Great Architectures, Stacks & DevOps at Webscale

By Chris Ueland

Scaling your Personal Knowledge: Being a “Mentee”

This purpose of me writing this blog post is to build on my last post, Experiment to Scale Personal Knowledge. My hope is someone finds it useful as I discuss how to short cut the learning curve to be able to learn more through a mentor’s experience and scale yourself personally.

In my previous post, I spoke about my goal of listening and attempting to retain 100 Blinkists in 2016, and increasing it to 200 in 2017. From comments, I heard three general thoughts.

  • 1) along the lines of “that is awesome and I want to do it”. Several people asked how to get started.
  • 2) reading the book is better. I did an experiment with this on the book “Tipping point” and it’s true. The essance and tone of the book and big idea get lost. The Blinkist is much more sterile than Gladwell’s writing. I still think the Blinkist audio clips is a valid piece of hacking the learning curve.
  • 3) “That’s not a real book. You’re trying to make yourself look smart.” or something along those lines- I found this to be from the people that didn’t have a growth mindset and weren’t actively learning at a fast pace.

I’m working on a summary review to be able to retain more. I find it stimulating to start my daily routine with a deep dive into a topic I’m into.

This post is about another technique I’ve been using for 20 years is having a Mentor/Mentee relationship. I’ve never formally talked or written about this, but I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it and perfecting it.

The idea behind a mentor/mentee relationship is that you can short cut learning (and have everyone enjoy it and find it valuable) by deliberating finding a fantastic mentor and keeping the relationship rewarding and fresh to everyone involved.

  • men·teemenˈtē/ . – noun person who is advised, trained, or counseled by a mentor.
  • Some things I have tweaked out with the technique:

    • 1) finding a mentor
    • 2) determining what you want to learn
    • 3) running multiple mentors at the same time
    • 4) knowing when it’s time to scale back a mentor relationship
    • 5) Giving back to the mentor
    • 6) Giving back to the process and becoming a mentor/coach yourself

    Finding a Mentor
    There is a bit of creativity that comes with finding a great mentor. I was extremely lucky to stumble on my first mentor. I made it more of a conscious competency after that. If you are open minded to being mentored, you will naturally connect with the right people.

    To get topic specific, I’ve done the following:

    • Had a great general business mentor
    • Hired my accounting teacher
    • Recruited a technical mentor from Github
    • Used a psychologist/coach as a mentor
    • Used bosses to be mentors
    • Cold called huge companies and had success nurturing relationships over many years
    • Emailed competitors and asked them to or built relationships
    • Enlisted very good friends with different life experiences or deep knowledge can make great mentors

    You can do the same! There’s nothing special about what I’m doing

    Determining what to learn

    The things I’ve been very happy learning and navigating are:

    • Entrepreneurship – the most open mind mentors can be Entrepreneurs since it’s likely they had mentors previously
    • City Government
    • Human Psychology and Early development
    • Self Growth – ie: hippie shit 🙂
    • Deep technical scaling
    • Investing – ie: value investing, real estate
    • Lifestyle – ie: where to live, ideas to raise kids
    • Fitness / Nutrition

    A lot of the relationships start off in a certain context and I intentionally have the person become a mentor. To determine where you’d like to start you can determine where you are currently weaker than you’d like in terms of knowledge or satisfaction. One trick is to rate yourself from 1 to 10 on the current state of your Health, Wealth and Interpersonal relationships. Wherever you’re not happy with your score, you go and find a mentor to help you define a path for growth.

    Running Multiple mentors at a time

    I’ve found as you get good at being a mentee you become a learning machine. To stimulate learning and shorting the learning curve, it’s possible to work with multiple mentors at one time. I believe you should always have fresh relationships that you’re cultivating. You might be working with a psychologist that you turn into a mentor as well as have someone who’s a little older sharing ideas on lifestyle development.

    For an investing mentor, you might be mirroring trades or meeting to do a portfolio defense together.

    Knowing when it’s time to scale back a mentor relationship

    I think it’s important to know when it’s time to scale back a mentor relationship. This might be when you’ve gained more knowledge on a subject and that mentor doesn’t serve you any longer as a teacher of that subject. It might also be if you hit a point where you lose interest in a topic or have a different life view from your mentor. Another thing that may happen is it becomes too expensive for you to continue with a coach or professional to justify the return. I’ve found that the relationship between a mentor and a mentee generally remains special. You become cheerleaders for each other and can have a closeness that lasts.

    If your mentor has a lot of content online, you may switch to reading their blog.

    Giving back to the mentor

    This is very, very important. You have to create a balance with a mentor. You want to bring a lot to the table and not just take a lot. This person takes you under their wing and you want to always be finding ways to pay back the favor. Some ideas that I’ve used in the past:

    • Thank them and try all different ways to express your gratification. For example, with one of my early mentors I created a book for them at a retirement dinner with their sayings and favorite quotes to show them how much I was listening. It made me feel good and I think it made him feel good.
    • Balance their help with helping them back in return on another topic that you are an expert on.
    • Pay them. This shows appreciation for their time even if this is a token. If you’re able to create a mentor/mentee relationship with a professional (Accountant/Lawyer) or a personal trainer or a psychologist, you’d pay them normal rates but get much, much more out of the relationship.
    • Including them and inviting them to events in your life. Making sure they know they are VIP and that you are thankful. Thanking them publically. Your mentors are going to be awesome so this will come very easily.
    • Pass it on to others – one of the best gifts you can give a mentor is helping other mentees yourself.

    Giving back to the process and becoming a mentor/coach yourself

    So this is something that seems to really help be a mentee. If you are a mentor then it helps you tune your skills as well as give back.

    Some tips that I’ve found throughout the years that some people may find useful:

    • In my opinion, as a mentor your role is to facilitate transformations more quickly. Nothing more or nothing less. This is a centering thought when evaluating how the mentor/mentee relationship is going.
    • It’s very helpful to develop a skill to see – as one of my mentors put it – who swims towards a life preserver and who swims away and at which points they do it. I didn’t have this skill early on and it’s something I believe you can develop. I would confuse who was swimming towards the life preserver that I threw out- meaning who is responding to your mentoring verses not responding.
    • You should try to become the underlying confidence behind your mentee. Think an unshakable “wind beneath their wings”. As one of my early mentors put it is you are their “insurance policy” to allow them to move more quickly.

    Good luck! I hope some people find these topics useful and that my experiences can add some value to your day.



    Chris Ueland

    Wanting to call out all the good stuff when it comes to scaling, Chris Ueland created this blog, ScaleScale.