in Growth


If you’ve already figured out that you should never, ever, hire a life coach, then you know you should be finding specific mentors for specific things you want to improve.

The next step is to figure out:

  1. What you want to get better at, and
  2. Who can help you get better at it

When coming up with people that can act as a mentor for your chosen skillset, try to pick people that are:

  1. A little bit better than you, or
  2. Much better than you, but remember every gradation of progress they went through and know how to peg you at a specific one

I won’t go any further into finding good mentors. There’s plenty of good advice out there already, most of which can be summed up by this quote:

All you have to do to make someone your mentor is decide that you are going to observe him carefully and maybe ask him questions, in an attempt to become in some respects more like him. – William Irvine

What I will talk about is the idea of inverting the mentor and seeking anti-mentors. Inversion is a fantastic mental model to have in your toolkit when looking at problems like these.

Try asking yourself this question: “How do I ensure that I get worse – or at least no better – than I currently am at [skillset]?”

The answer is to find people that have the same goal as you – ideally as close as possible – but are failing at it over a period of time that others are succeeding. It should be a specific enough goal that you can point to very specific actions and beliefs that they’re either doing or not doing, or have or don’t have that lead to them making no positive progress.

Carefully observing these anti-mentors can provide equal or even more valuable information for you to use in your pursuit of improvement.

Note: Anti-mentors are not a way to feel superior over another person because they are failing. Rather, they are a font of of valuable information on what not to do and why not to do it.

If you pair up a well-selected mentor and a deeply observed anti-mentor for any one skillset, you have a combination that makes it almost impossible to not improve.