My earliest vivid memories start around the time when I was 10 years old. I was a confident 10-year-old who thought he knew pretty much everything there was to know. At 20, I knew that 10-year-old kid was very naïve, and at 30, I was shocked at the lack of understanding my 20-year-old self had. I will turn 40 this year, and my family and coworkers will tell you that I’m still not short on self-belief. However, I’m confident that by 50, I will view this current version of myself as an idiot too.
There is no shortcut to gaining your own wisdom. It can only be acquired by living through the inevitable highs and lows that life throws at you. Sometimes, you can completely control the outcome of those circumstances, and sometimes you have to sit idly by while it happens around you. The good news is that while you are going through the arduous process of acquiring your own wisdom, your world is overflowing with people willing to lend you theirs!
How to Find a Mentor and What to Look for in One
I have five people who I consider to be mentors in my life. One is my dad, three are Members at my Firm and one is a client. All five people are unique in their perspectives and life experiences. The only common link that they share is the fact that they care about me and have all given of themselves with zero expectation of anything in return. I can’t recall any major life decision that I have made without consulting at least one of these five men.
It is likely that the best potential mentors in your life are people you already know. It is vital that you have or develop a strong enough relationship that honesty flows freely between you. You need to be vulnerable enough to share things that may seem ridiculous to say out loud. Your mentor needs to be able to share his or her unvarnished opinion with you without damaging the relationship. I have been fortunate to have mentors who cared enough about me to share hard truths with me. I did not always like or even take their advice, but it was always valuable in thinking through an issue.
Find people in your life who you aspire to be like. You may admire them as mothers or fathers to their families, you may see their marriages as a model or you may see them in professional positions that you would like to obtain. Whatever it is that you would like to emulate, tell them that you admire them and why. Ask them if they would be willing to meet with you periodically as a mentor. I have never seen someone who was not humbled and honored to be thought of so highly.
It is up to you to pursue the relationship. Really lean in to the process of getting better through someone else’s life experience. It is not an echo chamber that tells you how great you are; it is not about you convincing them why you are right and they are wrong. It is a relationship that offers you a perspective that you are not currently equipped to see yourself.
An Example of a True Mentor
Before I came to Warren Averett Asset Management, I worked at another financial services firm in town. After I interviewed, I called my dad and told him that I had decided to stay at my previous firm, even though Warren Averett Asset Management had offered me a job. I was comfortable where I was, and things were going well. He listened, and then, in a lovingly harsh way, told me that I would be crazy to walk away from this opportunity. How did he so quickly reach such a different conclusion than I did? It’s not like I hadn’t spent considerable time thinking through this decision. I saw every tree in front of me, but my dad saw the forest. He heard me describe a Firm and position that I had wanted since college. He worried less about supporting whatever decision I made and more about helping me make the right one.
Making the decision to come to Warren Averett Asset Management has had far-reaching ramifications on my life professionally and personally. I was blind to a decision that seems so simple in hindsight, and I’m thankful that my dad mentored me through that.
Have a Mentor and Be a Mentor
Having mentors in my life has been more than a blessing; it has been a necessity. I’m thankful for the impact that my dad, Josh, Steven, Tommy and Jimbo have had and continue to have on my life. If you are approached about being a mentor, take it as the high compliment that it is. Someone out there could really use your advice. And, someone out there can give you advice. If it is a cocky, 39-year-old redhead, I’d love to grab lunch sometime.
Justin Russell is the Chief Operating Officer of Warren Averett Asset Management. Click here to learn more about him or to contact him directly.