Why Most Mentors & Coaches Suck (And How To Find Good Ones)
So, with this channel exploding in growth over the last few months, one of the most interesting things for me has been the number of comments and messages I get from you guys referring to me as a “mentor” and so this has really made me think, because to learn from the “right” person, whether that be a mentor, a coach, or more broadly speaking, a “teacher”, can completely transform someone’s life.
But on the other hand, the “wrong” teacher could play a huge role in damaging our lives, at best, they drain our bank accounts without teaching us anything of value, but at worst, they lead us off of our paths, and onto the wrong path, where we can spend months, years in some cases, an entire lifetime, trapped in a purgatory of sorts, where we’re doomed to run in circles and never discover our true essence or realize anything close to our potential.
And what I’ve noticed particularly within self-development and related fields, Is that the vast majority of coaches, mentors, and again, more broadly speaking, “teachers” are bad, terrible, so bad, that the ones who are “less bad”, we somehow see as “good”.
What’s confusing is that, most of these teachers are dangerous to their students, without even realizing it, they live in the illusion that they’re helping people, when they’re only hurting them. If you need evidence, look at the entire population of people who are trying to improve themselves, how many of us have spent years feeling like we’re improving, when, if we take a real good look in the mirror… How much have we actually improved? This is the illusion of improvement and it’s at the core of every bad teacher.
Anyway I’ve thought a lot about this, I’ve learned from hundreds of people in many different pursuits, and so in this post I’ll share with you guys the 5 major observations I’ve made to be able to identify “bad” teachers and simultaneously, how to find the “good” ones.
1. They haven’t excelled at what they’re teaching
The most dangerous teachers are ones who teach entirely from textbooks, or what they’ve read or seen online, because these teachers only exist within the world of theory and ideas, the “academic”. The problem here is that the reality of something is very different than the idea of it, this is why the majority of the self-help community proclaims to ‘know’ what they need to do to improve, yet, are unable to improve.
But back to “bad teachers”, let’s start with some obvious examples, overweight, out of shape personal trainers, they may be extremely well-studied and well-researched, but they clearly don’t know how to translate what they’ve learned into the real world and learning something is to take it from the world of “ideas” and to actualize it, to embody it. To know the path is not to walk the path, to walk the path is to know the path.
The best diet is not the mediterranean diet, the vegan diet, the keto diet, the best diet is the one we’re actually capable of following and feel good on.
The best exercise plan isn’t 5×5, crossfit, high reps or low reps, the best exercise plan is the one we’re actually capable of following and feel good on.
In a lot of cases, those who lack that “thing” that’s necessary to actually achieve or excel within a particular field, resort to “teaching” that thing as a way to feel the validation of being good at that thing without actually being good at that thing. We see this a lot on instagram and YouTube, and very often with younger people in particular, business coaches who have never built a successful business, “millionaire mindset” guru’s who have never made a million dollars.
If we’re going to learn from someone, we want them to have done the thing that we’re seeking to learn, and ideally at a much higher level than you’re currently at. If they’re at a lower level, they’re going to be limited in the number of ways they can teach us because their experience is more limited, at higher levels, they’ve surely experienced and come into contact with many more paths to the desired result, and so they can be flexible with how they teach us.
Let’s use me as an example, as far as “self-development” goes, I’m at a very high level, which is why so many of you guys are connecting with my content in ways that actually help you to move along the path. When you stack my content up along with everyone else’s, mine stands out because I can see with clarity, so many things that very few people on this planet can see, I don’t draw my ideas from the world of ideas and theory, I speak from direct experience, which I have a lot of #humble.
Now that being said, for these same reasons, I don’t create much business focused content, I understand that what I’ve done in business puts me in the top 0.01% – but even then, there are people out there who have gone so much further in than I have. I’ve had a lot success in 1 business, with a little real estate on the side, but there are people out there who have had tremendous success, hundreds of times more than I have, in multiple businesses. By mastering multiple paths to that same “success result”, they can see, with clarity, so many things that I can’t see and so they can be far more flexible in their teachings.
2. They don’t love teaching
Generally speaking, students all seek a specific “end result”, in the gym, I seek my ideal physique, in boxing, I want to compete and defeat my opponents, in yoga, I want to be able to do splits, but what the student often fails to see and something that has taken me years of actually achieving results and actually getting the result, getting to the finish line to understand is the importance of process, the importance of the journey to get to the result.
Anyone can force themselves to do something for a brief period of time in the pursuit of a specific result, but as most of us can probably understand on some level, that without finding a way to love the journey, the likelihood of actually making it all the way to a result is extremely unlikely, and so teachers who don’t love teaching, are the worst sorts of teachers, because they can never teach what is by far the most important lesson a teacher can teach, a love of process, a love of journey.
For the longest time, I used to hate dancing salsa, I knew that I wanted to learn how to dance, but lacing up my salsa shoes felt like a death sentence. My teachers, one after the other, were only teaching me how to memorize steps, and so when I danced I felt like a robot, as they say in Colombia, “no tenia sabor”, these teachers didn’t enjoy teaching, probably because they were teaching the same basic steps every day to new students, most of whom were sandal wearing foreigners who smell like sweaty cow shit. And so I never learned to love the process, and as a result I would always go to classes for a while, and then stop for weeks or months at a time.
Then I found teachers like Daniela and Mayra, who not only love salsa, but also love teaching, they celebrated every little improvement I made, while giving me enough room to safely fail and try again, they taught me how to move my body with the music, how to express myself through movement, which was the result I was pursuing in the first place, and in doing so, they helped me to learn to love the journey of learning salsa.
A bad teacher doesn’t love teaching, A good teacher loves what they teach, which enables them to teach their students how do love what they’re learning, which is the most important lesson we can learn from a good teacher because that is how we can persist in the endeavor of that thing over the long-term.
3. They fail to push the student
My experience has been that I learn the most in situations where I am most uncomfortable, if we think about discomfort within the context of learning, it’s often this:
We learn about something via a teacher, book or video and then we apply it, which makes us uncomfortable at first, because we’re “new” to doing that thing. Over time, by continuing to apply ourselves, by actually doing that thing in the real world, we become comfortable with it, because we become good at it and that’s where we need to push ourselves again, to apply something new that we’re not good at, to again be uncomfortable.
This is the process of moving towards mastery, a teacher who has already “excelled” at that thing we are learning, should understand this and understanding this, they will constantly be pushing us to essentially “exist” at the uncomfortable part of our limits. Through the “right” teachers, which have often been friends and even people I’ve looked up to from afar, I’ve learned about how boundless our limits really are and through stories of adversity, I’ve come to realize that adversity is almost always a situation where someone was at their “limit” yet still found a way to overcome.
Most teachers will just talk and talk and talk, as if their words are somehow translating into knowledge, they try to make the experience of learning “easy” they provide us with answers instead of pushing us to ask the right questions.
A good teacher will thus teach us in a way where they’re constantly “pushing” us to always be applying at the uncomfortable part of our limits, to exist within the uncomfortable space of our limits, in a way where we the student, had to push ourselves to get there.
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4. They impose their style on the student
Early on, a teacher who is still learning who we are, will teach us their style, which is perfectly fine, this is actually just one of many ways that the teacher can begin to observe our tendencies, predispositions, and our overall “essence”. But as we develop, the job of the teacher is to help us find our own unique path, our own unique style, instead of just always imposing themselves on us.
There are nuances here, in boxing and salsa for example, there are certain fundamentals that we need to learn, how to rotate the body to generate power in our punches, how to maintain our gaze on a fixed position to properly execute a spin, but when it comes to “style”, which has less to do with fundamentals and more to do with, how our essence translates into our actions, a bad teacher will demand that we do these things according to their style, while a good teacher will help us to discover our own style.
Style is not specific to physical activities like salsa and boxing, it is universal, It is a manifestation of our “essence” within the specific thing that we’re doing. Within business and self-development there are fundamentals as well, we should learn how to work hard, how to pursue discomfort, a good teacher will help us to build a sound base built on fundamentals, they’ll give us the dirt and put us in a good pot, but from that point, they merely water us.
A bad teacher will then try to firmly guide our growth, they’ll proclaim that we have to follow certain specific paths to get to their narrow interpretation of the result, a good teacher will water us and make sure that we get enough sun – understanding that however we grow is how we will grow.
5. They try to own the student
One of the realities of teachers within the context of the system, especially when it comes to teachers that we pay directly for services, which is often their primary means of making a living, Wouldn’t it be natural for them to consciously or subconsciously attempt to “own” that student to ensure that they can keep paying the bills?
On the other hand, a teacher might also take ownership when a student excels, where ego can lead them to want to “own” that progress, instead of just being a part of it. What we want is to instead find teachers who will guide us with a selfless focus on our best interests.
For all of these reasons, bad teachers will often create “dependency”, this can be observed in so many ways, martial arts is a good example, where teachers proclaim that a particular school of martial arts is superior and thus demand that their students form a strict loyalty to an individual school, Karate, Jiu Jitsu, Aikido, Kung Fu, this was part of what made Bruce Lee so revolutionary – he created a martial arts philosophy, Jeet Kune Do, that combined multiple styles. He believed that rather than touting the superiority of an individual school of thought, that we should instead be open to all schools of thought, and choose the best elements from each school.
This forming of “dependency” by teachers is also why I believe that all guru’s are absolute trash, a guru essentially claims to”know the exact path” to a particular result that we desire, which implies that there’s only one path, thus fostering a dependency on that Guru to show us the one path.
The reality is that there are an infinite number of paths to any result and a good teacher helps us to move along our own unique path.
Also worth briefly mentioning, inevitably, there comes a point where a teacher can no longer help us make progress on that path, and so at that point, a good teacher, instead of trying to “own” us, will instead, let us go.
Alright guys, let’s wrap this up, these are the 5 ways to identify a “bad mentor”, and what to look for in a good one.
1. They Haven’t Excelled At What They’re Teaching
The world of theory is extremely different from the world of reality. What sounds good isn’t necessarily what works. Bad teachers teach from books. Good teachers draw from a wealth of experience.
2. They Don’t Love Teaching
The most important aspect of learning anything is to learn to love the journey of learning that thing. Bad teachers don’t enjoy teaching, and cannot teach love of journey. Good teachers love teaching, and in doing so, share a love of the journey with their students.
3. They Fail to Push The Student
Stagnation is comfortable. Growth is only possible through discomfort. Bad teachers strive to keep us comfortable. Good teachers push us to be uncomfortable.
4. They Impose Their Style On The Student
Style is the expression of our essence through action. Bad teachers force their style on us. Good teachers help us to discover our own unique style.
5. They Try to Own The Student
Bad teachers impose themselves as being essential to your path. Good teachers guide their students along their own path.
Alright guys so the final thing I’d like to mention here is that, there is no perfect coach, mentor, or teacher, by understanding everything I’ve shared in this video, we can learn from any teacher in ways where we’re more vigilant, and more protected, from the “damaging’ elements of those same teachers. I often have conversations with my teachers if I feel they’re teaching me in a way that could be improved, sometimes I’m right, sometimes I’m wrong, but in either case, because we’re communicating, the experience of learning improves. which is what we both want.
I also want to mention that we should really expand our definition of “teachers”, teachers come in the form of people, books, even ourselves and our own experiences, if you guys are learning from me, know that I’m not a perfect teacher and it’s to your benefit to be aware of these things even with me.
If you actually want to learn from this post, don’t just go read another post, take some time, maybe even a few hours, look back on your own experiences with teachers, and try to consider for yourselves not so much situations where you feel you’ve “learned” the most, but situations where you’ve “applied” the most, because that is real learning.
If you guys are on Instagram and want to check me out there you can follow me @nelsonquest, I share all of the personal stuff in my life there, including important things related to the channel.
Ciao and cya in the next video.