No one in the world can afford to waste a commodity as precious as time.
In business, you will make mistakes and you will lose money in bad investments, but if you waste time, you’ll never get it back. Money you can earn back. Clients you can win back. You can always get second chances when you make mistakes. But time only happens once.
If you want to save time and learn faster, how would you do that? For me, it was about finding the right mentor.
Hunger For Knowledge Like It’s Food
When I was just starting out, I was trying all kinds of ideas, excited by all my crazy thoughts and hopes. Like a race car driver revving up at the start line, ready to go.
I wanted to do different things and be successful at all kinds of businesses. I was filled with the enthusiasm of the young. So I started my first business. Failed it. Started the second one. Failed that also.
I failed at 13 businesses before having my first success. Now during that period of time like most people who loved to learn, I was reading books like Think and Grow Rich from front to back 10 times.
When I finished that one, I read How to Win Friends and Influence People. I read so many of these personal development books, devouring the knowledge like it was food. I also attended events and seminars. And all of those things helped to a certain degree but I would say that I’m where I am today because of my mentors.
Watch this video about finding a mentor.
How I Became An Avid Collector Of Alan Jacques Letters
Over the years, I’ve had two mentors who I consider my lifetime mentors. Although I’ve learned from different people throughout my career, there are only two who had a profound influence on me for many years.
The first mentor is Alan Jacques. I met him when I was in my early 20s. At the time, before he retired, he used to run one of the most successful financial education companies in Canada. And at the time they were doing a lot of direct mail marketing.
Coincidentally, because I was attending all these workshops I would get these direct mail pieces. Most people would think of those as junk mail but I didn’t. I would collect them like treasure because I was fascinated by how the marketing was done.
Like a child fascinated by a new toy, I wanted to know how Alan did certain things. So I collected these letters and I would three-hole punch them and put them in binders. Then I would study them and how they were written to learn his copywriting secrets. I still have these binders today, these valuable learning tools from Alan Jacques.
So how did I meet him?
You want to find a mentor who is more successful than yourself, but the challenge is getting the attention of someone who is ten times more successful than you. Why would they pay attention to you if you’re a nobody? That’s the challenge I had when I met Alan.
At the time he was the founder of the Real Estate Investment Network which today is a huge company that he sold many years ago. Back then, he was the very first guy to pioneer the concept of continuity in a membership program.
The program is a free seminar model in Canada where you would get people to attend a free seminar and then offer them different high end programs.
It’s Not The Workshops, It’s The Marketing
I was attending one of these free workshops because I didn’t have a lot of money. Then I happened to look over at the name tag of the person next to me. I was in disbelief and thought to myself, “No, it couldn’t be!”
So I looked at it again and it still said Alan Jacques. Because I didn’t believe my eyes, I asked the man, “Are you Alan Jacques?” And he said, “Yes, I am.”
Then I asked, “Are you the one who’s sending the letters to invite people to attend workshops and things like that?”
He answered that he was. “I was the one who wrote all those pieces.”
Then I admitted something that startled him. I said, “You’re my hero.”
He was taken aback as he wrongly concluded that I loved attending his workshops. So I clarified that it wasn’t the workshops, it was the marketing. I loved the way he did the marketing.
I confessed that I collected all his letters, and put them in three-ring binders to study them better.
He was a little bit surprised because I he’d never heard of anyone acknowledging and complimenting him on his marketing, although he is a marketing genius.
Still, I babbled on like a fan to a rock star, and said I loved what he did so much, I wanted to buy him lunch. He looked at me and I still remember in that pivotal moment what he said. “Well, what the hell I gotta eat.”
And that’s how we started a relationship. I bought him lunch and later on I volunteered to work for his company for next to nothing for a year.
Make Sacrifices For Your Mentor
I would go into the office to help him organize the paperwork. Because we were doing so much direct mail at the time, I would lick the stamps or I would lick the envelopes. Of course, I wouldn’t do that now because I know better.
It’s funny because I was licking a lot of envelopes and they tasted horrible. After he saw me do a whole bunch of them, like a few hundred, he said, “You do know, Dan, you can use water, right?”
That was such a good tip. I thought I was poisoning myself, but for a good cause.
After I sealed the envelopes and put stamps on them, I took them to the post office. That was the beginning of my work with Alan, my first mentor.
The lesson here is, instead of asking yourself, “How do you find a mentor?” I believe your mentor actually finds you.
Most people think it doesn’t matter where you start. They think if you want to be successful and make more money, you can approach your potential mentor. You can have the attitude that they should help you because they are successful and you’re not.
That isn’t the right approach. Instead, ask how you can add value to their lives. Always give first before you ask anything in return. And that’s what I did.
I sought my mentor and then I helped him by working for him for next to nothing for a year. I wanted to add value to what he was doing.
Give Before You Take
When looking for a mentor, understand this: your mentor doesn’t need you. He or she is already successful and they are where you want to be in your dreams. Why would they even want to spend or invest their time and effort on you?
Don’t come from the angle of being selfish, thinking that because someone is successful they’re obligated to help you. That’s the wrong mentality. Add value to what they do first. And don’t even go to them with an agenda.
When you’re successful, people come to you for two things: either they come to you for money or they come to you for a job. You don’t want to go to your mentors for either of these two things. They’ll categorize you as someone who just wants something from them, such as money.
With Alan, I just wanted to learn and do anything I could to help. Over time he gave me more and more responsibilities. His trust in me increased over the years. Later on, he noticed I was doing a lot of admin work and asked if I wanted to do some marketing.
He started to show me how to write copy, how to communicate using words to influence people. That’s the year that changed my life. It’s how I started my career in copywriting. I continued to be his mentee for over a decade.
Now my second mentor, Dan Pena, I met through his work. I bought his book on eBay, but the story of how he became my mentor I’ll leave for another time. Both Alan and “Big Dan” have been my mentors over a decade now. Both Dan and Alan taught me different things.
When you’re seeking your mentor, you want to find someone who you respect and resonate with. Just because someone is successful financially doesn’t necessarily make them a good mentor.
It’s Just Lunch Or Dinner… To Start The Relationship
You have to ask yourself if they are they the ideal role model for you. Do you share the same values? Do you connect with them? Are you comfortable spending time with your mentor? These factors are very critical.
With Alan we connected on so many different levels. Not just for business but socially as well. You want to spend as much time with your mentor as possible, but also, you want to respect their time and their space because they are very busy.
Now I do know that sometimes what holds people back is that they see someone who’s very successful and they’re afraid to approach them.
Whenever I see someone successful and I seek help, I ask them for lunch or dinner as just a sincere way to reach out. I have no agenda. I’m not trying to get money from them or anything like that. Àll I want is knowledge.
Nine times out of ten, people who are successful are very generous. I’ve been turned down maybe a handful of times out of the hundreds of times I’ve asked people over the years.
It shows you that successful people, when approached with sincerity, will say yes. Even when I was just a young guy, they would spare the time while I asked good questions and took notes. That’s how I learned not to be afraid to ask for knowledge.
When you find that ideal mentor, just go all in. Don’t jump from learning a little from one mentor, then a little from the next. You’ll never see good results.
You Can’t Learn From A Stranger
To use a martial arts analogy, if you jump from learning karate to taekwondo, to boxing to kung fu from one week to the next, you’ll never be very good at any of them. If you decide to learn kung fu, learn from one instructor, and stay with that instructor for many years. Maybe decades. You’ll need decades to truly master that art.
Business is the same. Some people think can understand what a person is all about by watching a few of their YouTube videos. It’s ridiculous if you think about it. But that’s how people think nowadays.
After watching a video about you, they assume certain things about you. There are people who assume they know me from watching my videos but the alarming truth is they know no more about me than we know about very distant planets.
Unless they’ve met me in person, or they’re a student of mine, they’ve done business with me, they don’t know me at all. Yet, many of them ask if I can be their mentor. They can’t say my favorite quotes or tell you what motivates me. Nor have they taken any of my classes or programs. Yet they think I’m the right mentor for them because I’m successful.
Don’t choose a mentor who is a stranger to you. How do you know if your proposed mentor resonates with you? Only you can answer this question.
Final Words On Finding The Right Mentor
Like I’ve said before, I believe your mentor finds you. I became a fan of Alan Jacques and I studied his work before I met him. When I met him for the first time, as a young guy eager to impress my hero, I offered value first.
I gave to my mentor before I took. I worked for him and then he taught me about marketing. Successful people are open to teaching you if you approach them the right way.
When you do find your ideal mentor, who shares your values, invest time with him or her. You can’t learn much in just a few weeks.
If you want mastery, invest years to decades with your mentor. And most importantly, think of what value you can bring to that person’s life before you start asking them what they will teach you.
What value would you offer to your proposed mentor? Comment below.