It is better to learn from other people’s mistakes.

–Charlie Munger

You always hear that you should learn from your mistakes, right? While I don’t disagree with this advice at all, I want you to think about something for a minute. How many mistakes can one person make in a lifetime? Now before you answer A LOT (which is true), think about multiplying those mistakes by five. Or ten. Or even 20. If one person can make (and learn from), say, 500 mistakes in a year, 20 people could learn from 10,000.

Where am I going with this?

When you strike out on your own, you can learn a lot from doing things wrong. But you can learn a lot more if you cultivate a mentor network full of people who have already made these and other mistakes. It can even prevent you from making the mistakes in the first place.

I have always been a proponent of learning from others in every situation. Whether it’s the person you sit next to on the bus or a client, I feel like everyone can teach us something. When you develop mentor relationships, you can take this to a much higher level. Meeting with those who are in the same industry and who are spending time with you for the express purpose of sharing their knowledge means that your learning curve skyrockets.

Not only do I strongly believe in cultivating mentors, I’ve actually developed a mentor acceleration formula that I personally use and that I encourage my independent advisor students to use. It reads as follows:

(The number of mentors + notes taken) x (frequency of asking for advice + hours spent together) = years of acceleration gained.

I think you should nurture and develop anywhere from 4-20 good mentors and each of them should be 10-20 years ahead of you in business. Don’t limit yourself to people in the financial industry, either. Your ideal mentor network will be a combination of those who have worked in corporate finance, those who have established an independent advisory firm, and a few individuals in a different industry altogether.

Each mentor alone should save you one to three years of learning along with avoiding tons of mistakes, frustration, and money. This could easily mean a 10-year acceleration in your business.  When you view it this way, the time commitment is well worth it, right?

Did you know that Michael Jordan had anywhere between six and ten coaches at any given time? If it’s good enough for Michael Jordan, it’s good enough for you!

Cultivate your network by meeting with others in the industry and asking who they think you should talk to. Look through your LinkedIn connections and see who fits your criteria. When you reach out to these individuals, you might be surprised at how receptive they are to a meeting. If they aren’t, don’t take it personally. They may not be in the right place to offer this type of guidance right now.

Keep in mind that these relationships can take years to form. You can’t rush them. Some of my most treasured mentors didn’t share the really good stuff with me until we’d been meeting for over two years. But believe me when I say…it was worth it.

When you make the jump to becoming an independent advisor, you will need all the help you can get. I would be honored to be one of your mentors through this process. Now you just need three more to make the formula work!