30 Days to a Better Man Day 3: Find a Mentor

by Brett & Kate McKay on June 2, 2009 · 28 comments

in 30 Days to a Better Man

A few months ago we wrote about the importance of a mentor in a man’s life. Figuring out what it means to be a man can be tough. And it’s arguably tougher for men today, who are often more socially isolated, don’t have as many friends, and don’t have strong relationships with their fathers and other male relatives. It’s therefore more important than ever for every man to seek out mentors to help him navigate the complicated waters of manliness and life.

Mentors have the experience and wisdom to give us sound guidance, direction, and advice. Mentors can also help us expand our point of view on a particular area of our life. Moreover, a mentor can become a good friend and confidant during times when we struggle and falter.

So having a mentor is quite important. The tricky part is, how do you find one? Here’s a suggested road map.

How to Find a Mentor

1. Determine what sort of mentor you’re looking for. We all have different facets of our lives. Work, school, spirituality, family, etc. Ask yourself what area of your life needs improvement and could benefit from a mentor. And it doesn’t have to be a specific area of your life like career or church. Perhaps you’re just looking for a mentor to help you be an all around better man. That’s fine.

2. Draw up a list of three men that you’d like to mentor you. Think of all the men you know that might be able to help you in the area that you’re looking for some mentoring in. Guys that you’ve always looked up to or admired and wish you had a better relationship with. If you’re looking for a mentor to help you in your career, look around at the men you know at work that have been in the game awhile and know the ropes. If you’re a student, you might want to pick a professor that really inspires you academically. If you’re looking for a mentor to help you be an overall better man, simply think of the men you know and admire. While we often think of a mentor as being older than us, a mentor can be a guy the same age as you, who just has his life together a bit more or who lives his life in a way you really admire. Also, don’t stick with men that are exactly like you. One of the benefits of a mentor is that they can help expand your point of view.

3. Write down how each mentor could help you grow as a man. Think of the traits each man has that you wish to learn. Do some research on them. Do they come from a similar background as you? Do they have unique experiences that can broaden your conception and understanding of success in a particular area of your life? Have they had any setbacks similar to yours? What is it exactly about this person that makes you want him to be your mentor? This will come in handy when you finally get around to asking.

4. Figure out what you expect from the mentor relationship. Before you ask someone to be your mentor, you need to know what he should expect from the relationship. How often would you like to meet with him? Once a week? Once a month? How do you want the mentoring to take place? A discussion over lunch? Email? A monthly phone call? When you’re deciding this, take into account the men you’re asking to be your mentor and what will work for them. If you know one man is particularly busy, you wouldn’t want to ask that he meet with you once a week.

5. Ask the first man on your list. After you’ve done all your prep work, it’s time to ask. Whether you call, email, or a write a letter to do the asking will depend on each person. Some older men might be “old school” and prefer a phone call or letter over email. If they’re younger and a bit tech savvy, email is just fine.

Tell your prospective mentor that you’re looking for a mentor in “x” area of your life and that you think he’d be a good one. Explain why you think he’d be a good mentor by sharing some of the positive traits about him that you wrote down. People love to be praised!

If you get some positive feedback from your prospective mentor about the relationship, go on and start discussing logistics. Explain what you’re hoping to get out of the mentorship and get an idea of what he’d like to get out of it as well. Synchronize schedules and how you two plan to carry out the mentorship. The more clear you are at the beginning, the less likely for awkward moments down the line.

If asking someone so directly to be your mentor makes you feel awkward (or you think it might make them feel uncomfortable) then just ask the man to have lunch or hang out some time. Start dropping by the professor’s office or your co-worker’s cubicle for chats. And the relationship will hopefully develop naturally from there.

6. Expect rejection. Don’t’ get discouraged and don’t take it personally if people say no. People are busy these days, and they just might not have time to be a mentor. If the first man says no, go on to the second.

7. Say “thank you.” No matter if you get a no or a yes, be sure to thank the person.

Now, it might not be possible to find a mentor in just one day, but let’s at least get started on it.

Here’s your 30 Days to a Better Man-Day 3 task in a nutshell:

  • Pick an area in your where you think a mentor can help you and draw up a list of three potential mentors.
  • Describe why you think they’d be good.
  • By the end of the 24 hours, contact this mentor. Send an email or letter, call them, or drop by their office. You don’t actually have to visit with them during this day, but make contact with them in some form.

This is our most difficult task so far, as for many of you, it will involve going outside of your comfort zone. But remember your commitment! You can’t stay in your comfort zone and grow and become a better man.

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mafoo June 2, 2009 at 8:59 pm

Um, what? Just because something is difficult (i.e. asking another man to, uh, be under his tutelage) doesn’t make it worthwhile. There are things I know, and do, better than my friends, but if one of them asked me to be their “mentor”, I would certainly be kinda creeped out.

2 Brett June 2, 2009 at 9:09 pm

@Mafoo-

Right, so as I said, you don’t have to ask someone straight out to be your mentor. You just have to ask them to hang out some time and initiate the relationship. If you’re looking for a work mentor, you can just say “Can we have lunch from time to time so I can ask you about some questions I’m having about my job?” Or it you need an academic mentor, you can him “Would it be all right if I came by once a week to talk about my research?”

3 Robert June 2, 2009 at 9:34 pm

Well, I would personally be quite flattered if someone asked me to be their mentor. I think the gentleman above is confused about what a mentor is. A mentor can be a friend, but he doesn’t start out as one of your friends, and then you decide one day to make him your mentor. It’s a special kind of relationship-different than a regular friendship. As I think the original author implied, asking someone straight forwardly to be your mentor would be perfectly appropriate in some situations (academia, the work place) but not in others (general life improvement).

4 Mark June 2, 2009 at 10:21 pm

Too bad I won’t be able to join in on this one… I don’t know anyone :)

5 Travis K June 3, 2009 at 7:57 am

I’ve had several mentors throughout my life since I was in middle school. Some where short lived (on purpose) others have been faithful commiments to long-haul objectives. Being in a mentor relationship needs both parties to be pro-active. The best tip I have to offer is to be willing to put yourself out of the way in order to get time with your mentor. I’ve left my car parked and jumped in the car with mentors not knowing how I would get back to my car later. The point is that if I find the time with my mentor valuable enough I will do whatever it takes. Isn’t that the heart of a Better Man – whatever it takes?

6 KAY June 3, 2009 at 9:29 am

I’m a female fan of this site and am trying to loosely follow this 30-day program. Question: what are your thoughts on a woman finding a male mentor (or vice versa)?

7 Mark June 3, 2009 at 11:56 am

Haha, well that’s lovely. Not only do I not have any strong male role models in my life for mentoring purposes, I get marked down for saying so ;-)

@KAY
I think for the purposes of this specific series, the goal is to find someone of the same sex whom you wish to learn from. I couldn’t learn how to be a better man, by example, from a woman – which it seems the point is. Not that a woman couldn’t and wouldn’t have great ideas, but from what I gather here… a big factor is finding someone you can emulate, in certain ways.

However, broaden the spectrum away from simply this series’ endeavor, and I wholeheartedly recommend finding a mentor in whoever you can. I have had some lackluster male models in my life, and from that I have learned how NOT to be.. and it has earnestly made me a better man. I am now able to have great relationships with male friends, because I can recognize what character traits I value and appreciate. I have, though, always found great platonic relationships with women.. that’s just how I am. I recently took a screenwriting class with a female teacher, and we connected very well. She and I shared many similarities, and if I were interested in doing so, I would have no qualms with pursuing her for a mentorship. I wouldn’t necessarily ask her to be my mentor in pursuit of my “30 Days to a Better Man” so the answer to your question, in my mind, is both a yes and no :)

8 Michael Smalley June 3, 2009 at 1:01 pm

I love this advice! Too many people fail to recognize how important mentors are. Here’s my reality, I know there are people smarter and better than me. I want to meet with them and gain their wisdom. I’ve had mentors in my life since I was about 15 or so. They’ve been an incredible inspiration to me. Thanks for including this in your 30 day journey.

9 fithri July 2, 2009 at 10:33 am

This is a splendid way to learn.

10 Jared August 5, 2009 at 6:06 pm

Cool stuff. Thanks for sharing!
*Jared

11 Jeremy November 19, 2009 at 2:25 am

So for this particular task I’m thinking about asking my grandfather to become my mentor because he is a man with great moral character and a charismatic individual which is what i want to develop for myself.
But my question is would asking my grandfather be in a sense cheating on this task since hes within my comfort zone?

12 Brett McKay November 19, 2009 at 2:00 pm

@Jeremy-

Find a mentor often takes us out of our comfort zones and we shouldn’t let that stop us from finding one. But it’s not a requirement of finding a mentor and if you grandfather would be a good choice then go for it.

13 Earl November 22, 2009 at 9:16 am

I also think that we can find plenty of other mentorships outside of people if we look hard enough. For example, when I feel like I am not giving my spouse the attention she needs, I think about the unconditional love from my dog! I of course make the attention to the wife appropriate, but I want to give her time that is hers and make her feel like she is the sole focus of my love and attention. I subscribe to a website based on the Jewish faith. I am not Jewish. I frequently find that the daily reflection they provide helps me stay the path of being a good man. The value isnt in arguing religion, but rather an opportunity to relect on my behavior and values.

14 Earl November 22, 2009 at 9:21 am

I frequently look for mentorship that is not another person….everyone can learn a lesson from their dog about how to look their spouse (or significant other) in the eye and show them how much they love them. Okay, so dont be licking your wifes’ face, but you get the point. I subscribe to a website based on the Jewish faith and I am not Jewish. I find the value from the daily reflection. The introspection it provides frequently makes me think about the choices I make and how to keep alignment with my values. As for other people, it’s rare that you can have a mentor who wont eventually disappoint you. I believe most people falter. The greatest lesson that you can learn is to support your mentor if they do stray or know when to move on.

15 Frank Rider December 12, 2009 at 9:00 am

Yesterday I realized I had no shoes that I could shine, oddly enough, and I spent a bit of time deciding which shoes to get, yadayadayada. Anyway, I realized in that time that i could have been doing something to replace a shoe shine. I could have polished my mother’s China cabinet full of silver, or scrubbed down the kitchen, or even given the windows a good cleaning. I ended up with the third, and i may not have had shiny shoes, but I gained some skill level in the work ethic area. Maybe the days task will only help in an inadvertent manner, but it will always will help. Thanks guys.

16 Win L March 6, 2010 at 8:31 pm

I personally find it awkward to directly ask someone to be my mentor. I prefer to admire his philosophy and his values that he holds. You can say “hey, I really agree with your thoughts on this. Can you tell me more?” This already suggests your friend that you’re interested in him, and he’ll be delightful to tell you.

Having problems with making friends? Read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. It’s in one of the must-read novels in this website. Read it. It’s useful.

17 Tom Baldwin March 8, 2010 at 9:11 pm

I mentor quite a few young men and young ladies. I just love to help people not make the same mistakes I did.

LOVE PEOPLE AND USE THINGS –

NOT LOVE THINGS AND USE PEOPLE

18 Robert Christiansen April 19, 2010 at 8:42 pm

It was very tough for me to do this task as I am a forman and have been in a leadership position for many years at what I do for a living. So I used 2 catagories one mentor in my personal life and one in my profesional life. It was a definite step out of my comfort zone to ask one of my counter parts at work to mentor me. I picked a guy who has been in my trade and run work for 30 years . It was tough and I explained what I was doing and I was taken back by his immediate responce to comply. We are now going to get together once a week to talk about certain situations that arise on the projects that I am responceable for.On a personal level it was much easier as the person I picked I have a lot of respect for and have known for a long time.

19 Jessica June 20, 2010 at 4:12 pm

I’m a girl loosely following this guide (and it’s been an eye opener already!), but I think I already have a mentor- my dad has the integrity, intelligence and determination that i hope to have, and he gives great advice… so, should I look for an additional mentor…?

20 Daniel Rojas January 8, 2013 at 2:25 pm

This is gonna be tough compared to the first two.

I am starting the Challenge a litlle later than everyone else but i am enthusiastic about completing all this.

21 Jonas Ogrefoln February 7, 2013 at 12:16 am

I would like to pose a question – Since I am in a remote location, and will be alone here for several more months; what do you guys think of replacing a particular Author (long deceased) or even 3 Authors in lieu of an actual living breathing person? Seems to me that if their works were based on their lives, observations, and viewpoints; and those are all relatively new to me, would this not serve the same purpose in exposing myself to new ideas of the world around me? Offering me the same challenges of reviewing and accepting or rejecting new attitudes as a living person? I am 44 years old and having actively sought out mentors in the past to no great success I find that I have sought out the wisdom I require through the men of our past from all walks of life. I am always on the look out for men whom I feel would be suitable to this task, but have found many wanting in various aspects of their own lives and difficult to take stock in. I have however found what I needed in the works of great men from our past. I often find that where one author poses a question for me – it is answered by another. If you guys think that is an acceptable alternative I would like to present (for the current time being ) Henry David Thoreau, Black Elk, and Alfred North Whitehead as my 3 stand ins as they are men I am currently studying. It is kind of funny that the Alfred Whitehead book I am reading “The Aims of Education” has “A Mentor Book” printed at the bottom. Any comments on this idea?

22 Alexander Connell February 15, 2013 at 8:47 am

This is going to be a tough one for me. One of the things which brought me to this site was the lack of a suitable mentor figure in my life. I never knew my grandfathers and while my Dad had many fine qualities, he was a long way from the ideal in terms of a mentor.

I know men who I admire in certain areas, not in others. However, I can’t think of a single one, either in my personal or professional life who I wish to completely emulate.

As I’ve gone through life, I’ve always tried to learn from others – what to do and what not to do. How to treat people, and not. What makes a good boss and what doesn’t. And like Jonas above, I’ve tried to learn from historical (and fictional) characters and their actions.

Then I’ve tried to live my life according to what I’ve learned. I’m going to continue to do that and if a mentor should present himself in the meantime, I’ll go from there.

23 Rob July 15, 2013 at 10:09 am

@Alexander Connell, your comment caught my attention. I’ve been in your same predicament, not wanting to seek out mentors because, as you said, “I can’t think of a single one, either in my personal or professional life who I wish to completely emulate.”

I was just thinking the other night about how – for better or for worse – there’s probably no one in this life who anyone can follow completely.

I think the nugget in this article is that you can find multiple mentors for multiple areas, and if you combine all their feedback and advice, you’ll end up with a better you!

My comment in a nutshell: There’s no perfect mentor, but find the best ones you can.

24 Ernest Jaramillo August 7, 2013 at 11:01 pm

Very good idea! Everyone needs improvement. I feel my uncle is my best choice! There are many of my values that I know he can help with to become more of what I want. I’ve done this step before and it was truly helpful

25 Tim December 5, 2013 at 3:21 am

I thought this task was really difficult. Because I really like to be independent I don’t like to ask people advice. For my feeling I am pretty successful on my own and pushed people away which I though I didn’t need. Now was the awkward moment I realized I have been selfish for a really long time.

26 Graham Proud January 3, 2014 at 3:49 am

I have been using mentors for decades – definitely a must-do. Here are some tips:

1 Don’t look to work supervisors for mentoring…at best they may be a coach

2 One of the things a mentor could be doing for you is to help you prepare for your next job interview…explains point 1!

3 In addition to seeking out and relating with mentors, try to identify role models and study them – think of Gene Kranz, Nikola Tesla, Mahatma Gandhi and of course Nelson Mandela.

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