When you’re struggling to achieve your personal or professional goals, do you ever wish you could speak with a famous mentor? If only you could connect with a super successful business leader like Jeff Bezos or Meg Whitman, then you’d have the answers you’re looking for. Surely they’d point you in the right direction, right?
Like most people, you might have succumbed to the “fundamental attribution error,” which , according to Dr. Cristina Bicchieri, is “the tendency to believe that what people do reflects who they are.”
In other words, just because a person is successful in one area of their life, we assume they’re endowed with the power to tell us what we should do in our own life.
Follow your dreams, work hard, surround yourself with good people… blah, blah, blah. You’ve already heard all the greatest hits.
Living the life you want isn’t about uncovering magical answers. It’s about following through and doing what you already know you need to do. The problem is we keep getting in our own way, starting with the idea that a mentor has any secret wisdom to bestow.
The answer isn’t to stalk a famous business leader, author, or guru. Rather, get yourself an accountability buddy and watch your life change for the better.
You already know what to do
Finding a mentor is hard. The good ones likely don’t have time to discuss your problems because they’re busy with their own. Furthermore, even if they did have the time, their advice probably wouldn’t be very helpful.
No one knows what you’re going through better than you do. No one knows what you really want in life better than you do.
While it’s useful to have someone to hear you out, you don’t need anyone rich and famous to serve as a sounding board. Pretty much everything 90-year-old Warren Buffett has to say has been said already. He’s probably been asked the same thing you would ask him if you had the chance a million times. Search YouTube and you’ll likely hear his answer: Save more than you spend, invest for the long term in low-fee index funds, and don’t panic when the market tanks.
The buddy system
Accruing wealth — just like fulfilling career goals, relationship goals, physical fitness goals, or anything else worth having — takes consistent action. Most people don’t save consistently. They stop working out two months after setting a New Year’s resolution. They don’t get past page 10 of writing their novel. It’s not that they don’t know what to do; it’s that they don’t persist with what they know they should do. The number one cause of failure is quitting.
When I was a kid, we were told to use the “buddy system” whenever we went on school field trips. The thinking was, kids would be less likely to get lost if they had a friend with them to keep them from straying too far. It’s a good approach and one we can use as adults to help us stay on track with our life goals as well.
We all need someone who can help us do what we say we are going to do. Someone who will help us when we’re lost and make sure we don’t quit.
Finding an accountability buddy is a cheap, easy, and highly effective way to keep going. Here’s how to make the buddy system work for you.
1) Pick a methodology
When my wife and I decided to have a baby, our good friend Andrew, a father of four, gave us some terrific advice. “Pick only one parenting book,” he said. Rather than driving ourselves crazy reading (often conflicting) parenting advice, he recommended sticking with just one method.
Why? Because consistency is paramount to being a good parent. If my wife and I were busy debating dueling advice from parenting experts, we wouldn’t be able to effectively carry out the methodology from any of them.
No matter your goal, start with an approach you trust first. For instance, let’s say you want to be better at managing your money. Pick up a copy of Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You to Be Rich. Want to get in shape? Steve Kamb gives you pretty much everything you need to know at NerdFitness.com. Want to work on managing distraction and staying focused? Start by getting a copy of my book, Indistractable.
2) Pick a buddy
Now that you have your methodology, it’s time to find your buddy. You could ask someone you already know, but sometimes it’s easier to buddy up with someone new.
Because you’ve already picked your methodology, it shouldn’t take you long to find like-minded people with the same goals and approach. Just go where those people hang out. Steve leads a thriving “fitness rebellion” on his site. You can find Ramit’s fans on Facebook. Or you can hop over to the comments section of pretty much any author’s Instagram posts to see if anyone might want to be your buddy.
3) Pick a time
Any “how to” book is going to give you steps to take. The key is to follow those steps to a tee, leaning on your buddy to make sure you don’t quit. To do that, your next step is to plan regular check-ins.
If you’re trying to save money or stay fit, you can plan a time every week to chat with your accountability buddy about the steps you’re taking to follow the methodology in the book you read.
During your call, you’ll each take turns sharing your successes and challenges as well as what you’ve learned along the way. Not only will you learn from your buddy’s insights, you’ll have an opportunity to teach your buddy too.
Teaching someone else is a highly effective way to reinforce your own insights and solidify your new identity as the kind of person who is consistent about staying fit, saving money, or being indistractable.
By picking your methodology, your buddy, and a weekly check-in time, you have everything you need to get going and stay on track. Don’t wait for magical answers that don’t exist from mentors you’ll never meet. Get a buddy and you’ll be well on your way.
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