• Jan Okonji


Updated: May 28

I bet you’ve read the stats from somewhere: 70% of start-ups that receive mentoring survive for five years or more - that is, double the rate of survival compared to their their non-mentored counterparts.

Well, I can’t speak much for statistics – they are largely unproven, guesstimates at best + they do have a percentage of falsehood. I should know – I worked as a business analyst for nearly a decade! What I can speak on though is reality and my reality is this: my 5 year business nearly crumbled in it’s first year of inception after $ 50,000 invested in it went down the proverbial drain. I can also tell you that I was totally off key when it came to understanding my target market!

So how did I get out of that rut? What changed, exactly?


I looked in the mirror, faced the fact that I didn’t know it all, was probably less of an entrepreneur than I thought I was and was in need of dire HELP. I was desperate. When you’re desperate you tend to screw up, make bad decisions, blame the devil etc. I thank God I didn't screw up this time round. Out I went (after a few weeks of self pity and mopping around) and spoke to more established entrepreneurs who all told me the same thing more or less: GET A BUSINESS MENTOR. You know, a teacher/coach/guru who could be my Mr.Miyagi, Yoda, Tony Robbbins – you get the picture.

Quite frankly I didn’t know there were so many of them out there - the business mentors, that is. Quite frankly I didn’t know that some of the rich sounding ones were knock offs with little credibility beyond the feel good speeches.But I guess you already know this for yourselves.

I have a number of GREAT mentors – virtual and non-virtual, and these are my rules on how to cherry pick an awesome mentor:

1. They have to be someone who is or has been where you want to be. There’s no two ways about it. If I want to be, say a best selling author – I’m listening to the guy who is one or has been one, not the one who has great oratory skills but is still at an aspirational level like myself. You’ve got to be about it, bro. You have to be able to back it up.

2. Your mentor should be someone you are inspired by, not someone you want to be. Look, at the end of the day we’re generally similar but all intrinsically unique. Pick elements from your mentor(s) and then use those ingredients in your own ratio to develop your own unique style of business, dressing, speech, relationship, gym regimen…whatever. It’s easy being unique in a counterfeit century – be inspired more and imitate less.

3. Isn’t the 21st Century awesome? Thanks to the Net, a business mentor doesn’t have to be someone you’ve actually met- you can have a ‘virtual mentor’! You do this by virtue of reading their books, blogs, listening to their podcasts, attending their virtual trainings and stalking them. Don’t restrict your learning to your geographical location. Why a virtual mentor? Well, just maybe you are in the place I was in 5 odd years ago: too shy, busy, tight on money, paranoid or cautious to engage a mentor face to face.

4. Your mentor should be disposable…let me elaborate a bit...: a good mentor doesn’t want you hooked on them or their products forever – they actually want you to branch out and discover your own path…and start mentoring others for a change..here’s a good example: Garvy Vaynerchuk pumps out good material every nano second…he’s been accused of being so info heavy that merely listening to him will prevent you achieving your own dreams. I see it differently though. Gary actually wishes that after you GET the gist of what he’s proposing , you run with it and stop getting addicted to his content…he’s actually said that in a Vlog. He understands that the more you watch or get motivated, the less you actually do! A mentor that keeps you addicted to the motivational end of their product is not interested in you 100% – it’s more about their own self-interest.

5. Great mentors actually give out more than they receive – it’s heart over money…this can be gauged by just how much content they put out in a week, day, hour..at no cost, with no strings and no frills. They are there for the long haul – not to pay the bills. They recognize that they get more latent long term mileage through your referrals and positive testimonials on their product rather than through purchasing their branded CDs, t-shirts or attending never ending seminars on ‘How to be Wealthy.’ James Altucher is my personal favourite on that front.

6. Your mentor’s got to be current. I know ‘there’s no school like the old school’ and ‘old is gold’ and all that but honestly, information is the currency of the 21st century and a mentor that’s not active on at least 3 social media platforms ( from Facebook, You Tube, Instagram, Twitter ) is not worth your time or money. Social media offers you a chance of a lifetime: an audience of one to a billion on a relatively shoe-string budget. A good mentor will guide you on how to get the most ‘eye-balls’ on your product at any one time vs giving you a dinosaur of a book about marketing strategies churned out of an outdated university thesis.

7. The mentor has to be authentic – 100% real. Positive words or messages are awesome, they lift you up and make you feel invincible and hey,in a drab and dark World we need all the positivity we can, right? But more important than positive words are words from a point of EXPERIENCE. Seek out the ‘underdog-mentor’, the one who makes it in spite and despite the odds stacked against them – the one evolving before your very eyes. Getting a mentor who’s ‘already made it’ may do wonders where inspiration is involved but they may as well be from another planet to your sub-conscious mind, especially if you’re still developing around self awareness and trying to understand who you really are (aren’t we all?). For example, if you want to eventually own an international clothing franchise seek mentorship from the lad or lass who’s tried, failed, tried again, failed again, is now getting the hang of it and $ 1 million later is willing to not only share their highs but their lows as well. That’s a much better learning than one that is all love and light. It’s real and it’s organic since anyone can touch failure – anyone can relate to that.

#motivation #action #business #mentorship #empowerment #mindset

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