When I met my first mentor I wasn’t impressed by his expensive car, his multi-million dollar business, or even how he managed hundreds of people.
No, I was impressed by how humble he was and how many questions he kept asking ME.
I thought to myself: Here’s a guy who’s rich, established, has everything — and he’s asking my opinion on everything? What the hell do I know?
At first, I thought he was just trying to make me feel important. That’s a common strategy that some people use to influence people.
But after a while, I noticed that he asked everyone for their opinion — and he actually cared. He listened. He even told me that his best ideas came from people who he usually wouldn’t ask.
As we became friends over time, and he became a mentor to me, I always wondered why he always kept asking everyone for their opinion and advice.
So about two years ago, I finally asked him: “Why do you always ask everyone for their opinion and advice? You’re so successful.”
He said: “I don’t know who said it, he must be a smart man, but it goes something like this: The secret of a successful man is that he always sees himself as a student who learns from other people.”
At the time, I had no clue who he was quoting. But a few weeks ago, when I was browsing Goodreads for new quotes to tweet, I noticed this quote:
“Do you know the secret of the true scholar? In every man there is something wherein I may learn of him; and in that I am his pupil.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
It finally clicked. My mentor is successful because he always saw himself as a student. Even after he had “made” it.
For example, some of his best business advice came from his business partner’s wife. And from one of his golf friends, he learned about investing. It’s so random. Or not?
Some people think that, once they achieve a certain level, they should stop talking to people ‘below’ them. Some people don’t even talk to people who are ‘below’ them; let alone asking them for advice.
We’ve all been there. Managers who think they’re above the rest. People with degrees who believe that they’re smarter than people who have no degree.
Some people believe that because they have a title, degree, or more money, they can’t learn from others who are not on their “level.”
Come on. That’s the biggest bullshit that happens on a daily basis. I see it all the time. And not only in work situations but everywhere.
You see it at big companies where upper management never talks to lower-level people. You see it in social classes where people who went to college look differently at people who didn’t.
To me, it’s weird that a lot of people claim that they are life learners, but completely disregard the idea of learning from other people. Just browse Twitter and you see a lot of people who have something with “life-learner” in their bio.
And that’s great. We all should keep learning forever. But why not learn from ALL people?
Have you ever asked for financial advice from someone you would never consider? Maybe a 16-year-old? Just a thought.
Years ago, when my mentor asked me questions about investing, dealing with people, marketing, strategy, and many other things we talked about, he knew damned well that I just got out of college.
Of course, he knew. But he didn’t care. He was genuinely interested in what I had to say. And yes, 99% of the stuff I talked about probably wasn’t relevant at all. But when you want to grow, you grow by 1% at a time.
“But asking people for advice will make me look bad.”
That’s just your ego speaking for you. Trust me; you won’t look stupid if you ask questions. In fact, the opposite is true. Most smart people I know, ONLY ask questions. They never make assumptions.
I’ve copied my mentor’s habit of asking everyone about their opinion and advice. Guess what? People gave me a lot of new ideas for articles, business, marketing. Plus, I also became friends with people just by asking them one single question.
So what do you have to lose? Ask the next person you meet about something that’s on your mind. Give it a try but don’t be surprised if you get a great answer. And if you don’t, don’t worry, just ask someone else.