Two all-purpose pieces of advice: small groups and mentors

That is the theme of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one excerpt:

The first piece of advice stems from what has been dubbed in Silicon Valley “the small group theory.” It goes like this:

  • When working on any kind of problem, task or question, embed yourself in a small group of peers with broadly similar concerns.


The second near-universal piece of advice is this:

  • Get mentors.

Those two pieces of advice, unlike most advice, hold for a very broad variety of contexts.  Do read the column, but here is some further detail:

Mentorship can be general or specialized. I have had classical-music mentors, art-market mentors, country-specific mentors when I lived in Germany and New Zealand, foreign-language mentors, chess mentors, economics mentors, philosophy mentors, writing mentors and friendly mentors to help with the basic emotional issues of life. I’ve tried to find mentors for just about everything. Sometimes the relationship lasts only a week or a month, other times for years.

Aside from providing teaching and advice, the mentor, like the small group, helps make an issue or idea more vivid: A living, breathing exemplar of success stands before you. The mentor makes a discipline feel more real and the prospect of success more realistic.

As a corollary, in addition to trying to find mentors, you should be willing to become a mentor yourself. Even if you do not have advanced understanding in some particular area, almost certainly there is someone who knows less than you do and who could use assistance. Being a mentor also helps you understand how to learn and appreciate your own mentors.

A mentor doesn’t have to be older than you, and in fact some of your mentors probably should be younger, especially since technologies are starting to change more rapidly. If you are 50 years old, the idea of an 18-year-old crypto mentor isn’t crazy. If the metaverse turns into a reality, don’t look to the graybeards for tutelage.



Comments for this post are closed