How Mentorship and Seeking Advice Changed My Life and How It Can Change Yours Too.
Hello, I’m Byron, I’m twenty-three and I’m the Co-founder of Grey Matter. If I’m completely honest, I don’t write much… So why should you take two minutes out of your day to read this?
Four years ago I took two minutes out of my day to send an email that led to a meeting which changed my life.
At the time, I was in a depressed state, and started having suicidal thoughts every day, I felt lost in life and had lost all direction after coming out of a bad breakup. Up until this point in my life, I had failed my education, taken a dead-end job, I felt like “the stupid one” of my friends, I went down a dark path with bad habits. I just felt like I was never going to be successful because I was raised believing the definition of “success” and “happiness” was a University degree, a good job and a loving relationship. And I didn’t have any of those things.
The meeting was with a family friend, someone who I didn’t know that well at the time but I had admired and felt inspired by for quite some time, and that meeting helped change my outlook on life. This was because I opened up about where I was at in my life, and realised that the person I was speaking to had also been through a similar past, with similar grades and similar depression about work. But was able to overcome his struggles and get to a happy place in his life. This helped me see myself in a new light, it made me realise that maybe one day I could too.
Fast forward a few years, and my friends and I have now formed Grey Matter that was created to have a positive impact on people’s mental health. We strive to empower others by sharing stories and encouraging conversation through our apparel. But I honestly have no idea where I would be today if I didn’t have that meeting. I feel we can sometimes get so caught up believing that other people are really busy and don’t have time for us, that we don’t even bother asking. At least that’s how I felt, up until I sent that email. Since then, I’ve now connected with a lot of inspiring people following this approach, including the Founder of Huel and the Brand Creative Director of ASOS.
I’ve advised quite a few people to follow this approach and hardly anyone does. THIS is why you have the advantage. And this approach can be used in so many areas of your life. Feeling lost in general? Unsure what direction to go in next? Speaking to people who you are inspired by will help you get on the right path.
So you’re probably thinking, yeah cool, reach out to people, ask for advice, but how do I do that?
I thought I’d put together some actionable steps that have helped me and hope it helps you too...
Step 1: Think about who inspires you. Who is doing the job or living the life you would love to be living?
You may have peoples names in mind straight away, or you may be thinking of a job role (e.g. psychologist, photographer etc). Make sure this is coming from a genuine place and you really are interested and inspired by them and like what they are doing. If you’re not, it’s a complete waste of time for everyone involved.
Step 2: Find them.
In 2019, we are the most connected we have ever been, but I think a lot of people forget social media was created to be social. We get trapped in scrolling through highlight reels, that we forget social media is a FREE tool with millions of people at the end of our fingertips, so leverage that.
Or you may have people in your life already (like I did) that inspire you, and you would like to learn from them, so, therefore, it’s not a case of finding them, but rather just contacting them.
LinkedIn: This is a great platform if you are looking for professionals, it’s a hugely untapped platform and it’s search functionalities are brilliant. For example, if you were interested in becoming a psychologist you can literally type in ‘psychologist London’ and it will come up with a list of psychologists living in London. Go onto their profile, see if they are doing what you could be interested in, and send them a connection request with a note. (I will talk about drafting up the message in my next point).
Instagram & Facebook: I’ve found both of these platforms can work well to send people a direct message. However, the only limitation you face is if they don’t follow you, the message will show up in their requests and they may not see it.
Email: An old school technique but can still work. The only disadvantage with this is if the person is popular/busy they may get 100s of emails a day!
Sending a letter: An even older school technique but one that stands out. If you are able to get the address of someone, or someone’s work address. Write a handwritten personal note, put it in a nice envelope and as long as it reaches them, I’m sure they will notice it.
Step 3: Contact them.
Once you’ve found them, you obviously want to contact them. Here’s a message I sent to the Brand Creative Director of ASOS using the LinkedIn connection request note option. (You only have a limited number of characters with this approach, so you have to make your message personal but also quite to the point).
“Hey John, I hope you don’t mind me messaging you. It’s pretty incredible what you’ve achieved in your career, especially designing outfits for the likes of David Bowie! I’ve recently co-founded a fashion brand that supports mental health and would love to ask for some advice if at all possible?”
Step 4: Don’t one and done.
People generally want to help, but they are also busy. That means you will need to work around their schedules and most people you reach out to won't reply. So you need to make sure you send a message to quite a few people to increase your chances of a response. But again, make sure you make your message personal and not just a spam message. Do some research into the person first and show that you’ve actually taken the time out to learn about them and it’s coming from a genuine place. If it’s a spam message, they will most likely see past it and not reply.
Step 5: Arranging the meeting.
As mentioned in my last point, these people are busy, some will want to help more than others. Therefore, some may just want to speak online and respond when it’s convenient for them. If you can, try and get them on the phone or even better, meet them in person for a coffee. Face to face contact is still the best way to build rapport and a connection with someone, which will benefit you in the long term.
Step 6: Seeking the advice
Before the meeting, you want to do your research on this person. What is it about them that you really want to find out? How can they help/benefit you? What advice can they give? These are all things to think about and even write down before the meeting.
But most importantly, play the long game. The most important thing above all else is to be thankful, respectable and likeable. You would be much better off, building rapport with someone on the first meeting and not asking every question, than trying to force the conversation and get every question answered.
Step 7: Keep the contact/relationship going
Think of this as a friendship. If they like you, they will continue to mentor, help and open doors for you for a long time afterwards. So make that your main priority and keep that relationship alive after the meeting.
Since the first meeting I had with my first mentor four years ago, I have since mentioned how he changed my life, and he replied with “You sent the first email, remember that”. I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you feel lost or stuck, don’t struggle alone, as you can overcome your struggles that may be holding you back with the help of others. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them, as more often than not people want to help, and you never know what might come of it.
I hope this helps you as it’s helped me. I always love hearing about other peoples stories and meeting like-minded people, so feel free to reach out to us if any of this resonated with you.
Thank you for reading.
All the best,
Instagram: @byrondonovann / @greymatter.ldn