The 3 Types of People You Need to Accomplish Anything

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Photo credit: Kate Ter Haar @ Flickr

Back in 2012, when we were desperately trying to get published, we met a lot of other wannabe authors just like us. We were all in different stages in our writing journey, some just one revision away from getting a literary agent. Others, just getting started and learning the ropes, not yet battle-scarred by the avalanche of rejection letters.

But there was always the one clueless writer, who no matter how long they’ve been writing for, never managed to get ahead, despite persevering year after year. After slogging through the query trenches, going to so many writing conferences they knew everyone by name, and wearing down the keys on their laptops from writing so much that you could no longer see the letters, they were still no further ahead.

This type of writer, we’ve discovered, was missing one special ingredient. Sure, they had the passion. Sure, they had the work ethic. But what they were doing was writing in a bubble. They were racking up the hours without really improving.

But the truth is you can’t just practice blindly. Throughout our writing journey, in order to succeed, I learned that you need 3 types of people in your life:

A Mentor

The mentor is a more experienced person who’s further along in their journey. They could easily spot weaknesses and guide their protégée in the right direction. This person is the perfect teacher, but at times, inadvertently makes the writer feel discouraged and want to give up, because it’s hard to look at someone else’s finish line and think you’ll never get there. Luckily for the writer, this is where the next person comes in…

A Peer

The peer is at the same skill level and same spot on the journey as the writer. This helps the writer feel like they aren’t the only ones struggling. This person isn’t as good at giving advice and helping direct the writer as the mentee, but they help the writer stay the course. And by being at the same level the Peer helps prevent the writer from giving up and quitting altogether. This person is perfect for lending an ear whenever the writer needed to gripe about their seemingly endless stream of rejections because they understand where the writer is coming from. They’re getting same rejections.

A Mentee

From time to time, the writer also needs to give advice to a mentee, a less experienced writer who is farther back in their writing journey. They could share their experiences with the mentee, helping them get to where they are and at the same time solidifying their knowledge. Because the best way to remember what you learned is to try explaining it to someone else. And so, with this mentee looking up to them, the writer’s confidence soars, knowing that not only are they moving ahead, they’re also using their callused hands and their Teflon skin to help someone else.

And so, knowing what they need to do to improve, knowing someone else was running right alongside them, and teaching a mentee what they learned to boost their self-confidence, the writer would be able to get through years of seemingly endless rejections, until they finally made it. Without these 3 people in their lives, the writer would’ve kept themselves on a merry-go-round, never getting anywhere, losing their confidence and writing in a bubble with no support.

When I realized this, I decided to get out there and find our mentor, peer, and mentee.

Our Mentor

I found our mentor from an online writing contest. She was 18-years-old, 10 years younger than us, but she’d already been writing for 10 years. When I read her writing, I felt like Salieri, meeting Mozart for the first time. I knew she was close to getting “agented” (a term in the writing industry meaning “find an agent to represent you”), and we were still pretty far off. She was just that good. With her advice, our writing improved tenfold.

Our Peer

Our peer found us in an online writing group. She had been writing for around the same amount of time–4 years, and we quickly bonded, showing each other our battle scars and rejection piles. After swapping manuscripts, we hit it off right away, and she became our go-to person whenever we needed to gripe about rejections because she had just as many as we did. With our new peer, it was easy to share information about new agents, new online contests, and basically anything that I knew would help us get to the finish line together.

Our Mentee

Our mentee was another writer who had just started on the journey and was so green they had no idea what “queries”, “partial requests”, “full requests”, and “R & R (revise and resubmit)” meant.  It was through teaching these things to our mentee that we realized how far we’d come in the past 4 years. That little confidence boost helped us out whenever we heard the dreaded cell phone ping, telling us we’d received yet another rejection.

Once we had our tribe, consisting of our mentor, peer, and mentee, it became much easier to keep going, and shockingly, just 1 year later, we got an e-mail that changed our lives.

An agent wanted to represent us!

We had made it. And we quickly shared the news with the 3 people who were instrumental in making it happen. Because without them, we likely would’ve given up or still be stuck in the endless cycle of rejections without getting anywhere.

What I’ve learned from this experience is that this applies to anything difficult you’re trying to achieve, like, say, becoming FI. No one succeeds on their own. You NEED to build your tribe.

Find a mentor, peer, and mentee.

A mentor will guide you and teach you how to improve.

A peer will empathize with your struggles, because they have the same struggles too. They’re also a shoulder to cry on and an ear to gripe to when you’re drowning in rejection and failure.

A mentee will give you confidence. Because you know all the struggle is worth it. You’re using it to help someone else.

The next time you’re trying to slough through something difficult, make sure you have these 3 people in your corner.

Without them, you’re not going to get very far.

And guess what? I recently got this comment from our youngest reader/mentee and early retiree in the making, 12-year-old Faiqa:


“Hey, FIREcracker,

Im the 12 yo my dad was talking about. He shared this article with me a little after he read it, and i thought it was super helpful! Not only does it help with early retirement, and saving money, but also just day-to-day wishes. (like learning a new sport, language ect.)

I find your articles and websites really helps (and you’re pretty witty too, a quality we all can appreciate) I would try to get my friends into it, but between you and me, they don’t really have their priorities sorted out.

And I have fun too while reading these articles, and I also learn a lot. (Schools should get better at that) Last time I checked, schools dont teach us about the never-ending anchor known as a mortgage, or how taxes even work, or how to not end up working for the rest of your life just to put food on the table.

So glad my dad found these articles


When you can get a 12-year-old to be interesting in personal finance, you know all the time spent fighting trolls, writing posts, and answering e-mails was worth it.

Thank you, Faiqa, for reminding us why we write. And thank you, to all the Godfathers, fellow FI bloggers, and readers out there, for being our mentors, peers, and mentees. Without you, we would have never made it this far and you make this all worth while.

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35 thoughts on “The 3 Types of People You Need to Accomplish Anything”

  1. This is so true and I see this while I’m pursuing the CPA all the time. I see these successful auditors in my job with years of experience who are so smart and driven, it’s hard to envisage ever being at their level of expertise.

    Then I go to the mandatory once per quarter CPA course and realize a lot of the class are on a similar level to me, and even more are behind as I at least have industry experience and they only have education.

    As bad as it sounds, it brings you a lot of confidence come exam time knowing you have more experience than a lot of your peers (especially when the CPA marks on a curve).

    1. Your CPA experience reminds me of engineering…except I was in the bottom half of the class. That was SO not good for my self-confidence. Glad those days are over!

      Good luck with getting your CPA! I have friends who are working towards it and it sounds very challenging.

      1. Haha! Yeah, it can’t be fun being in the lower half of the class when everyone you see is smarter than you. But hey, you got there in the end and once you have that piece of paper everyone is on the same level. There is only one CPA, whether you scrape through or are the best in the class, makes no difference.

  2. That’s awesome that you reach even 12-yo! Your fame is growing!

    When I was 12, I had absolutely no-idea about anything financial. (probably because I didn’t have any money)

    As far as the 3-types of people go — In my experience, it’s possible to accomplish things without them, but it was probably harder (or took longer).

    So don’t fret if you don’t have a mentor! There’s a lot of good people to learn from out there …. and many are bloggers!

    1. That’s a good point, Mr. Tako. You don’t necessarily have to have a mentor who coaches you one on one, you can learn from other people by looking at what they’re doing well and the mistakes they learned from. And it’s easier to coach yourself once you know how to self-correct.

    1. Yes, we’re very lucky to live in this time period when you can find mentors online. If I had been writing before the internet existed, it would’ve taken me much longer to find writing partners and get published. Especially if I had to rely on friends and family for feedback (as much as I love them, friends and family are the worst critique partners because they don’t want to hurt your feelings)

      1. For sure, that and if your friends and family might not know enough about writing to be able to offer the feedback you’re looking for. I am a songwriter and I sing and play guitar as well. I personally think I’m mediocre at best and am kind of self conscious about my voice and guitar playing. Every time I play for people they always get really excited and tell me how good I am and I smile and say thank you but at the same time I secretly think they are just saying it to be nice or they are saying that I’m good in a “better than I could do…” sort of way because they don’t play guitar but I feel like people who do play guitar/sing would hear me and be like “you’re doing it all wrong…”

    1. Thanks, Melissa! In the past I thought only mentors were important, but through writing I learned that peers and mentees are just as important. It’s something I never thought about but now whenever I start something new, I think about it all the time.

    1. Same here. That’s why I love blogging, as it clarifies my understanding by having to write down what I learned and try to explain it to someone else.

  3. I think this is great advice. I find I end up working in a bubble if I’m not careful. Talking to someone, even someone “unqualified”, can really help put something I’ve been struggling with in perspective – especially creative endeavors.

    What are people’s thoughts on intentionally creating a list of people who take various roles in your life (mentors, peers, etc?) to help direct your workflow?

    1. That’s a great idea, Russell! Making a list of your mentors, peers, and mentees would be very helpful in making sure you’re getting valuable feedback and solidifying your knowledge. I’ve always found that having other people act as a sounding board and give me feedback is so much better than when I try to do anything in a bubble.

  4. 1. “battle-scared” – you meant battle-scarred.
    2. “Sloughing” – you meant slogging.
    3. That’s all I could find.

      1. I love how you like that people help identify edits!!! Same for when readers ask more questions and help answer each other – this blogs now my absolute favourite!!!

        Also – CPA here (Canada) to miser remember you know more than you think, and test scores aren’t the best indicator unfortunately of a whole lot (like who will focus to get it done, help others, keep you informed along the way, try respect).- I was actually consistently near the top of my classes but would assume others knew so much more. Partially a gender thing, which unfortunately I have discovered my workplace also personifies by penalizing staff for taking maternity leave. speaking of leaving… figuring out how to do that sooner with lots of inspiration and hints from your blogs and fellow peeps! Thank you firecracker and wanderer!!!

        1. I love it when readers smarter than me fix my horrible typos or give advice 🙂 You guys are so smart! My goal is for this place to be a community where we can help each other, so I’m glad you are finding it to be helpful.

          How awesome that you are working towards your CPA! And yes, I agree that test aren’t the best indicators of whether you’ll be successful outside of school. So many people I know who were mediocre students end up going much further than the top of the class. There are so many more skills than test-taking skills you need to do well in the real world.

          Thanks for reading and for the kind words, Michelle!

  5. I’m glad I read your blog every time it’s available. I’m passionate about writing too and this really gives me the boost to get my rear-end motivated to continue on with the process.

  6. Thank you FIREcracker so much! It was an honor to be featured in an article of yours, and Im also really happy to have you as a finacial mentor( I mean seriously, im learning straight from the source) So ill definetely stay a fan, and I hope I can one day retire early like you
    guys did.

    Sincerely, Faiqa

    1. I am her proud dad and am really grateful for your mentioning her. I was secretly wishing you would acknowledge her because i could find no better way of inspiring her more. You sure are an amazing mentor for both me and faiqa. Thanks a lot

      1. I was so touched when I saw your comment and Faiqa’s response. It makes everything I do on this blog (from fighting the haters, to writing the posts, to answering comments/e-mails) worth it. Thank you both for being exceptional. You raised a very special kid and I’m know she’s going places! Well done, Dad!

    2. Faiqa, I’m so in awe of you, I seriously am. When I was 12, I wasn’t half as smart or curious as you. And somehow I still got here, so you’re going to go WAY further than me. I have no doubt you will retire at a younger age than all of us. You rock, Faiqa! Thank you so much for reading and sharing your thoughts. Stay awesome!

  7. Some word or phrases flagged me in the comments

    “how to self-correct”

    Please elaborate. I am trying to self correct, especially for learning foreign languages. It is difficult without a mentor because English grammar has destroyed my brain and I am not sure if the grammar is correct when I try to express what I want in another language.

    1. You won’t be able to self-correct until you reach a certain level of proficiency. For example, if you’re learning to write, once you develop the ability to tell whether the writing sounds choppy or unnatural, you’ll be able to tell in your own writing and fix it when editing. However, in the beginning, you will have no idea whether it’s good or not, and that’s when the mentor comes in. This is especially true for foreign languages, you won’t be able to self-correct until you are fluent. Until then you need a teacher.

      1. Of course, thank you for explaining it. Its reminds me of the writer or typist (who actually writes these days?) you mentioned about the worn out keys. I have a keys that are also faded. I love it but you can always replace them. Isn’t that the advantage of machines? Does the writer need a mentor, how can the write overcome the block or impediment ?

        Thank you FIRECracker,

  8. Hi firecracker n wanderer
    I am seeking your permission to leave paid work. 500k USD saved n a paid off house., Plus 30k cash as e fund. Annual expense 20-24k USD. Lots of fat to cut still from dining n clothes if I really want to cinch to 16k per year, but no medical obviously.

    Everywhere I ask I was told to wait longer, a couple more years , saved to 1m, 2m… But I do have side income which is non glam – thrift resales i can scale… n I foresee I will not be touching my principal or div for the next little while.

    Can I quit or if not yet ready, what is the number to strive for. I am familiar with 25 times expense n all that, just looking for ur opinion since I value your collective wisdom, thks

    1. Using the 4% rule, using your $24K expense estimate, you’ll need $600,000 to retire. So you’re still 100K short. That being said, you mentioned side income and the ability to cut your expenses further. I also don’t know how much maintenance costs are for your house. Would you be willing to rent part of it out to generate income if you need it going forward? For example, if all of a sudden you need to come up with $10,000 to repair the roof, or a leak in the pipes? Think about all the worse case scenarios and if you have them covered, then you can retire.

      1. Thanks firecracker. Yeah I could rent a room out but my guest bedroom n living room r full of junk from side biz now so I can only do one unless I get a storage locker. I did have another plan which is to travel n rent out whole house but I already know I am not a permanent traveller

        All good points well taken, another year or two it will be…

        Thanks for all the excellent content, I binge read all of your posts, some multiple times…

        1. Okay, I’m glad you have money coming in from the size business at least. Just keep in mind you need to have the backup plans before you make the leap (travel and rent out the house, etc).

          You’re not that far off though. Hang in there! Maybe you can negotiate some sort of sabbatical in a year or two? To test out living off the passive income?

  9. Hi M-R, I finally took the plunge and started a blog … I am still figuring out the buttons to push and wrote a few blurbs … the blogs so far are just for testing the waters and finding out how to put Categories and Tags in and a few photos … You must have spent hours, weeks, years figuring out this bloggy stuff …. and yet it is fun … I am still getting my feet wet and have only been on the net a few days … We have had the national holidays these past days and so I have had time … it has some elements of a financial blog … but the focus is broader … on international professionals overseas …. even tested a blurb on cruising … God Bless, Michael

    1. Way to go, Michael! And yeah, the blog stuff takes a bit of time to figure out but once you get the hang of it, it’s not so bad. Glad you are having fun! I checked out your blog and it looks great!

      1. THANKS… Yes I have a few practice posts now…I like how you truncate posts and put feature posts with pictures in strategic areas …in your emails and blog page… After week 2ish…that is my next project to figure out … then adjusting archives, more SEO, later affiliate marketing, sidebars etc…it is quite a learning process…the truncation process makes the blog easier to read… smoother… and I hear protects the site from blog skimmers etc ??? …anyway I like your blog … you must have put a boatload of time to configure your site … 2 weeks is not long enough while working … I figure several months to get it looking and running properly …. and have an Amazon book on the way with the cute title Bloggers for Dummies 🙂 … it is a fun hobby though … I am contemplating doing several websites perhaps an international living one and some online store ones … good for a hobby or semi-retirement …. from the Far Side of the Planet 🙂

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