifting questions and challenge outdated assumptions to help you duck hazards, grab opportunities and seize the day.
2. Think Differently.
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 co-founder of Twitter, credits philanthropist Ray Chambers as one of his closet mentors who helped him to make big bets on the future.
3. Viking Spirit.
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."
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.
A good mentor will: 1. push you harder than you expected 2. guide you with better questions 3. expect continuous improvement 4. dare you to dream big 5. challenge assumptions 6. be a lifelong student and most importantly 7. teach you how to think, not what to think.