As part of my “NBA Playoff thoughts” series, I will be exploring introspective thoughts that come to me throughout the duration of the NBA Playoffs. In this article, I will be exploring the idea and benefits of having a mentor. Related: Everyone needs to warm up – NBA Playoff thoughts pt 1

Kobe Bryant entered into the National Basketball Association (NBA) straight out of high school at the ripe age of 17. In fact, when he was traded from the Charlotte Hornets, the team that initially drafted him, to the Los Angeles Lakers, his parents had to cosign the trade agreement. He was still a minor after all.

Bryant spent his entire 20 year NBA career with the Los Angeles Lakers. Bryant earned 5 NBA Championships, 2 NBA Finals MVP awards, 1 NBA League MVP award, 2 Olympic Gold medals, 1 Slam Dunk Contest Championship, and is ranked 3rd among career points in the NBA.

As a star basketball player, Kobe Bryant has garnered respect from players, basketball fanatics, and even the general population. To this day, if I shoot crumbled up paper into a recycling bin (you should recycle), I yell, “KOBE!”

Among some circles Kobe Bryant is argued as being better than the great Michael Jordan. To be mentioned in the same sentence as Michael Jordan is praise enough. To be debated as a better player than him is a testament to Kobe Bryant’s NBA legacy.

There are countless stories of Kobe Bryant’s work ethic with basketball. He lived, breathed, and bled basketball. He was relentless.

Upon retiring from his craft, do you think he would stop all involvement “cold turkey?” No? I didn’t think so either.

Recently, ESPN published a story regarding Kobe’s involvement with the NBA. Only this time, he wasn’t playing basketball. He was mentoring other players. In the ESPN article, Kobe Bryant has mentioned that he has been most recently mentoring the Boston Celtics’ star point guard, Isaiah Thomas.

Kobe Bryant and Isaiah Thomas have played against each other multiple times. Now, the Celtics’ guard is looking to a former opponent for advice. Source: Clutchpoints

Bryant and Thomas have been texting back and forth throughout the Boston Celtics’ playoff run. Bryant has even reviewed film with Thomas to assist him with his game.

Thomas isn’t the only player Bryant mentors. Bryant has mentored a few other NBA stars such as, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving, and Gordon Hayward.

In that same article, Kobe said that he is an open book, and that all players are welcome to ask for his mentorship.

The inspiration for mentoring comes from him receiving mentorship as well from the all-time greats that he admired. Bryant reached out to NBA Hall of Famers like, Hakeem Olajuwon, Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Michael Jordan. If a legendary and shoe-in hall of fame player benefited from mentoring, you and I can too.

Michael Jordan (left) mentored Kobe Bryant (right) as a young player. Now, the two legends are topics of debate among basketball fans. Source: Sports Illustrated

My experience with mentors

While my mentors are less famous, they were still effective and helpful. The mentors I have had throughout my career have helped me by showing me the ropes, providing me with feedback, and imparting me with tried-and-true advice.  

During my first job, fresh out of college, I was paired up with a mentor. He was a great mentor that showed me how to navigate the political landscape of the office. He taught me a lot about how to behave around people. He refined my people skills, by giving me pointers on how to behave in meetings, and how to network.

To this day, because of him, I start every email with “Hello [insert name].” It may sound overly professional, but he was quick to advise me that you most likely will never be penalized for being too professional.

Work smarter not harder

One of the most difficult things parts of ramping up as a sales engineer is getting a sales rep to trust you to run a product demo for them. It’s completely fair. A demonstration can make or break a sale. I’d be hesitant as well to give a new person the spotlight.

My mentor used his reputation to back me and convinced sales people to give me a chance. Additionally, he acted as a technical resource on those calls to answer any questions I did not know how to answer. My mentor used his reputation to help me get in front of the customer more often, thus increasing my repetition and exposure.

Feedback

My mentor and I had a great relationship when I started, and he is now one of my closest friends, too. We established early on, mostly because of his blunt, straight-forward personality, that my feedback is be highly critical, hyper-detailed, but never personal.

Whenever I made a mistake, he succinctly pointed out what I did wrong. There was no beating around the bush. However, for every mistake I made, he offered me multiple methods for correcting my blunder.

This feedback system allowed me to refine my presentation skills, assisted me with handling difficult customers, and empowered me with relevant product knowledge. The feedback acted like an accelerated success track that was highly impactful for my career.

Tried-and-true advice

When I started this blog, I knew that I wanted to grow it. I want to increase the readership in order to inspire more people with the success stories I read. Launching the blog has actually been the easiest part. Running it, maintaining it, and growing it have been significantly more difficult.

There are numerous sources out there to assist any blogger. The problem is, it’s easy to succumb to “analysis paralysis.” With all the strategies, and best practices out there, which one should I choose?

I simplified my approach and looked to a blogger who I follow regularly. DistilledDollar is a personal finance blog where he writes, with full transparency, about his journey towards financial independence. I reached out to him, and to my surprise, he immediately responded and offered me some advice, best practices, and strategies to grow my blog.

DistilledDollar is a successful blogger. He has a loyal fanbase, has branched out into the world of Podcasts, and generates income from his blog. Because of this, I knew that his advice stemmed from tried-and-true strategies.

DistilledDollar is a personal finance blog. He is currently “pursuing financial independence,” and is a great source of knowledge as a mentor for this Secondhand Success . Source: DistilledDollar

Will his methods yield the same success for me? It might, it might not. However, DistilledDollar’s advice has cured my “analysis paralysis,” and readjusted my compass towards a more fruitful destination.

Finding a mentor

Finding a mentor may take some research. You will need to establish two things. First, define what success means to you in your job, or any other specific goal. Second, find that person who has achieved whatever it is you want to attain.

After you establish who that individual is, all you have to do is ask. when you have the opportunity to speak to your mentor, speak as little as possible. It’s your opportunity to ask as many valuable questions, and let them do the talking.

Lastly, be sure to offer a way that you can assist them with any ventures, projects, or tasks they have. It’s a give and take. They’re doing you a favor and it’s important to add value to their projects anyway you can. Think of this as learning by doing.

I have been lucky with the mentors that I have worked with. Working with them has been a pleasant and advantageous experience. They shared with me great nuggets of knowledge that I continue to apply to my professional career. I hope that whenever you find yourself a mentor, that your experience is as valuable and rewarding as mine was.

Readers, what are your experiences with having a mentor? How did you find your mentor?