the sky floor

Mentors: Dictators or Guides?

September 2, 2022

We love the idea of mentors. It has become such an en vogue concept that some like to say “I have a mentor” more than they care about the quality of the relationship. But not all “mentors” are created equal. 

Have you heard real-life stories? I recently listened to someone say their mentor complicated what they wanted. It makes sense – you want a guru to come along and tell you the formula to success, so you don’t say anything when your “mentor” railroads your desires. But that is not how success works. There rarely is a perfectly repeatable formula. In other words, their way isn’t the only way.

If someone who has had success only learned that their way is the best way to do a thing, they will not make a good mentor. You want to find the kind of person who has uncovered lessons they can apply to your situation – because no two situations will be the same. You want someone to guide you, not dominate you. 

A sports coach is a great example; they identify talents and shortcomings and create a plan to strengthen both based on where the player is today.

A terrible mentor is a dictator of methods. 

A good mentor is a gentle but firm guide.

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A lousy mentor says, “this is what worked for me, so you have to do it too.” Or, “if you don’t walk the path I did, it’s not going to work.”

A great mentor listens to what you want, your struggles and doubts, and draws from their experience to walk you through it, side by side. 

An awful mentor isn’t interested in you as much as they are interested in being revered. 

A fantastic mentor is still there when the payments end (or never charged at all) – they are interested in your success more than their own. 

When you look for a mentor, find the kind of person who proffers process over prescription. 


Look for a mentor who is a coach-guide, not a dictator. You want someone who draws from their experience and applies it to your situation, not who says you have to do it “my way” to win.