Why Great Mentors Don’t Give Advice
When we’re getting advice, it doesn’t matter how good it is.
Most likely, we’ll soak it up in the moment, imagining the benefits, and basking in the positive regard of whoever’s giving it. Priding ourselves on our openness, intelligence, and likeability, we’ll slide back to the idea that deep down, we really are Superman.
We’ll walk away feeling like a million bucks… and once in a blue moon, we’ll act on it.
But a little later, when our ingrained habits kick in like a nicotine craving… we’ll do jack squat. If the pressure’s really on, we’ll crumble like the Afghan army when the last of the helicopters leave.
It ain’t pretty.
But as any guide, mentor, or top hostage negotiator knows… you can’t change human programming. With few exceptions, and when push comes to shove, reason and sound advice don’t free the hostages.
Short of being scared straight, or clobbered in the head with a cosmic two-by-four, lasting change happens slowly, one notch at a time, and usually when it’s our idea. Only after we’ve discovered it ourselves, owned it, and committed to action do we roll those sleeves up.
Mentors worth their salt know this, even if the hero hasn’t figured it out.
Better Odds for the Long Haul
We all have an urge to face the unknown. If you’re like us, your spine tingles at the call to do more, learn more, and break out of old circumstances that don’t ask for any risk or growth.
So when the journey inevitably leads to that place—the one where, whether you know it or not, you need a mentor—you’re ahead of the curve if you know what you’re looking for.
If someone’s got tons of advice but no skin in the game, keep looking.
Advice in a vacuum, advice without trust, transparency—and someone who listens to everything, knows you top to bottom, and asks questions that have their own way of callin’ bullshit—is the last thing you need.
Trust us, great mentors—the kind worth their weight in gold bullion—are out there.
It’s no damn accident that throughout history and without exception, successful people find them.
If we think of great athletes and coaches, statesmen and top advisers, Plato passing the torch to Aristotle, or even dudes like Steve Jobs mentoring new–kid-on-the-block Mark Zuckerberg, it’s clear there’s no substitute.
If you think about it, what a good mentor does beats tar out of what they don’t do… which is give advice, walk away, and mutter good luck, pal.
Checking off Good Qualities in a Mentor
Rather than talking at ‘em, a good mentor comes alongside the hero.
We see that in Gandalf the Gray, who takes Bilbo and later, Frodo Baggins under his wing, out of the shire, and all the way to a friggin’ cave with a rock bridge and a fire-breathing nightmare. When your mentor takes a thousand foot fall through a smoky chasm so you can scamper away unharmed, you know they’ve got some skin in the game…
Closer to home, a good mentor shares experiences. Wins, bruises, and weeklong hangovers… if they’ve been there, you’ll know it, because they’ll share it with you.
They lay their strengths and weaknesses right on the table.
More than that, they’re smart, honest, curious, understanding… which means they can probably smell bullshit a mile away.
Most importantly, they ask questions that take you beneath the surface, down to beliefs, mindsets, and core assumptions. They listen like a Quaker, and they don’t feign knowing all the answers… but they know more than anything else that it’s not about them being right.
Someone’s discovery is worth infinitely more than their own revelation.
In the end—and like Robin Williams’ Sean Maguire, the scruffy, straight-dealing psychiatrist in Good Will Hunting who breaks through the defenses of a young, traumatized math genius —success means guiding, understanding, and relating to someone in a way that helps them own what must be done.
A hero cannot be forced.
But with a trust-based relationship, he can kick some old doors down, see his weaknesses, and face questions that make him think through his assumptions.
Just like the Iroquois creation myth, the one with the whole world resting on a turtle, and that turtle resting on another turtle… the questions rest on even more questions.
The answers might be obvious, ironic, or straight-up surprising, but a good mentor doesn’t hand them out like free condoms.
They wait and listen for the hero’s answer.
Taking the Mentor Job Seriously
Down at the nub, the mentor’s job is to nudge the hero further and onwards… and help him shed a belief or two when life does what it does.
At Dare Capital, we don’t fear the unknown… even when it might be serving up another two-by-four.
Our job as an independent finance company is to give our clients and team members the best possible shot at success. We’re in this to encourage entrepreneurs, to help them see the data, not shy away, and then use it to make good decisions.
We’re in it to listen, build trust, ask our clients a ton of questions… and then sit back and listen to some damn good discoveries.
Calling All Heroes
If radical trust and full transparency sound better to you than more advice, you might just be our hero… the one who rushes into a burning building when everyone’s outside holding their phones up.
Don’t be shy. Give us a call.