Why You Absolutely, Positively Need a Mentor

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Imagine if you had Warren Buffet help you become wealthy beyond your wildest dreams, or Kevin Spacey sharing his insights with you on how to best approach a scene. Or perhaps Oprah Winfrey explaining how to conduct a successful interview. This is what a mentor can do for you; working with a mentor can transform your life.

A mentor is that one person who can guide you, help you, take you under his or her wing, and nurture your career quest. Mentoring gives us a roadmap of the actions our successful counterparts have done so that we can follow them on their path. Success leaves clues, and if you look to learn from those who are ahead of you, you can pick up on those clues. You can learn from a mentor’s mistakes and avoid making them yourself. A mentor may notice potential in you that you might not see in yourself.

When I spoke to casting director and coach Jen Rudolph of the Actor’s Green Room regarding the value of actors working with a mentor, she said, “It’s important for actors to work with a mentor because they can help you understand how your fears or beliefs might be holding you back. They take you under their wing and coach you. A lot of times what holds us back is our own stuff. A mentor can help you work through that and give you an understanding about how the business works, or what specific things you probably need to do to help yourself.” She explained to me that when she works with actors, she tries to give them a sense of empowerment more than anything else. She tries to help them find direction versus feeling lost not knowing what to do.

Look for mentors not only in a person you can talk to, but also look for stories about how those you respect became successful. I always think of Sylvester Stallone as someone who is extremely successful, and I use him as a mentor in my life. As a young actor, everyone told him to quit because of how he spoke. So what did he do? He wrote “Rocky.” Other actors I look to as mentors are those who I relate to, like Vin Diesel, Ed Burns, and John Leguizamo—all who created their own paths. And so I copied them by writing and producing my own solo show, and I am now working on turning that successful show into a film.

My personal belief is that the easiest way to find a mentor is through books. The most famous and successful people in the world can be in your house. Books contain a treasure trove of tips and suggestions on how to achieve success in your life. Books are the CliffsNotes of the most successful people in the world. You may have to rewire your brain so that you see books as a golden opportunity to gain incredible knowledge. Don’t think of books as a one-time event, read it over and over to absorb the knowledge. There is no rule on how fast you need to read them. You set your own pace. Make notes in the margins and refer back to them often.

If you’re looking for a mentor of your own, here are four places to start:

  1. Write to someone who is at least five or 10 times ahead of you in the field in which you are trying to gain knowledge and ask them to be your mentor. They have a whole different network of contacts and connections that you don’t.
  2. Work with a coach or a consultant to help you understand things about the business on which you don’t have a grasp. Working with a coach as a mentor can help you reach the next level of your career faster.
  3. Persevere. You must persevere in your search for a mentor. You must persevere to get success in your life. If you write somebody and they don’t answer, don’t give up so easy. Keep at it. Success comes to those who are willing to persevere.
  4. Read a book a week. You don’t have to finish the book in a week but you should be reading a book a week on something that will help you improve your life. Books are a treasure trove of information and advice.

Like this advice? Check out more from our Backstage Experts!

The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

Author Headshot
Douglas Taurel
Onscreen Taurel has appeared in numerous TV shows including “The Affair,” “Mr.Robot,” and “The Americans” to name a few. He’s performed his play “The American Soldier” at the Kennedy Center, Library of Congress, and Off-Broadway twice. He was commissioned by the Library of Congress to write and perform his second solo show, “Journey Home.” He’s recently finished producing his film project “Landing Home.” Follow him on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/douglastaurel/
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