It’s hard to find a good mentor.
And most people don’t make it any easier on themselves. If you ask them who they want for a mentor, they’ll throw out the names of world-famous entrepreneurs or business people like Gary V., Oprah, Elon Musk, Warren Buffet, and more.
You may really want Musk as your mentor—but so does everybody else. And the reality is, those “top of the mountain” individuals might not be the best mentors for you anyway. They could open doors, sure. But they probably don’t have much time available to sit down with you to help guide your career and give you sage advice.
Fortunately, if you’re having trouble finding a mentor, there’s another option right under your nose—“frientors.”
A frientor is a knowledgeable friend that you can call upon for advice on a specific situation. And when you have a question or need help with a project, you know you can turn to them. It’s a more reciprocal dynamic than the traditional mentor-mentee relationship, and the best part is, there’s no limit to the number of frientors you can cultivate over a lifetime.
Having a mentor can be great for some people. But for many, having a wide network of frientors can be better.
Here’s why those relationships may be more helpful in the long-run:
Frientors can give more personalized attention to a specific problem.
You can get plenty of great advice from reading books or doing research online. The only issue is that this advice tends to be generic. You still have to figure out how to adapt it to your own situation.
A frientor’s advice is just the opposite. They know you on a personal level, which means whatever help they give you will be personalized for you and your situation.
For instance, let’s say two of my friends happen to be launching clothing lines at the same time. One of them is very social and outgoing and the other is more of an introvert. I’d probably advise my first friend to hit the pavement and speak to people at local businesses, gyms, coffee shops—just do what comes naturally to get the word out. But I wouldn’t give the same advice to my second, more introverted friend. I’d probably help that friend figure out a great online campaign instead.
Generic advice can be a great way to get you started, but it will only take you so far. A frientor offers personalized guidance and helps you adapt general guidance to your specific situation.
These relationships are very informal, so there’s less pressure.
As you can imagine, a frientor relationship is less formal than the relationship you would have with a traditional mentor.
You may even end up with a group of frientors, where members swap advice and pass along tips and tricks. You’re not guiding each other’s lives or careers like a full mentor would, just offering a hand when someone needs it on a specialized issue.
In fact, a lot of people who have frientor relationships probably don’t even think of them in that light.
They’re just friends who send each other messages when they need help with something. And because they’re less formal, these relationships involve less pressure and ego. It’s as simple as saying to someone, “Hey I noticed you’re really good at this. How do you go about doing that?”
It’s actually very humbling to hear someone explain their expertise. And after a while, you realize there’s no need to compare yourself to your frientors or rank your “success.” You’re all in it together, helping each other out as different situations arise.
The advice you get from frientors is more likely to be current.
Another advantage of having a large network of frientors is they’re generally younger and more up-to-date than a formal mentor.
A mentor may be great at giving long-term advice about a career arc or life in general, but in many cases, their specific knowledge may be outdated. On the other hand, your frientors will have their fingers on the pulse of their industry and specialization. They’re working in the trenches right now, so they’ll be able to give you advice that’s relevant and based in reality.
The “top of the mountain” types who people want as mentors are often too far removed to offer relevant or specific advice.
For instance, maybe you’re interested in building a payment company. You might think that because Elon Musk was involved in PayPal, he’d be a great mentor for you. While it’s true he has experience in that space, that was nearly 20 years ago.
No disrespect to Elon, but you’d probably be better served by talking to someone who understands the current payment landscape in 2019, rather than what it looked like in 2000.
There’s nothing wrong with having a mentor and it can be a great relationship if you happen to find the right person.
But if you’re struggling to find a traditional mentor, then it may be better to invest your time and energy doing what comes natural—building friendships and asking those friends for advice when you need it.