Benjamin Franklin once said, “There are two ways to acquire wisdom; you can either buy it or borrow it.” By buying it, you pay full price in time and cost to learn the lessons you need to learn. By borrowing it, you go to those men and women who have already paid the price to learn the lessons and get their wisdom from them.

This is the essence of the mentor-protégé relationship. By going to people who are ahead of you in the personal or professional arena and opening yourself to their input, advice and guidance, you can save yourself the many months (maybe even years) it would take and the thousands of dollars it would cost to learn what you need to learn all by yourself.

The mentors you choose should be people you respect, admire and want to be like. The advice you seek should be guidance regarding your character and personality and specific ideas on how you can do your work better and faster.

How to Choose a Mentor

Your ability to choose your mentors can be a crucial step toward achievement in all areas of your life.

There are two vital qualities to look for in a mentor. The first is character and the second is competence. Character is by far the most important. Look for a mentor who has the kind of character you admire and respect. Look for a person who has high degrees of intelligence, integrity, judgment and wisdom.

The second quality to look for in a mentor is competence. This means that the person is extremely good at what he or she does. A good mentor in your career is one who has the knowledge, skills and abilities to move ahead far more efficiently than his or her peers.

The impact of a mentor on your life is dependent on two additional factors. The first is your degree of openness to being influenced by another person. When you open yourself up to guidance and input from another person, concentrate first on understanding and learning exactly what that person has to teach you. After-ward, you can modify and change that lesson to suit your changing circumstances.

The second factor that determines the influence of a mentor in your life is the willingness of the mentor to help you in every way possible to achieve your goals. The more emotionally involved someone is in our lives, the more susceptible we are to being influenced by that person. When you seek out a mentor, you must look for someone who genuinely cares about you as a person and who really wants you to be successful in your endeavors.

Here are twelve steps for building successful mentor-protégé relationships:
  1. Set clear goals for yourself in every area of your life. Know exactly what you want to accomplish before you start thinking of the type of person who can help you accomplish it.

  2. Determine the things you will have to do in order to achieve your goals, the obstacles you will have to overcome and the roadblocks you will have to surmount.

  3. Identify the areas of knowledge, skill and expertise you will have to acquire in order to overcome the obstacles existing between you and your goals.

  4. Look around for the most successful people in the areas in which you will need the most help.

  5. Join the clubs, organizations and business associations these people belong to.

  6. Once you have joined these organizations, become actively involved and volunteer for responsibilities. This will bring you to the attention of the people you want to meet faster than anything else.

  7. Work, study and practice continually to get better and better at what you do. The very best mentors are interested in helping you only if they feel it is going to be worth their time. You will have no problem attracting people to you when you develop a reputation for being up and coming in your field.

  8. When you find a potential mentor, don’t make a nuisance of yourself. Instead, ask for ten minutes of his or her time, in person, in private. Nothing more. Most potential mentors are busy people who may be opposed to someone trying to take up a lot of their time.

  9. When you meet with a potential mentor, express your eagerness to be more successful in your field. Tell him or her that you would very much appreciate a little guidance and advice to help you move ahead. Ask for an answer to a specific question, for a specific book or audio program recommendation or for a specific idea that has been helpful to him or her in the past.

  10. After the initial meeting, send a thank-you note expressing your gratitude and appreciation for his or her time and guidance. Mention that you hope to meet again if you have another question.

  11. Each month, drop your mentor a short note telling him or her about what you are doing and how you are progressing. Nothing makes a mentor more open to helping you further than your making it clear that the previous help has done you some good.

  12. Arrange to meet with your mentor again, perhaps on a monthly basis, or even more often, if you work closely together.

Over the course of your life, you will have many mentor-protégé relationships. As you grow and develop, you will seek out different mentors, people who can give you the kind of advice that is most relevant to your current situation.

Successful people are very open to helping other people who want to be successful. This is especially true if they know you are willing to be a mentor to others who are younger and less experienced than yourself. The more open you are to helping others up the ladder of success, the more open others will be to helping you.

BRIAN TRACY is a legend in the fields of management, leadership and sales.
He has produced more than 350 audio/video programs and has written
over forty-two books, including his just-released book
The Way to Wealth.