From childhood on, we have mentors for everything we do - parents, teachers, coaches, counselors. Everywhere we turn, a mentor is there to guide us through uncharted territory and help us succeed.

And then we become adults, and finding a mentor suddenly seems to be an insurmountable task. Nothing is free anymore ... not even advice.

So we decide to take our destiny into our own hands, create our own outcomes, mentor ourselves. While this motivation and drive is admirable, and will certainly fuel the fire we need to succeed in the business world, we will never reach our full potential if we go it alone.

Take a think tank, for example - a group of extremely intelligent, creative, intuitive people that is formed to come up with ideas or solve problems. Each player is most likely successful on his or her own, but the group as a whole creates an outcome that no one person could have achieved.

We are all helped and hindered by our past experiences and knowledge. Sometimes, just hearing another person's point of view is enough to get us back on track and headed toward our goal.

The insurance industry is a perfect example of the importance of mentors. Starting your own insurance business can be easy. Or it can be extremely difficult, exhausting, painful and confusing. Sometimes the difference between the two is having a mentor.

Even before taking the state licensing exams, an aspiring insurance broker should have a mentor. A mentor can certainly be someone you pay, but in my opinion this expense is not necessary. Who do you admire in the industry? I'm guessing you didn't just wake up one morning and say, "Hey, I'd really love to sell insurance."

More than likely, you know of someone in the industry who has done well for himself or herself, and you want to do the same. Why not ask this person?

And if the person you admire isn't the right one to ask, ask one of his or her colleagues. Someone, somewhere will be willing to mentor you for free. Just ask.

I have mentored friends and family members in this business for several years. I am always willing to answer questions via e-mail, so feel free to run anything by me. I learned what I know the hard way ... at the beginning.

Today I have several mentors, and the learning process (which is a continuous one) is usually much easier. But the first few years were difficult for me.

There are so many products and so much information out there. I simply didn't know how to differentiate among the good, the bad, and the ugly. (Unfortunately, I went with a lot of the ugly.)

It can be daunting. But by the time those early years had come and gone, and the insurance industry had become a friend rather than a foe, I vowed to help other people navigate the process more smoothly.

That brings me to another point: Mentoring is just as beneficial as being mentored. The core component of a mentoring relationship is the collaboration of two (or more) people working together. Obviously, if one person is the expert and one is the greenhorn, the wealth of knowledge in the form of facts and details will be a little one-sided at the beginning.

But we can all learn from each other. A mail room clerk can have an amazing idea for promoting a product that the company CEO would have never thought of.

We can also learn about ourselves by teaching other people what we know.

Being a mentor is a great motivator in itself - a personal trainer has to be motivated to stay in shape herself if she spends every day motivating others to do the same.

Long story short: We are all capable of great things, but when we put our minds together those great things become amazing. Don't attempt to reinvent the wheel, and don't be afraid to ask for help. The insurance and financial services industry is filled with more information than a person could ever fully grasp. We all have learning to do.


Carst is a self-employed broker and consultant. She is the co-founder of Women Insurance Professionals, a non-profit organization that helps women with the licensing process and career support. Reach her at amycarst@hotmail.com.

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