Why Hiring a Mentor Might Not Be the Stupidest Thing You Could Do

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A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a well-written and quite compelling article by a fellow BP-er Ned Carey entitled How Do I Find a Mentor in which, having sighted a lot of the cons, he eloquently states the case against hiring a paid mentor.  The overriding point Ned makes in his article is that because so many experienced people are willing to offer free advice here on BiggerPockets.com and elsewhere, that there hardly is a need to pay for any guidance.

Predictably enough, I concur with a lot of the points being made by Ned.  Most mentors are not mentors – they are gurus; information peddlers.  Most of them charge exorbitant amounts of money for what they offer.  Most are not active as real estate investors.  And most will never actually be there to pick-up the phone when you call…

Even still, I find myself taking exception to the premise that one should never pay a mentor.  There are good guys out there who are busy enough doing deals and living life that they won’t mentor you for free.  Having helped so many people into the game, my wife sat me down one day to tell me that even though she knows how much I love what I do, that I simply can not continue to take unlimited time away from our family.  I have to agree with my wife because she is way smarter than I am…

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I Don’t Know About You, But I Pay for Training.

My wife Patrisha and I enjoy ballroom dancing and every Friday night we make our way to a local dance school for a lesson.  I get a kick out of knowing how to dace just cause I like it, but equally important to me is the fact that I score BIG, HUGE points with Patrisha for looking as something other than a lamp-post when she pulls me out onto the dance floor at one of those rare “events” we attend!

Well, Patrisha has had ballet training and she is just an absolute whiz on the dance floor.  When working with her, the teacher offers “pointers” and “suggestions”…and then there’s me.  Don’t get me wrong, I can hold my own, specifically in Latin dances, but in order for me to learn a new move the teacher needs to first show it to me, then show it to me a few more times, then dance it with me making sure to lead me forcefully, and then maybe, just maybe…

I could log onto YouTube and watch incredible artists perform a Samba routine anytime I want, and I do.  I could even watch a lesson on Samba which teaches the various steps, and I do that also.  But I promise you, try as I may I could not possibly learn to dance Samba this way, or at least learn it in a reasonable amount of time.  To shorten my learning curve I pay a pro to walk me through the conscious and the subconscious learning…

Why would learning the skill and the art of real estate investing be any different?

Companies Hire Consultants.

It is standard practice in the corporate world to hire consultants.  Why – it’s not like the in-house employees aren’t qualified to solve problems?  Corporations do this for two reasons:

  1. This is a way to facilitate another, unbiased set of eyes to look at the problem.
  2. By paying for the service, corporations make themselves accountable.  No one likes to “waste” money, and it is amazing how our thinking and behavior can change when we “go hard” by putting dough on the table – we become more focused, more committed, and more inspired to make things work.

Why would learning the skill and the art of real estate investing be any different?

Knowledge is Never Free – Nor Should it Be!

We have to get away from the notion that knowledge can ever be free.  Sure, if you read every article and post that I’ve ever written and every article and post that J Scott, Bill Gulley, Clay Huber, Brandon Turner, Ned Carrey, Jeff Brown, Chris Clothier, and many, many others have ever written, you can gain a meaningful perspective.

Time Is Money – Do you have a decade?

And besides, there are some things that one can only learn by doing – it’s called the school of hard knocks.  I went through it when I bought a house for $45,000, sold it for $110,000 and managed to lose $20,000 – price of tuition.  If that’s how you want it, be my guest.  If not, you can pay someone to watch your back – it’ll be cheaper!

Related: How To Get a Mentor For Flipping Houses in 3 Simple Steps

Do You Know What Success Feels Like?

My mother is a very wise woman, and one of her favorite sayings goes something like this:  Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are!

Experience tells me that she is absolutely right – again 🙂  Success is not an event or a circumstance – it is a frame of mind.  To be successful you must think as successful people think.  Do you know how successful people think?

Let me say it differently – in real estate we tend to use a lot of jargon, a lot of terminology that sounds completely foreign to newbies and can be quite intimidating.  Some have even said that we invented this crazy language specifically to intimidate and keep people out of our little club.

The language of success is kind of like that too – it is foreign to people that haven’t experienced it.  I think that it is crucially important for you as a new player to surround yourself with people who have personal knowledge of success.  You can do what I did – ask and beg for 5 years before these people let me into the club – Five Years!  I hope you don’t think that it was free; believe me when I tell you this – I PAID the price of admission!  Do you have 5 years?  Or, you could hire a mentor, and if you hire the right person you will get more than your money’s worth.

Most People in Your Life Will Want You to Fail!

That’s right, I said it – most people in your life will want you to fail.  It’s not because they don’t wish you well.  In fact, it has very little to do with you at all.  It is them…

Your friends have known you for years.  They are comfortable with you; the old you.  The you that sits on the couch with them watching football, eating chips, drinking beer, and scratching yourself; the you that tells them how the money is tight at the end of the month; the you that complains to them about your boss being a prick.  This is the you that they know and love, and the you they are comfortable with.

But, this is not who you are any more.  You’ve made the choice to break the cycle; you’ve decided to be positive; you’ve decided to live your life in the world of abundance not scarcity; you’ve decided to create opportunity not wait for it; you’ve decided to pick-up the reigns and be proactive and accountable; you’ve made the choice to go after what you want!  This is you now, and GOOD FOR YOU!

But, you need to realize that by moving forward you are necessarily making people in your life feel as though they are falling back; have you heard of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity?  Your friends are exactly where and what they’ve always been.  But they “perceive” being left in the dust because you are moving forward…

Nobody likes this feeling, and basic human nature dictates that to save their perception of themselves they will try to hold you back. What makes this even more difficult and dangerous is that most of this happens subconsciously – most people will mean you well, but they will still try to hold you back, and they will instill doubt in you if you let them!

Does it pay to have someone on your team who can recognize the signs and interfere? 

Related: Should You Pay For a Real Estate Investing Mentor? Here’s My Strategy…

Conclusion

I’ve taken up a lot of words to build a case for why you should hire a mentor.  And yet, nowhere on these three pages have I disagreed with any of the logic to the contrary provided to us by Ned.

Fact – there are a lot of shysters out there charging exorbitant amount of money for mentorship or coaching.  But, there are good guys too, who will truly help you perform at you capacity and do their very best to keep you out of trouble – if you listen!  From here, whether to hire a mentor or not is a personal decision and I hope that this article helps some of you to make it.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with me? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Photo: Fred Astaire Upper Montclair

About Author

Ben Leybovich

Ben Leybovich has been investing in multifamily residential real estate since 2006. His area of expertise is creative finance. Ben works extensively with private as well as institutional financing. Ben is a licensed Realtor with YOCUM Realty in Lima, Ohio. He is also the author of Cash Flow Freedom University and creator of a cash flow analysis software CFFU Cash Flow Analyzer.

33 Comments

  1. Great follow up to Ned’s article, Ben! i think you bring up strong points because I also give private basketball lessons on the side of my job and real estate. It’s not so much the knowledge that you’re giving is valuable as it is the time that you are taking from other things you love. I agree! In my personal case, it has been pretty tough to find a mentor (NOT GURU) that I can pay for or not in my small town, but I’ll keep hacking at it! Again, great article!

  2. Thank you so much for reading Junior! It can be difficult to find a mentor. Don’t get stuck in your own town, though. What are the chances of finidng someone likeminded and experianced in the type of investing that you want to do in a small town? Not very likely – don’t be afraid to look on the outside 🙂

  3. I really love this article, Ben.

    You have to get down to brass tacks in RE Investing.

    Pick a category and do it daily, 7 days a week. If you are SFH or Multis. Wholesaling or Terms (Sub2, Wraps, Private Mortgages, Lease Options, etc.)

    Trust your mentor/coach. Do your list. Have a list of questions for your coach and ask them. Be hard on yourself.

    I love this, “Most People in Your Life Will Want You to Fail!”

    People that know you do not like massive change. They will “protect you” from making “mistakes” like Mom protecting a toddler on the jungle gym.

    My greatest mistakes in sport and in dealing with RE sellers and buyers were in the “A Ha moments” of stupid mistakes, and both my lacrosse coaches and business coaches basically said to me, “OK we tried it your way, can we do it my way now?”

    Being coachable is an important part to learning anything, especially REI.

    Thanks Ben! Awesome article!

  4. Patrick Martinez on

    Ben
    I read something once about trying to go it alone or reinventing the wheel in regards to mastery or starting something new.
    “Even Michael Jordan had a coach”
    Great article.

  5. Ben:

    Rather than “pay” a mentor as you would a consultant. What about bringing capital to the table and offering it for use in the mentor’s next deal under terms you get mentored in the process. Obviously, you would need to receive enough return on your capital to warrant tying it up … though you may lower your expected return in consideration of the mentoring.

    Viz. I’m interested in being mentored in rehabbing and flipping a property – so I take 40K and approach someone like J. Scott with an offer of the use of my 40K at an attractive interest rate in exchange for him taking the time to drag me through the flip and answer all my, hopefully not inane, questions.

  6. Ben, great article that everyone should read.

    As an instructor, I really liked your sentence that; “We have to get away from the notion that knowledge can ever be free”. As my students are learning a new software technique or working on a programming project, they tend to want a quick answer. An answer that does not involve the learning process. Just getting an answer is not a fast track to knowledge.

    I am sure all the investors you mentioned did not gave their success without patience, time and knowledge. The right coach or mentor can ease the learning process, through proper direction and support.

    How many times have we heard the phrase; “you can’t get something for nothing”.

    Again, thanks for the article.

    • Josh,

      This is very interesting indeed. Knowing that you are not specifically fond of hiring mentors, your implication here is that it is not possible to find a mentor who shares your core values, which should be the objective, without having developed a relationship – Is that about right Josh? Notice, I am not necessarily disagreeing

  7. Brandon Turner

    “Mr. Madison, what you just said is the most insanely idiotic thing I have ever heard. At no point in you incoherent rambling response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. We are all now dumber for having had listened to it. I award you no points and may God have mercy on your soul!!”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hfYJsQAhl0

    Just kidding.

    Good post. I pretty much agree with everything you said. True, not all mentors will teach for free, at least not on the level that they might want. I love talking real estate with people, but I couldn’t take the 3 hours a day for months to train someone. However, I’m a bigger believer that for most people, mentors should NOT be used to teach anyways, at least not in real estate. Mentors should be there to fill in the gaps and answer specific questions when a person gets hung up on something. They CAN be used for more than that, but I don’t think they are needed for that purpose.

    When someone comes to me and wants to be “mentored” I like to tell them – first go read all 21 books on the Best Real Estate Investing Books list from BiggerPockets. You could do 2 a week with just an hour a day of reading. Then come back to me and let’s talk. If you don’t have the motivation to read those first, you won’t have the motivation to do what I say either. Those authors of those books know more than I do, so what am I going to do that they couldn’t?

    Then there is “group” mentoring, which is what the BP Forums are all about. There are dozens of people on there helping to “fill in the gaps” all the time, and all people need to do is read and get the gaps filled in by the pros on the site.

    Now, I know some people don’t learn from books and “don’t like reading.” Well, I’m going to be very blunt here – I don’t like driving my car much, but I do it because it gets me from here to the store. I’m not going to magically just get there. So those who don’t “like reading,” in my opinion, are 90% lazy (10% have trouble reading, which is why we now have audio books. No excuse anymore.)

    I’m on a rant. This is me stepping off my soap box and taking my foot out of my mouth.

    I did enjoy the post, quite a bit. I like the perspective, and I think it’s important to discuss this stuff because a lot of people are going to pay for a mentor, and if that’s the path they want to take, at least we can help give some direction!

    Thanks Ben 🙂

  8. I agree that mentors are very important. There are a few things that drive me crazy in the guru world. 1. People who coach who don’t do deals 2. People who coach that aren’t successful. 3. People who coach in geographical areas they are not familiar with (the fly in coach). A good coach will save you many times over what you are paying them – EVERY TIME. It’s better to write a check and know how much your education is going to cost than write a blank check to the school of hard knocks.
    I would also like to point out how much high level advice should be considered education. Paying a professional attorney, tax professional, financial advisor, etc. is something that successful and high net worth individuals do throughout the building of their finances.
    Be very careful who you take your advice from they should always be smarter, more successful and have a higher net worth than you. Accept nothing less than the best and as you progress in your success those individuals will be harder and harder to find.

  9. Thank you for the excellent article!
    I agree completely.
    The key is finding someone who is currently active in, and successful in, whatever you are trying to do. Then reach back and help someone else when you succeed. You are correct that we can only offer so many hours to others before our own lives begin to suffer, and of those hours only so many can realistically be given away for free. I also believe many people value what they pay for more than what they get for free, so they take action faster which creates faster results.
    Thanks again, this was a good read!

  10. Great article and comments. I am reminded of several statements

    You pay one way or another for your education

    You establish what help and education you need to achieve your goals.

    I sometimes refer to a training book as a book of mistakes, if someone else made a 30K mistake you do not need to.

  11. Ben,
    Thanks for taking the time to write and share some wisdom. I really appreciate the “might not” in the title. I don’t appreciate the idea of hiring a mentor cause I’ve been burned in the past. I adhere more to the Buddhist philosophy “when the student is ready the teacher will appear.” But, I strongly agree that, knowledge is not free.

    • Maurice,

      I am sorry to hear that you’ve been burnt before. Although you must know that being burnt was a lesson in and of itself. Would it be too intrusive to ask you for more information…hopes of starting up an honest conversation such as this is exactly why I wrote this article 🙂

      • Ben,
        Thanks for responding to my comment. You are right, I did indeed learn a valuable lesson: I should have used the few thousand dollars I spent for mentorship to buy property! I spent the money with a well know author that extolls the virtues of cash flow. What I received was a few weeks of telephone coaching from someone on their staff and, instruction on how to use a financial calculator (which I already knew). The most valuable lesson I guess was that action for the sake of activity is not enough. You must take action but, it must be right action.

  12. I think the whole article was interesting (and the comments!) but I especially enjoyed the “Most People in Your Life Will Want You to Fail!” section. It reminds me of a caution Robert Kiyosaki (of Rich Dad Poor Dad fame) made about being careful of whose advice you follow.

    In a nutshell, when you intend transition from being an employee to being an investor, you will get advice from two types of well-intended people:

    – Those who have succeeded at investing.

    – Those who have not succeeded at investing.

    The latter group will warn you about all the risks involved. If you ask them, they will usually tell you that they have never themselves tried investing (because they’re “smart” enough to follow their own advice!).

    Kiyusaki points out that if you follow the advice of those who have succeeded, you are likely to succeed, and if you follow the advice of those who have not succeeded, you are likely to not succeed either. It’s such a simple concept….

    It’s why I listen to investors and tune out family and friends when it comes to investing. Your article reinforces the need to do that. Thank you.

  13. Susan Lloyd on

    With all due respect, there is no such thing as a paid mentor. If you are hiring someone to help you, that person is a coach/teacher/consultant, not a mentor. And there is no such thing as a professional mentor–that makes no sense. The mentor/mentee relationship is a very special and unique relationship, in which an experienced person helps pass life wisdom in a particular field on to a newcomer. The mentee doesn’t pay the mentor; the mentee after gaining life experience and success pays for the help by becoming a mentor and taking on a mentee, etc., etc., etc. There are great coaches and teachers out there that you can benefit from, but they are not mentoring you if you are paying them. The distinction is important, because the actual mentor/mentee relationship is so precious.

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