On Mentors, Peers, and Everyone Else

I got to catch up with my friend Matt Tomasulo of CityFabric and Walk [Your City] last week about life and business.  Then today had the opportunity to chat with Duke professor Carl Nordgren about entrepreneurship and Kickstarter.  The two conversations helped crystalize the answer to a question I’ve been mulling for a while such that I now feel comfortable writing a post about it.

Whose advice should I take?

If you’ve ever been on the Internet, like you are at this moment, you’ve discovered that the Internet is made up roughly according to the following diagram:

The Internet is Mostly Advice

Contact me for full documentation of analysis

It’s even more extreme for entrepreneurs.  There’s not much out there EXCEPT advice when you search anything entrepreneurial related.  Take this post for example.  There’s such a glut of advice there’s advice about what advice to take.  In a year I’ll write a follow up assessing what advice about advice is most advisable to heed.  Be advised.

I have come to the conclusion that as an entrepreneur you need advice no matter how many companies you’ve launched and/or sold and/or taken public and/or run into the ground.   Not only do you need it, you need two specific kinds.  Kind of like how eating different kinds of food at the same time helps your body get the most out of each of them.


A mentor for my purposes is a person who has an order of magnitude more experience related to whatever you’re doing from whom you can learn lessons that otherwise would require years of experience on your own.  This person does not need to be in the same industry or have the same skill set as you.  In fact it may be better if they do not.   In my opinion, the older the better.  This is not someone you’ll go to for advice on what is the best free online storage solution with ubiquitous access or what app is best for contact organization.  This is the person who understands the unchanging elements of business and, perhaps more importantly, of people.  Someone who has been there before, perhaps many, many times before.  Make it a priority to seek out a person with experience that you trust and respect.  It’s worth all the online storage and contact apps in the world.


I go back and forth on how to finish the sentence, “if you can only have one, then have a ______”.  One day I say mentor, the other peer.  Truth is, if you can only have one maybe you should just quit.  A peer is a fellow entrepreneur who is with you on the front line, so to speak.  Someone who can share with you first hand about immediate, common experiences.  What markets are you targeting this quarter?  How are you going to reach them?  Have you ever tried a customer service platform?  Who does your blogging?  How do you organize your day? In a reference I know a long-time peer of mine Ryan Ferrier will appreciate, this is your Jonathan and David relationship.  Iron sharpens iron and all that.

Everyone Else

In the paraphrased words of Regan from Bachelorette, “forget everyone else.”


Take Aways

  • As an entrepreneur, you need advice
  • Most advice is not worth taking
  • Advice worth taking comes exclusively from two sources: Mentors and Peers
  • Forget Everyone Else
  • You can decide for yourself in which category this post belongs


Please advise.


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