“This will be kind of counterintuitive, but don’t ask for help. One of the things that is challenging new companies right now is that they want a mentor. They want a tutor. Get out there. Ready. Fire. Aim. Go.”
– Mark Cuban
Mark Cuban, co-star and investor on ABC’s Shark Tank, owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, and veteran business executive is well known for his controversial stance on mentors. Simply put, he thinks entrepreneurs should stop asking for help and should instead do their homework and try things until they figure out what works on their own.
I’ve never met Mark Cuban, so I can’t say for sure, but I think he is confusing mentors with Magic 8 balls. I’ll explain.
I wouldn’t be where I am today, 11 years into a successful career of entrepreneurship, without someone that I consider to have been an invaluable mentor.
My mentor was a sounding block for ideas. He didn’t pretend to have all of the answers. He was open and honest about his successes and failures and let me decide what to do with that information. He asked me questions and challenged my ideas. He put me in my place when I needed a healthy serving of humble pie.
He did not define my goals and did not tell me how to be successful. In fact, he didn’t even pretend to know what my success looked like. He knew that I needed to discover that on my own. He didn’t try to shape me in his own image or pretend that his path to success was the same path I had to take.
Many people come on a show like Shark Tank seeking some type of magical answer or help that will make their business successful, as if there is a single missing piece of the puzzle. They say they are looking for a mentor, but what they actually want is a Magic 8 ball. Guess what? Business doesn’t work this way. Success in business is a complex and delicate balance of both hard and soft skills that vary in every situation, requiring practice and patience that has to be acquired over time.
Having a mentor isn’t like having a Magic 8 ball. It’s not a shortcut to success. It’s a part of the process that Mark Cuban describes as “Get out there. Ready. Fire. Aim. Go.” In fact, I would argue a mentor is an important part of this process.
If you’re on a path of entrepreneurship, I encourage you to consider looking for a mentor. Just make sure you know what you’re really looking for. If you have been asked to take on the honored role of being someone’s mentor, make sure you aren’t acting like a Magic 8 ball. There are no secret answers. Cherish this relationship and enjoy the experience.