Stop Asking for a Mentor
by Daniel Hart
Mentors are a critical part of any business, and even throughout life in general. Other people hold invaluable wisdom that helps us grow, not just as a business, but as a human being. One of the first questions I see new real estate investors ask, often before they’ve even read a single book about investing, is “Where can I find a mentor?” or “Will you be my mentor?”. Mentors are a critical part of real estate investing, and any business for that matter, but please, I beg you, stop asking for them.
As an experienced investor, it’s not just frustrating to be asked these questions (often from people who have put little effort into educating themselves), but it’s also a pursuit that is not in the best interest of the questioner, for a number of reasons.
For starters, when you are new to the business, and anonymously messaging an experienced investor, or posting in a public forum, most of the responses are going to be from people (often less experienced than you may think they are) that are looking to take advantage of you. That doesn’t mean they are running a scam, but they may intend to sell you a program, take part of your deals, or find some other benefit to themselves that supersedes their goodwill. The simple fact is that you do not need to pay a mentor. That’s not to say that there aren’t good educators for hire, as there certainly are, but you certainly can find the people you need without swiping a credit card.
More importantly, truly experienced investors don’t want to hand-hold new investors through the business, not just because they can tell the individual hasn’t put in any effort on their part, or because they don’t want to give back and help others, but because real estate investing isn’t a business you can thrive in with your hand held. Similar to the way a plant thrives with less frequent watering, by struggling for growth, and becoming stronger than the daily watered plant, so does a person. We must put forth effort in order to grow. If we are simply fed the information on how to do business, we will ultimately hit roadblocks we cannot pass, but if we try, struggle, and fail, we grow stronger, and we learn how to overcome the constant barrage of roadblocks that are inevitable in business (and life). Whether or not we pick ourselves up, and keep moving forward, is up to us, but if we want to find success, it is essential that we do so.
A quality mentor is willing to give back without expectation of gain. They can help a new investor find direction, both in their business, and in their life. However, they typically want to see that the person seeking assistance is actually putting in effort, rather than simply asking for a free ride to investment riches. Real estate investors that have substantial experience are approached ad nauseam with requests for mentorship or guidance, and they simply can’t help everyone, especially those that aren’t yet helping themselves.
Those that demonstrate that they are reading as much real estate material as they can find, networking in REIA meetings and other industry associations, and “hitting the streets” doing whatever they can to move forward, are much more likely to attract the attention of the good intentioned experienced investor. To find one that good intentioned experienced investor will take some effort on your part, but if you are putting in the effort, they will undoubtedly come into your life.
Finding that mentor, whom we can turn to in times of confusion, for direction or even specific instructions on a topic, is certainly important, but we should not rely on one sole mentor. In time, we should have numerous mentors, and know whom to turn to in each situation. Just as every person has strengths and weaknesses, so does each mentor. Some people will be experts in one area, but uneducated in others, and they may have personalities (egos) that require careful navigation. If we are observant, we can learn their positive and negative personality traits at the same time we learn about the business, and we can understand the consequences of their behavior, both good and bad. Just because someone has extensive experience doesn’t make them an expert in all areas. It’s our job to recognize where each person fits into our life, and to know whom to turn to based on the type of direction we need.
Some people will be experts with rental property, but may have no knowledge of creative financing. Others may be good at renovating properties, but may not know how to market to find the deals. Perhaps another is a great negotiator, but cannot manage their finances. Almost no one is an expert in all areas, so keep that thought in the back of your mind.
Remember that other people’s time is valuable. It is literally their most valuable resource. So, respect its value, and think carefully about the questions you ask. If the information you seek is readily available with an internet search, a mentor may become frustrated that you took their time, rather than your own. The time they spend with you may be time that earns them $500 an hour, so treat it as such. As a new investor, or even a seasoned investor, you should be constantly educating yourself, whether it be by book, seminar, or simply learning from your mistakes. You will need to become accustomed to educating yourself.
Don’t think of mentors as hand-holders. You can’t expect mentors to answer every possible question you have. Think of them as someone you can turn to when you don’t know where to go, you’re lost, or you’ve hit a roadblock. Some mentors may have time to meet you for coffee, and discuss situations in great detail, and others may only be able to give a quick response via email, so tailor your questions appropriately. If you know that a particular mentor stays very busy, you may need to think about your question more carefully in order to really drill down to the root of the issue and save time.
Mentors come and go in life, leaving behind wisdom in business and in life. You don’t need to advertise that you are in need. If you’re truly putting in the effort, it will be recognized, and the mentors you seek will gradually appear.
Daniel Hart, Owner of Hart Homes and author of The Real Estate Roadmap (available on Amazon) has been investing in New Jersey and North Carolina real estate since 2004, and has purchased over 100 properties, almost all using creative financing strategies to create passive income. He is a former board member of the Metrolina REIA in Charlotte, NC.