5 tips for picking an awesome mentor


Highlights from Daniel Coyle’s excellent book The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills:

1) Avoid Someone Who Reminds You of a Courteous Waiter

one who focuses his efforts on keeping you comfortable and happy, on making things go smoothly, with a minimum of effort… This is a good person to have as your waiter in a restaurant, but a terrible person to have as your teacher, coach, or mentor.

2) Seek Someone Who Scares You a Little

Look for someone who:

Watches you closely: He is interested in figuring you out— what you want, where you’re coming from, what motivates you.

Is action-oriented: She often won’t want to spend a lot of time chatting— instead, she’ll want to jump into a few activities immediately, so she can get a feel for you and vice versa.

Is honest, sometimes unnervingly so: He will tell you the truth about your performance in clear language. This stings at first. But you’ll come to see that it’s not personal— it’s the information you can use to get better.

3) Seek Someone Who Gives Short, Clear Directions

Most great teachers / coaches / mentors do not give long-winded speeches. They do not give sermons or long lectures. Instead, they give short, unmistakably clear directions; they guide you to a target… Teaching is not an eloquence contest; it is about creating a connection and delivering useful information.

4) Seek Someone Who Loves Teaching Fundamentals

Great teachers will often spend entire practice sessions on one seemingly small fundamental— for example, the way you grip a golf club, or the way you pluck a single note on a guitar.

5) Other Things Being Equal, Pick the Older Person

Teaching is like any other talent: It takes time to grow. This is why so many hotbeds are led by people in their sixties and seventies. Great teachers are first and foremost learners, who improve their skills with each passing year.

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