October 23, 2012


have a seatWe get better with help.

Networking wizard and continual learner, Paul Nazareth has an effective personal board of directors. You can too. His board is virtual. He meets with each member at different frequencies but they don’t meet each other. The result is a flexible network of private mentors for free.

The Problem With Groups

Group peer mentoring may seem better than having a set of private mentors. Groups have practical problems:
  • coordination: you want everyone to attend, which gets challenging with schedules, travel and disruptions
  • monopolization: in a group, some members are more vocal and consume too much of the time
  • chemistry: when does everyone in the group value everyone in the group?
Our lives are already filled with hassles. Who wants to add more?


I don't like the term "board" or "mentor" since that suggests a hierarchy. Besides, a board can fire you! I like "mastermind" (and wrote about three) but find too few are familiar with Napoleon Hill's concept. I prefer the term "peer mentoring", which suggests equality and mutual help.
A mentor gives advice the only way possible: from his or her perspective. The world has changed drastically. What worked then need not work now. Does someone from the era before the Internet (perhaps even before personal computers) understand today? The generation gap has become a chasm. The principles remain (e.g., build trust) but the tactics change (e.g., share online).
A peer is someone you consider comparable to you. Not a master vs student. You agree to help each other. You want someone you trust since you'll be sharing personal details. Decide before you start. You may want to meet several times, ideally under different circumstances. Ask mutual connections about them. Agree to an ongoing commitment (e.g., monthly). You're free to cancel at any time but start assuming you'll continue indefinitely.

Why Free?

You’ll find many people willing to (help you) fix your life for a fee. Can they? Will they? Are they the right choice for you? Are they making you independent or reliant?

Your doubts and their unknown level of skill can impede your results. In the end, you are responsible for the results. Getting help for free takes more skill since you must have something of value to offer. How can you lose by building skills?


I’ve never paid a mentor but you might want to if:
  • you have a budget you want to spend
  • you have specialized problems
  • you want faster results
  • you don't have any suitable peers (and your network can't suggest any)
  • you think there is a “right” way
  • you don't have the time or interest to co-organize
  • you stick to commitments that cost money


I have a private peer mentor at Rotman (not endorsed by the business school, but doesn't that sound impressive?). We meet monthly. The dates stick without last minute changes. We start on time (4:15 PM) and end on time (5:15 PM). This reliability is rare but makes the experience rewarding.

We both take the process seriously and are making surprisingly good progress. We're competing in who has the most good news (i.e., accomplishments). That's motivating (though I feel I’m the laggard).

The Plunge

You can find a private mentor on your own. And then another and another until you have enough. You have complete control. These mentors are free because you've shown the courage to ask them and you help them in return.


PS Who helps you get better? Who do you help?

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