Blake Snow

writer-for-hire, content guy, bestselling author

As seen on CNN, NBC, ABC, Fox, Wired, Yahoo!, BusinessWeek, Wall Street Journal
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How free mentors make you awesome

You’d be amazed at the number of experts willing to give free advice.

There are countless stories of unknown people looking up some of the world’s brightest minds, and then cold calling, cold emailing, or cold messaging them on social media to get a favorable response. Although the success rate is usually low, it’s actually higher than you think. Because of this, reaching out to expert strangers is often worth it.

The success rate for getting free advice among friends, family, and former associates, however, is shockingly high and always worth doing. In fact, you’re probably leaving tens of thousands of dollars on the table every year in free consulting and coaching by not reaching out and asking for help. For example, you could easily get guidance on your latest idea, work project, side hustle, hobby, or personal problem.

But you have to ask.

I recently met a YouTuber who reached out to a world-famous chef this year in search of free cooking advice. Not only did he get it from the man, but he connected in such a way that they both agreed to stay in touch. How cool is that?! Similarly, this article was partly crafted by dozens of informal mentors that graciously helped me in creating, improving, and promoting these lessons to people like you.

Now you might be intimidated by the formality of mentors. But the truth is, you don’t have to even call them that or treat them with such formality in order to learn and grow from their advice. Although they all are, none of the dozens of mentors I’ve used this year have ever been referred to as such or formally set up as such. They are just friends, colleagues, and trusted advisers that I seek counsel from. This same approach can work for anyone, and actually works better when approached in a more informal way.

That said, formal mentorship and coaching (either free or paid) can be equally inspiring and should be considered as well. Employers often sponsor mentor programs or even pay for on-the-job coaching. If not, there are numerous paid and free coaching programs available online in just about every subject you can think of. All you have to do is search.

As for any of you telling yourself, “I don’t know anyone,” that’s simply not true. But that’s also a completely normal feeling. When I first started working toward identifying reliable mentors in my life with a close friend, I couldn’t think of any. With a lot of thought, however, I finally came up with one. After I spoke to that man, I came up with another. Then another.

Not long after, I had compiled a list of over a dozen to help advise me on both work and personal projects, and each time I talk to one I remember another person from my past. From that list, I’ve spoken to two people I hadn’t been in touch within nearly 20 years. Not only was it great to catch up, but I learned from them and rekindled a friendship that had long since faded.

In other words, interviewing people is infectious. The more you do it, the more people you’ll remember. The more you do that, the better you’ll be for it.

CHALLENGE: Identify two expert strangers and three people from your past or present that might be able to help you with a problem you’re working on. Then commit to contacting them to ask for their help within the next week. If you can’t think of that many, don’t give up. Try again in a few days. And keep trying until you identify all five.