The best way to be mentored is to ask questions and actively listen to the answers

A common mistake is to get yourself so deep into the pitching mindset that every person you meet, you pitch your startup to them.

Sometimes you have to switch off the pitch, especially when you should be asking questions, and then listening and reflecting on the answers.

It’s very common when you’re meant to be conducting customer interviews and instead you spend the whole interview pitching to the customer. Or worse, disagreeing or debating with them (if you’re disagreeing with a customer you are definitely not doing customer research. You are doing you research, and the research tells me you’re in big trouble).

It’s just as serious when you get to spend a little time with a potential mentor or advisor. If you spend the whole session pitching to them, instead of asking questions and listening, what are you learning?

No startup founder ever succeeded by persuading each mentor and advisor they were wrong, or by trying to prove that you’ve thought of everything and you can’t fail.

Mentoring should be about searching for answers, and you don’t get answers unless you first ask questions, and then listen.

I’m Alan Jones, an EiR for startup accelerators, GP at M8 Ventures. Previously investor, founder, and early Yahoo PM. Opinions mine (but should also be yours).

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