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Achieve More With a Mentor

This essay was originally published on January 14th, 2006 for Early To Rise 

“It can be no dishonor to learn from others when they speak good sense.”

– Sophocles

A man looks back on his life and says, “I wish I knew then what I know now.”

It can take a decade or more to become the successful person you want to be, but you can shorten your learning curve – even drastically curtail it – by using a mentor.

With the advice, experience, and support of an experienced person in your field, you can avoid the most common mistakes you are likely to make. You overcome the stickiest problems and find shortcuts to success.

It doesn’t really matter where you are along your career path, getting yourself a good mentor will be enormously valuable for you.

A survey commissioned by the Elliot Leadership Institute at Johnson & Wales University confirms this. For this particular study, researchers surveyed senior executives and middle managers in the food service and hospitality industry about leadership competencies. What they discovered was that leaders who had been mentored felt the experience invaluable. They said their mentors helped them build all kinds of leadership skills, including decision-making, strategic thinking, planning, coaching, and effectively managing others.

In Early to Rise, I’ve often talked about the mentors in my own business life. From Leo, my first post-college boss, I learned the importance of persistence and dogged determination. Leo once had me call Honda Motors more than 100 times to convince them to give us a new engine after the one we had died (from lack of oil). We hadn’t a single, sensible argument in our favor, but that didn’t stop Leo from pushing me. Finally, after I got all the way to the top, the Honda executive leadership decided they had wasted too much time on us and gave in. I didn’t feel good about getting something we didn’t deserve, but I never forgot that lesson in persistence.

From Joel, my second major mentor, I learned a great deal. The first lesson he taught me – by firing the lady who wanted to get me fired – was that a good leader needs to surround himself with the strongest people he can find. Another lesson I learned soon thereafter had to do with the fundamental nature of business.

“Until you make a sale,” Joel explained patiently, “nothing else happens.”

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Storing documents in your computer makes it easier to retrieve them, but … A study at Columbia University headed by Betsy Sparrow found that people were more likely to forget things if they felt they could retrieve them easily via computer. In one experiment, participants typed 40 bits of trivia (e.g., an ostrich’s eyes are bigger than its brain) into a computer. Half were told that the information would be saved. Half believed it would not. Those that believed it would be saved had a significantly harder time remembering the trivia than those who thought it would be lost. In another experiment, participants were asked to recall not just the bit of trivia but which of the five folders it …

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Discovering Warren Buffet’s Secret

During my trip to South Africa and Australia last year, my business partner Bill Bonner and I had a conversation that should interest you. For those of you who don’t know, Bill and I worked together to found Agora publishing. We were speaking about our company’s future. Right now, Agora is a $400-plus million publishing business with high profitability and good growth. By any conventional standards, it is a great business. But Bill is not satisfied. His goal is to make Agora a business that will last a hundred years. Very few businesses are able to do that. To accomplish Bill’s goal, Agora will have to develop what Warren Buffet calls a “long-term, durable competitive advantage.” Coca-Cola is a perfect …

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Doug Casey on the America That Was – Now the United (Police) State of America

A great interview of a brave thinker… (Interviewed by Louis James, Editor, International Speculator) L: Doug, after conversations like the one we had last week, we often get letters from angry readers who accuse you of hating America, disloyalty, and perhaps even treason. These people don’t know or understand what I do about you – that you love the idea that was America. It’s the United State it has become for which you have nothing but contempt. Perhaps we should try to explain this to them? Doug: I doubt it would work; it’s a tough row to hoe, trying to explain things to people who are so set in their thinking that they truly and literally don’t want to hear …

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