The Vital Importance of a Mentor (& What I’ve Learned From Mine Over the Years)

by | BiggerPockets.com

There are a lot of phenomenal articles on this blog, many of them are having to do with the nuts and bolts of real estate. So much of what you’ll accomplish, however, has to do with what’s between your ears—your mental game—and having the right mentor, coach, or group (like BiggerPockets) to connect and communicate with.

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Catapulting with the Right Coach

I was reminded recently about one of my coaches who was incredibly effective for me. His name was Tim, and this was way back in 1995 to 2000. Tim always pushed me hard in the month of March. He pushed me to prospect, network, and generally work hard. Why in March? Because I was a real estate broker back then, and all of that work during the spring set up my entire summer season of earning—if I did it properly.

I suggest you do the same with your real estate business as an investor—push very hard from January through May. Then do it again from June through October because it truly sets up the entire next year. Don’t worry about your results this month. It’s irrelevant to what you’re doing this month. Do worry about sticking with the game plan you put in place. Once you find a niche or system to run with, don’t deviate—just find the predictability in it and keep doing it.

For example, this past month, we took one property and sold three properties. Now, on the surface, you might think, “That’s dismal! You guys have been in business for a while!” It doesn’t matter. In this current month, we’ll probably sell four and take five or six new homes under contract. Why? We just keep doing the same activities. The end result will be the same, over time—on average. We know this because we track our numbers, which then enables us to predict and project with certainty.

I want to paraphrase for you a great article that Denis Waitley wrote called “The Power of the Right Coach.” I hope you’ll also grab onto this idea of hiring your own coach or mentor and creating the lifestyle that you deserve.

The Value of a Mentor

I talk a lot about designing your lifestyle. It’s really a simple concept. You find someone who is where you want to be, someone who has traveled the path you want to travel. You then connect with them. Ask them to mentor you. Bam. That’s it.

A coach not only gives you the strength you need to succeed—we all need and want that—but is also in your face in a positive way with the feedback that you need to adjust your path as you go.

I’m a big advocate of getting on a plane or getting in a car and going to see a mentor if possible. Let me tell you another story about Tim. I was out at Tim’s house once in Big Bear, California, where he lived on the lake. We were going for a jog. (At the time, we both did a lot of running; now my aging knees won’t let me.)

Tim’s probably a good 15–18 years older than me. I was talking to him about how I was going to expand my brokerage and open other branches, and he just stopped. He put his arm out, stopped me dead in my tracks running and said, “Why do you want to do that?” He went on to tell me—and I’m standing in the middle road, stopped during a run—why that’s going to be a waste and an energy drain and would only create more headaches. Wow. That was so ridiculously positive as I look back now. I would never have sold several years later to Caldwell Banker like I did. I would still have been in the trenches, probably creating a bunch of overhead with very little net return on investment proportionate to what we put in.

Let me give you a different example. I’ve come up with a strategy we call ACAA. What does it mean?

  • A: We get into action.
  • C: We critique our action.
  • A: We adjust based on that critique.
  • A: We take action.

So it’s “action, critique, adjust, action.” Notice I didn’t say “action, critique, quit.” It’s action, phone call (for example). Critique the phone call live. Adjust the script based on the critique and go take action again. This is a constant, never-ending process, and if you practice ACAA, it’s much harder go get off track. Frankly, if you practice it with anything, you won’t get off track. Just a simple but effective “Chris-ism” I’ve utilized since around the year 2001.

Now, it’s certainly no secret that most outstanding achievements and incredible comebacks have been the result of an individual whose motivation to persist under any and all circumstances was influenced at some level by a coach or mentor. These coaches and mentors provide a correctional device to keep you on task. I use ACAA as my acronym, but many preach this same concept using other terms. Picture yourself as this missile sailing along and needing some adjustments here and there in order to hit your bullseye as you navigate the waters of real estate.

Since 1995, I’ve never been without a coach—and I’ve sometimes had two or three at a time. I’m talking business, personal, physical, nutritional, marketing, you name it. Then there’s the mastermind groups and other higher-level organizations. It brings us to a whole other level.

So who are you associating with? Who are you mentoring with? And what are you willing to pay in order to achieve all your goals? “Well, I can start doing that after I earn more,” you’re thinking. Nope, wrong order. Get resourceful and find a way to get it done now.

find-a-mentor

Related: 4 Things No One Tells You About Finding a Mentor (Hint: It’s Easier Than You Think!)

How Do You Choose a Mentor?

Make sure they have a history of success. Now this sounds obvious, but let me say something that’s probably not going to be as obvious and that some people may take issue with. Looking back on the coaches I’ve had, I see that many of them have had some failures that have significantly strengthened their ability to succeed and thus their ability to coach me to succeed.

In addition to picking a coach based on their ability to achieve goals similar to yours, choose mentors who in the process have overcome some of the same obstacles that you’re facing or that you think you may face. To go back to Denis Waitley: “Seeing your mentors today is like seeing what you intend to be.” Make sure you’re watching out for that in your potential mentor.

So how have my mentors over the years helped me most? Many of the biggest ways I’ve been influenced has been in terms of mindset. Here are a few of the most profound lessons I’ve learned.

What I’ve Learned From My Mentors

Expand your thinking: Read, read, read!

How can you expand your thinking? How about getting books that get you thinking outside your box? I look around my office here. I see a book called The Magic of Thinking Big, which I’ve read several times since. I’m going to date myself here—I was on my honeymoon in 1986 when I first read it. You cannot read this without expanding your perspective. You just can’t.

I’m about 20 pages away from finishing McDonald’s: Behind the Golden Arches. Now, if you want to read a book that can and should expand your mind, that’s a great one. I don’t care if you’re selling popcorn. I don’t care if you’re out buying one home every quarter. This book will get you thinking. Ray Kroc started with absolutely nothing and struggled through massive failures before building an empire. Read the book. You have to read the book.

Be passionate.

My thought is very simple on this. If you love what you’re doing, it won’t seem like work. I don’t say I’m going to work. I just love doing what we do. I recently refocused a lot of my energy, for example, on the coaching side of our business. My team, which is our kids, is now running the buying and selling side, except for the financial aspect. They’re doing all the prospecting. They’re going on appointments. They’re handling the buyers. They’re handling the paperwork—everything. Are you doing what you want to do right now?

Stay focused.

Ask yourself this: What should I be thinking about right now? Shut out the interference and simply focus. It could be because in this age of multitasking, this is a valuable technique to get good at—refocusing and time blocking. For example, I don’t take incoming calls if I’m sitting here doing outgoing. Why? I have no idea who’s calling. I’m not in control. It messes up my time. For you to jump every time the phone rings or every time an email comes in is absolutely insane, so make sure you focus.

Put a sticky note or an index card on your computer that says, “Is what I am doing right now moving me closer to my goals?” That’ll get you thinking. That’ll keep you focused. Keep your momentum. Don’t procrastinate. Did you ever notice a few good things happening in your life or your business and then all of a sudden, it kept snowballing? Did you ever happen to experience that going in the opposite direction? Let’s build upon your successes. In other words, see yourself as victorious. If you see yourself as victorious, it’s going to focus you in the right direction.

Read every single book you can get your hands on about the law of attraction—that is, using visualization and affirmation to change your life. I love Zero Limits by Joe Vitale and the entire series of books that came after it. In it, you’ll also find your way to other authors and speakers that are within the same realm.

Get lucky.

Be lucky. I know that sounds wacky, but the old saying, “The harder I work, the luckier I get” is absolutely right. Ron Legrand, one of my past mentors from 2000 and friends to this day, says, “The less I work, the more I make.” Well, this is a similar saying.

Look at the solution, not the problem.

We had plenty of challenges in real estate in 2008, and we learned as we moved forward. If we had sat and whined and listened to others, we’d be paralyzed for years to come. Instead, we refocused on solutions, new ideas, and moving forward.

Since starting our terms and investment business in the real estate world back at the beginning of 2013, even though we’d been working in real estate for 20+ years prior to that, we have made mistakes. What do we do with them? We say, “How much did that cost us? How did that happen? What can we do to fix it so it doesn’t happen again? Do we have to change any of our forms internally, our checklists, our agreements with the attorneys? What is it that we have to do to only focus on solutions?”And as a result, our businesses is rock solid. We’re able to share that with our associates who don’t have to go through the same mistakes. I’m not saying they’re never going to make one, but if and when they do, they have the answer at their fingertips.

Be the “first penguin.”

“Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.” I read that expression in Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture, and it stuck with me. It’s a phrase worth considering, in particular when you hit a brick wall. It is absolutely true that with every disappointment and at every roadblock, experience is what creates breakthrough industries, ideas, movements, and in my case, re-engineering of our business. It’s a reminder for us all that failure is not just acceptable, it’s absolutely essential.



Related: The 7-Step Motivated Newbie’s Guide to Finding a High-Quality Mentor

In The Last Lecture, there was a story about this professor who gave his students something called a First Penguin Award. The award went to the student or the team that took the biggest gamble in trying new ideas or new technology while failing to achieve their goals. It enabled them to celebrate out-of-the-box thinking. These students used their imagination in a daring, thought-provoking way.

When penguins are about to jump into water that likely contains predators, one of them has to be the first penguin in, right? The first person who failed at their project for this class got that award. I think you’d agree that the person who failed now knows how to avoid those future failures.

The person who knows only success can do what? They’re more oblivious to all the pitfalls. This brings us back to the point that you should be careful when you pick your mentors.

Engage in daily disciplines.

I always told our kids when they were growing up that with the right discipline, you can be outstanding at anything. Here’s a question for you: What new disciplines could you start acting on tomorrow? Today? Which discipline do you know will improve your business and/or your life, but you just haven’t done it yet? What new disciplines could you start acting on right now? I often combine my thoughts on this discipline topic with the simple concept of making today a better tomorrow, meaning improve every day.

What is discipline to you? Dictionary.com says, it’s “an activity, exercise, or regimen that develops or improves a skill; training.” Here’s my definition: “Doing the things daily that you know you should even when you don’t feel like it and even when you don’t see immediate results.” I’m going to add a third part to that: “And even when no one’s watching.”

It’s abundantly clear that the common denominator of all successful people that I’ve been talking about and that you should rub elbows with is that they form habits. They form disciplines. They track everything, and they improve and grow.

Let’s assume we’re brand new today. Here are some disciplines to consider adding to your day:

Make Three Calls a Day

I don’t care what business you’re in. You can call three new people, three new businesses, three new prospects that can add potential new business for you. For us, that’s 10 or 15 a week. That works perfectly. You might want to adjust the numbers.

Substitute a Good Discipline for an Unproductive Habit

Take a habit that you don’t like or that is not productive and substitute it with something else. Let me give you a really simple example, watered down. If you currently get up and go to breakfast or grab coffee now, how about if you substitute a workout, like I do, and then have something healthy to eat?

Read Daily

How about if you started reading? This time, I don’t mean in your area of expertise, but just to work on your mind. If you haven’t started that daily habit, don’t say, “I’m going to read a book a month” or something crazy. Just raise the bar a teeny bit—I don’t know, five minutes will do it. Start somewhere. I love the Audible app because I can get more “reading” in by listening at the gym while working out or listening in the car.

Journal Daily

Aim to write in your journal each night. If you don’t have a journal, it’s easy to start one. Write down these three things in your journal every night:

  1. What was the best thing that happened today?
  2. What was the most challenging thing that happened today?
  3. How can I improve tomorrow?

Isn’t that simple? Write in your journal every single day.

Set your goals.

What else can you do starting today? Regardless of what position you’re in, there’s an activity. There’s a person you can call. There’s something who will make a make a major impact on your business if you act on it today. What is it for you? Or who is that for you? Decide.

Finish this statement. Get a pen out right now and finish the one that applies to your business:

If I could get _____________ to do business with us, our business would totally change.
If I could get _____________ [a prospect]to join with me, it would catapult our business.
If I could get _____________ [type of deal], our business would skyrocket.

You get the point here. Those who are succeeding in any business and life in general have simply decided to do some things that others are not willing to do. Don’t be left behind. Very few people realize that success is within their reach. Your success is within your reach.

Take action.

As Tony Robbins says, “Don’t get caught up should-ing all over yourself.” You’ll never change your business or your life until you change something that you do today—so what one thing will you start today? Write it down.

In order to experience a quantum leap in your business and/or your finances or life, you simply have to take action.

What lessons from your mentor(s) have been most valuable to you?

Weigh in with a comment!

About Author

Chris Prefontaine

Chris Prefontaine is the best-selling author of Real Estate On Your Terms. A real estate investor with over 27 years experience in the field, Chris is the founder of Smart Real Estate Coach and host of the Smart Real Estate Coach Podcast. He lives in Newport, Rhode Island with his wife Kim and their family. Chris is a big advocate of constant education. He and his family mentor, coach, consult, and actually partner with students around the country, teaching them to do exactly what their company does. Between their existing associates nationwide and their own deals, Chris and his family are still acquiring 5-10 properties every month and control between $20 to $30 million dollars worth of real estate deals, all done on terms without using their own cash, credit, or signing for loans.

3 Comments

  1. Jerry W.

    Chris,
    This is an amazing article. Thank you for sharing it. About 4 years ago I had some really challenging things come up, and I decided things would not get better without some change. I started exercising or meditating in the morning, and I bought out the other half of a small real estate company I was part of. I am really struggling again with some things and my exercise regimen has dropped off pretty hard in the last 3 weeks due to some really heavy time demands. I also had an interesting professional setback that I think is a blessing in disguise. My plan is to now work less and do more real estate and try to work on creating some systems.
    I have tried several times to form a mastermind group as I have had no luck in finding one to join. Perhaps a mentor would be better. I would appreciate any suggestions on getting either. Thanks again.
    Jerry

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