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Do You Need a Coach or a Mentor?

Learn which expert is best for your journey toward financial freedom

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I’ve talked a lot in the past about building a support structure to help you reach your dreams of financial freedom; and this includes coaches and mentors. These are people who teach you how to reach your goals, while providing experience and guidance. They are there for you when you need direction and when you go off course.

But what’s the difference, and which one do you need?

Difference between coaching and mentoring

The terms mentor and coach are often used as one and the same. The slight distinction between the two is that a mentor is typically someone with more experience and success than you have in doing what it is you are doing. A mentor guides you, and will relate to what you are going through because they've probably been through it themselves.

A coach, on the other hand, works with you towards a specific outcome. The training is more structured and defined. A coach will hold you accountable to do specifically what you say you will do, when you say you will do it.

Why I use mentors and coaches

I have used many mentors and coaches throughout my life, in many different areas. For example, I have a fitness coach, named JR, who helps me stay in shape physically.

I was working out with JR at the gym the other day, and he said, “Kim, pick up the red ball for your next set of exercises.”

I walked across the gym, and leaned over to pick up the ball, expecting it to be pretty light. I slowly stood up, realizing it was a lot heavier than the blue or yellow ball I was used to. I hesitantly walked back to JR, red ball in hand.

“Okay,” JR said, “I want you to do 40 lunges with the ball over your head. Next, do 20 sit-ups on the incline holding the red ball. And last, 20 squats with the ball.”

I gave him a questionable look and set off to do my lunges. After the lunges, the sit-ups, and the squats, I came back to JR huffing and puffing, but quite proud of my accomplishment and ready to move onto the next, and hopefully easier, exercise.

Instead, JR said, “Good job. Now give me two more sets.”

“Two more sets?” I protested. “This red ball is heavy! And you want me to do this two more times?”

JR just smiled and said, “Do you want me to take it easy on you? Are you paying me to hold your hand, or are you paying me for results? It's up to you.”

He certainly had a point. The reason I have coaches and mentors is because I like to win. I like to achieve my goals. In order to win, sometimes you have to do things that are uncomfortable, difficult-and even scary.

My coaches and mentors keep me on track, especially when things get uncomfortable. I know my weaknesses, and I get lazy at times. I have coaches and mentors because sometimes I need people to push me harder than I will push myself.

Mentors and coaches can be the difference between mediocrity and excellence. Professional golfers - even the best of the best - have coaches to keep them at the top of their game. It's the amateurs and hackers who think they can do it on their own. It's the same with investing. My mentors keep me on track whether I’m having a winning day… or a "learning" day. They have a wealth of experience and opinions to share whether my questions are about real estate, the economy, or even spirituality.

How coaches and mentors help

Let’s face it. Pursuing anything that’s worthwhile in life takes time and effort. And with all of the distractions today — social media, the Internet, television, cell phones, etc. — it can be easy to procrastinate and avoid the things that really need to be done in order to obtain your goals.

For example, in a study about distractions published in Psychology Today, Larry Rosen, Ph.D. notes students were, “only able to focus and stay on task for an average of three minutes at a time and nearly all of their distractions came from technology. The major culprit: their smartphone and their laptop were providing constant interruptions.”

The study also found that, “those who stayed on task longer and had study strategies were better students. The worst students were those who consumed more media each day and had a preference for working on several tasks at the same time and switching back and forth between them.”

When I am not where I want to be — whether I’m bored, upset, angry, or something else — my team of mentors and coaches are there to help me.

What to look for in a mentor

One word of caution before you run out and latch onto the first mentor you meet: Choose your mentors wisely. It’s crucial to carefully choose the person you take advice from. If you want to go somewhere, it is best to choose someone who’s already taken the journey.

For example, if you decide to run a marathon next year, obviously you would seek advice from someone who has run a marathon before. Not a 5k. Not a half marathon. The full thing. So be picky in your pursuit for the perfect mentor (and all the other people you surround yourself with).

If you want to be successful, ask yourself, “Are they good role models for me? Do they have the same goals as I do?” If not, I suggest you spend more time with people who are heading in the same direction you are.

Reach for the red ball

That day in the gym with JR, I quietly walked away with my red ball and began my next set of lunges. That’s when I remembered that, in order to get results in anything, there are times you’ve got to reach for the red ball.

So often, we (myself included) go for the lighter yellow or blue ball because it’s easier and more comfortable. It’s familiar, and it keeps us where we are and with what we know. But in order to get the results that we want, to be willing to do what it takes, we’ve got to stretch for the red ball.

With this in mind, ask yourself: Where in your life are you taking it easy and where are you reaching for the red ball?

If you are ready to reach for the red ball, I encourage you to start looking for a mentor and a coach who can help you stay on track and make sure you do your “sets” even when you don’t want to. Conduct research and ask for referrals from people you respect. Make a list of names and then start approaching these people to see if they are right for your support network. It will make a world of difference.

Here at Rich Dad, we offer many different ways to succeed in gaining your financial independence — including coaching services. If you’re serious about the red ball choice, I encourage you to check out our Rich Dad coaches.

With coaches and mentors, you’ll reach your goals faster, but more importantly, you’ll learn more about yourself in the process.

Original publish date: December 06, 2012

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