Why One Mentor Simply Isn’t Enough

Mentorship is in many ways the single reason that I’m even writing this post.

If not for good-hearted, smart-minded, available mentors, there’s no doubt in my mind that I’d be in a very different position than the one I’m currently in. What’s really fascinating, though, is that my current position doesn’t owe to a singular mentor; it owes to a network of mentors.

My first mentor focused on leadership, music, spirituality and the blend between the three. At the time, I was a high schooler and was looking to play music for the church I was attending at the time.

The problem was that I had never touched an instrument in my life.

You don’t even want to know what my first recording of singing sounded like. Let’s just say, change is definitely possible.

My first mentor came along and for the next five years, we spent weekly time together talking about life, learning the art of music, and taking a lot of scary leaps playing in front of people.

Soon after this I transitioned into college where my mentors looked a bit different. Alongside leading in the church, my focus expanded to include academics.

During my undergraduate years as a philosophy major, I placed myself under the minds of three professional philosophers to help me train my analytical and writing skills.

Once graduated, I took a full time job leading in the church and there again I placed myself under new mentors, while making sure to maintain my previous mentor relationships to the best of my abilities.

Why The Multiplicity?

As you can tell from the title of this piece, I want to make it crystal clear why a multiplicity of mentors is essential to any kind of entrepreneurial, innovative and creative project you’re taking on.

There are two key points to pay attention to.

I also want to offer a thought on the more popular version of mentorship where we seek it out from books, podcasts and the like. More on that in a bit.

1. Diversify Your Inputs In Order To Diversify Your Outputs

If there’s anything that’s universally true about entrepreneurialism it’s that when you’re engaged in your entrepreneurial venture, you’re never doing just one thing.

Wouldn’t it be nice, though, if you were an entrepreneur whose background was predominantly in software engineering and all you had to do in your new company was code?

Or perhaps you’re in sales, and as a head of your new company all you had to do was sell your product; nothing more, nothing less.

Yes, this would be the dream. But it couldn’t be further from the reality of entrepreneurialism.

Any entrepreneur will tell you that the beginning stages of your project will require you to wear hundreds of different hats: marketing, sales, operations, finances, content strategy, human resources, public relations and the list goes on.

The way to put the point I’m trying to make is that your outputs will be quite diverse. This means that to best prepare for this you need to diversify your inputs.

Why? Because it’ll be a very long time before you can hire who you need to do what you’d rather not do so you can focus on the thing you love the most.

Multiply the voices that are speaking into you; make sure different skills and industries are represented if you can.

2. Escape Being Victim To Biased Feedback

While my first mentor was absolutely incredible, over the course of time our relationship had some issues.

With any relationship, the longer you’re in it, the more likely it is that you or the other will develop biases about the other person. This isn’t all bad. In fact, it’s really nice at times — it’s how trust and safety get developed in the relationship.

One of the problems created by the longevity, however, is that you can begin to develop biases with the person you’re mentoring or the person mentoring you. And they can have two radically different effects.

First, the biases can result in a mentor failing to see growth opportunities in their mentee.

They may become inclined to see only the good things because the not-so-good things will feel like a threat to the mentor’s ability to mentor.

Second, the mentor may be biased toward critique over the long haul, always failing to appreciate and notice the mentee’s legitimate growth.

Interestingly enough, this kind of bias can result from a similar insecurity as the first where the mentor, out of fear of being surpassed by the mentee, can’t see the growth of their mentee. Once again, it feels too threatening.

The solution here is multiplicity. You want to expand the number of voices and reduce the effects of biases. This will keep you growing which is the goal of mentorship in the first place.

Why Books and Podcasts Aren’t Enough

Many today will advocate for receiving your mentorship from your favorite authors and speakers today.

The idea here is that you can “sit at the feet” of whomever you want through books and podcasts and thus keep yourself on a trajectory toward growth.

I agree that it’s crucial to always be learning and therefore it’s important to be a reader and listener of books and podcasts.

As a solution for mentorship, books and podcasts are intensely insufficient.

Recall the goal of mentorship: growth.

The only way growth happens is by having someone who’s acquainted with your life well enough that they can literally call you out.

Books and podcasts simply can’t do that in the same way.

With books and podcasts, you can always escape the hard teaching by focusing your attention on the way it applies to someone else in your life. Often times, our minds do this naturally.

When in the presence of an actual other person, this shifting of our attention to someone else when the hard teaching comes because increasingly difficult, and that’s for the good.

What human-to-human, personalized mentorship affords us that books and podcasts don’t is the often difficult-but-needed truths about ourselves. These truths tracks the facts of me and my life; they’re not generalized to an audience of thousands.

This is where the really robust growth lies. Get someone across the table from you over a cup of coffee, or on the other side of a Zoom call, and allow them to speak honestly about your growth and development. If you can, do this with a few different people throughout your year.

A multiplicity of mentors — in other words, a network of mentors — will be the catalyst to your biggest success.

Need help finding one or multiple? We got you. Check out our platform, Univa, which exists to facilitate growth, innovation and entrepreneurialism for those worldwide. The platform is packed with people in diverse industries ready to offer their mentorship.

Learn more about the platform here.

Written by: Bryan Forbes