Yeah…I know the title is a little blunt. But straight-up, it's true. Anyone that has been following M$M for the past three years has watched this little website and my revenue take a pretty quick upward swing.
As cool as it would be for my ego to say that it was all me – that I'm some kind of genius that has a gift for making money and being successful in business; it just wouldn't be true.
The reality is, 90% of the time I haven't known what the hell I'm doing. I'm not even just talking about business. I didn't know anything about personal finance when I graduated from college 6 (holy crap I'm getting old) years ago.
Finding mentors paved the way for me to start building wealth, have success in business, and create the life I've always wanted but didn't have the skills to grasp
Over the years, I've had several M$M readers reach out and ask me to write about mentors, but more specifically, how to find them. I've always tried to weave stories and pieces of wisdom that I've picked up throughout the posts here, but now I'm realizing that I've never stopped to write about actually finding mentorship.
It's not like potential mentors are just walking around waiting to take young people under their wing.
I think you'd be surprised, but we'll get to that part later.
First, I want to dig a little deeper into my own mentor story.
“You can't afford a house like that. You're a teacher with $40,000 of student loan debt.”
Man…I will never forget when my friend Mike (and mentor…but we're past that term now) told me I wouldn't be wealthy if I stayed on my current path.
We were water skiing right after I had graduated from college on a lake where Coral and I live.
Mike was Coral's father's best friend, but I hadn't actually met him until he invited Coral and I out to go waterskiing one day.
Like most people with a boat, he was looking for people to hang out with him on it. Boats are only so much fun if it's just you, and waterskiing is definitely a group activity.
So we went, and it was awesome. I sucked at waterskiing, but after a beer or three, it doesn't really matter if you're good or not anyway.
Somewhere along the way, he asked me about my student loans and how I was going to pay them off.
I had no idea. I didn't know anything about my loans, other than the first payment was due 6 months after I graduated. My strategy was to start making payments when Sallie Mae told me to, and stop making them when she told me I didn't have to anymore.
As crazy as that sounds now – I think that's how most people approach their loans. I didn't want to think about them, because I knew that they were going to be a burden for years to come.
Or at least I thought they were going to be…but Mike had different plans apparently haha.
He basically told me that I needed to pay them off as soon as possible by making bigger payments.
It would be a guaranteed return of 6%. I'd never find a guaranteed 6% anywhere else. Ever. He kept saying that over and over until it made sense.
I was open to the idea of paying them off early, but probably wasn't going to do it just based on that advice alone. My situation wasn't painful enough yet. Most people only tend to make big changes in their lives when they feel the full burden of their deepest pain points.
Then, maybe by accident, Mike found my pain point.
We were coming back in after a day on the water, and on both sides of the lake we were surrounded by these beautiful homes. McMansions is basically what everyone calls them here. They're these huge houses with boat ramps and incredible swimming pools overlooking the water.
I wanted one. So I looked over at my wife and told her that we were going to buy one someday.
In classic Mike just saying whatever he wants whenever he wants fashion, he replied, “You'll never be able to afford a house like that. You're a teacher with $40,000 of student loan debt.”
Ding ding ding. Pain point located.
If there is anything that motivates me more in life, it's being told that I can't do something. I don't know why that is or exactly what underlying weirdness I have that causes it…but that's just how it works for me.
Being told I can't achieve something is the sure-fire way to make sure that I do stuff. My wife would have way more success getting me to put my clothes in hamper if she told me I couldn't do it, but she hasn't realized that yet and the clothes still don't quite make it there.
Regardless, Mike saying those words to me was the exact moment that I decided I was going to pay my loans off and write a check for one of those damn houses someday.
I just had to figure out how to get there.
Mike kept teaching, so I kept showing up. Or…maybe it was the other way around.
Over the next few years, I hung out with Mike a lot. He owns a swimming pool company that he's been in the process of shutting down for a few years now.
On the rare times that I got off from work at the high school at a reasonable time, I'd go over to the pool shop and have a beer with Mike to blow off some steam.
We'd talk about my student loans, investing, saving money, business, and basically all of these things that nobody had ever really talked with me about before.
By talking to Mike, I realized that I had a passion for entrepreneurship and personal finance. Those pool shop talks were like a spark that lit a fire for me, which has since become one of my main goals with Millennial Money Man.
I want to help people realize that they actually care about personal finance, and can be great at it. I want to get people excited about it the same way that Mike got me excited about it; talking about money like a normal human instead of trying to be some d-list famous “guru” (which plagues the personal finance world if we're being honest).
Over the years, Mike taught me things like:
- Paying off debt
- Living below my means
- How to sell
- Investing (he's a dividend investor…but I'm not that fancy. I just buy a crapload of index funds and the occasional individual equity of my choosing and call it good)
- Insurance (Mike used to be an insurance salesman)
- Starting a business
- The importance of long-term tax strategy
And the list goes on and on. It would take me hours to sit here and think of every personal finance and entrepreneurship lesson I learned from him. I just kept asking questions, because I knew he had answers after years of running a successful business and also having millions of dollars in the stock market.
Through Mike, I actually met another one of my mentors named David.
David and Mike had been good friends for years, and David is a pilot who owns a successful commercial real estate investing venture.
As I started hanging out with Mike and picking his brain early on, I slowly became friends with David and started picking his brain too.
The cool thing about having multiple mentors is that you get completely different perspectives. I was super fortunate to have another person take me under their wing and share what they knew as well.
Over the years, David taught me:
- The nuts and bolts of commercial real estate investing (which I plan to do someday)
- Debt isn't always bad if you're using it to make money
- To work hard while I'm young so that I can chill later
- Most of the things that Mike taught me (but from a different perspective)
It's the same thing as Mike – I can't sit here and even begin to write down everything I've learned from David. But now I have multiple perspectives and pieces of real-life wisdom that I can use at any time to make a decision.
Even better…I can just call them and ask for their advice. That's what makes mentorship the bomb dot com.
Put down your self-help guru books and get a mentor instead
Wanna know a dirty little secret? I think reading books (for most people) is a semi-waste of time.
Now don't get me wrong – knowledge is massively important. There is nothing wrong with reading books, and you certainly won't become an idiot by doing it.
But here's what I see all the time through M$M:
People spend way too much time reading and not enough time actually doing stuff.
I can't tell you how many people I've seen that go through book after book after book and don't take action on anything at all. It doesn't matter if it's personal finance or entrepreneurship.
I'm on track to be a liquid asset millionaire in my early 30's, and I don't read books all the time. That's not the sexy thing to say in the personal finance world, but it's true.
You know what I actually do though?
I get advice from my mentors and then go out and make stuff happen. My mentors hold me way more accountable than a book ever will, mostly because I don't want to go back to them and admit that I didn't take the advice that I asked for.
Here's what I know from running a blog that has reached millions of readers: A lot of people utilize books as a clever stall tactic. Reading a ton of books allows them to avoid going out and actually do what the books say to do.
By the time they finish one book, they're on to the next book because apparently, that's the key to success according to some self-help guru that hit them with a paid ad on Facebook.
Please recognize that a lot of bad marketers say you need to read tons of books to be successful because:
A) It's easy advice to give that's hard to challenge (who would say that reading books is crappy advice?)
B) Saying they read hundreds of books per year makes them look smart, and also a perceived authority on whatever it is they are eventually selling you (even if they are really just reading cliff notes or the first few chapters)
C) Book stories and pictures of full bookshelves in a garage (which makes no sense at all) get a lot of clicks
Again…I'm not saying that books are a waste of time. But if you are one of those people that I just described earlier who reads a ton of books and doesn't do anything, you need to find a mentor instead. Books aren't working for you right now.
So how do you find a mentor?
Ah yes, the part you've probably been waiting for. How to actually find a mentor. The cool thing is that it's not really too hard, but the non-cool thing is that it's uncomfortable if you're like me and not outgoing.
Here's how I recommend that you find your own mentor:
1. Take a look at your inner circle and see who is successful
The reality is that you probably know someone who is successful in your family, or have a friend with parents that are successful.
And by successful, I don't mean filthy rich. But you will want to find someone that has more money than you because, well, what's the point in asking for money advice from someone that doesn't have any, right?
As one of my favorite people ever, Steve Simms, says:
“You're not going to get wealthy knocking around with people who don't have any money.”
So look for someone that is successful, and then find a way to meet them.
Step out of your comfort zone and ask them to grab a coffee, or at the very least shoot them an email and start asking questions (which I've done before).
If you can't find someone in your inner circle – do some research and find a mentorship group in your area and get involved (yep, those exist).
2. Ask them questions about things you're interested in (but don't be weird about it)
The biggest key to mentorship is asking questions. Sometimes you'll find people that just want to share their knowledge with you without being prompted.
If so, awesome. You found a unicorn mentor (I just made that term up).
But if they are a normal mentor, you're going to have to ask them the things that you want to know.
Want to know about investing? Cool. Ask them how they choose investments.
Want to know about business? Ask them how they built theirs.
Here's the thing about successful people:
They like talking about this stuff. In my experience, they enjoy telling their stories because they want to pass on their legacy to someone else.
You just have to prompt them by going out of your way to show them that you want to hear what they have to say.
Also…successful people want other people to be successful. Use that to your advantage.
3. Find a way to provide value to them
Even though I'm super busy now, I still try to do this for Mike and David.
If they ask me to help them with something and I can make it work with my schedule, I'm going to go do it.
I don't care if it's helping to install a swimming pool heater, or mowing their yard while they are out of town…I feel like it's the least I can do for the amount of knowledge that I've gained from them.
If you can find ways to provide value, there's a good chance that you'll be allowed to stick around and keep asking questions.
4. Give them credit where credit is due
Ego is a hell of a drug. It would be easy at this point to pretend that all of my success so far is solely my own doing.
But I like to pass on the credit to my mentors whenever I can.
Really, I should have just called this point “stay humble”, because that's really all it is. If you have mentors for long enough, you're going to be successful. You just need to remember how you got there, and then pass it on to someone else when they come to you and ask.