Robin Sharma on the Importance of Mentorship

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Who Will Cry When You Die?" by Robin Sharma. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Why does Robin Sharma say that everyone should have mentors (whether they’re alive or dead)? Why should you go the extra mile to build close friendships?

In his book Who Will Cry When You Die?, author and self-help professional Robin Sharma insists that every person should have mentors in life. This is because it’s impossible to learn everything you need by yourself. Mentorship can help you gain second-hand wisdom and speed up your personal growth.

Here is why the importance of mentorship cannot be underestimated.

Learn to Seek Help From Others

Who Will Cry When You Die? author Robin Sharma believes that you can’t possibly accrue all the experiences you need to pursue your purpose first-hand. However, you can gain the learning you’d acquire from those experiences second-hand from others. In this article, we’ll talk through five specific ways to gather the wisdom and support of those around you and about the importance of mentorship. 

1. Refer to Your Personal Panel of Imaginary Mentors

Sharma’s first recommendation for gaining input from others is to create an imaginary panel of specialized mentors and turn to them for guidance. When you need advice on a tough problem, imagine what a mentor would tell you. 

You don’t have to know these mentors, and they don’t have to even be alive, assures Sharma. They should just be figures you admire and who have something to offer to your life. For instance, your panel might consist of Steve Jobs for advice on innovation, Oprah for advice on self-care, and the Dalai Lama for advice on spirituality. 

(Shortform note: Sharma recommends heeding the (imaginary) advice of a panel of specialists in their fields. But David Epstein, author of Range, would argue that it’s wiser to heed the advice of generalists, rather than specialists. Generalists, he feels, are better equipped to handle unpredictability and adapt to novel circumstances than specialists. Therefore, when building your panel of mentors, consider including some generalists who can “advise” you on many areas of life.) 

2. Refer to Your Personal Panel of Real Supporters

In addition to creating your imaginary panel of supporters, Sharma also recommends building an active group of three to four people who offer mutual support in achieving goals. Pick a few friends who have a good head on their shoulders and to whom you, in turn, have something to offer. Set up a weekly meeting with this group to talk through current challenges.

(Shortform note: Sharma recommends creating a support group of at least three to four trustworthy people. Not everyone may know four such people, though, and studies even showed that in 2004, many Americans had no close friends. To meet more people to add to your trusted group of supporters, expand your network of casual friendships and acquaintances. Casual acquaintances can eventually become trusted confidants.)  

3. Hire a Life Coach

In addition to an informal support system, Sharma also believes you might benefit from hiring a life coach. An experienced life coach can help you arrange the pieces of your life to better achieve your purpose. They also offer an outside perspective to help you form the right patterns of behaviors and thoughts faster than you could alone. 

(Shortform note: Sharma advises you to get a life coach to benefit from their expertise and perspective. Paradoxically, there’s been an increase in the number of life coaches aged between 25 and 35—an age group, one could argue, that hasn’t yet accrued enough life experience to successfully help others. Indeed, after a 29-year old reporter hired a 21-year old life coach, she discovered that a loss of youthful idealism might be required for life coaches to be able to fully empathize with clients. The coach Sharma would recommend would likely be one with some years of life experience under their belt.)

4. Create a List of Personal Champions and Try to Meet Them

To attract the wisdom of others into your life, Sharma also recommends building a list of champions you’d like to meet someday.

(Shortform note: Sharma wants you to try to meet your champions, but that might not always be a great idea. When you meet an idol and see they’re human, just like you, they lose the ability to teach and inspire you. The enchantment around them may fade—or worse, you might realize they’re downright unpleasant.)

Additionally, claims Sharma, because there are only six degrees of separation between all humans, it should be easy to move along the chain between yourself and your champion to meet them. 

(Shortform note: Sharma mentions the concept of six degrees of separation, and indeed, there’s proof that there are approximately six degrees of separation between every individual on earth—specifically, though, 6.6 degrees. In 2008, Microsoft conducted a study in which it analyzed 30 billion email conversations between 180 million people across several continents. While some duos were separated by up to 29 degrees, 78% of duos were separated by only 6.6 degrees, meaning there’s a good chance you’re not too far from meeting your champions.) 

5. Take the Initiative to Build Friendships

Sharma’s final recommendation for attracting support is the least formal: Invest time and energy into forming good friendships. Putting yourself out there can be difficult, but taking the initiative typically pays off. New friendships add not only support but also joy to your life. 

(Shortform note: Sharma advises you to proactively build strong friendships. But it can be hard for adults, especially adults over the age of 30, to do this. With family and work taking up most of your time, making new friends can seem superfluous, no matter how much joy they might bring. One way to overcome these time constraints is to make friends for existing commitments: for example, a yoga friend, a work friend, or a parenting friend. This takes the pressure off you to make swaths of time for friendship-building, since you’re already engaging in these activities.)

Robin Sharma on the Importance of Mentorship

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  • Why most people end up leading lives they’ll regret
  • How to seize control of your life and turn it into one you’ll look back on fondly
  • How and why you should set intentional breaks in your daily life

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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