I’m doing an AMA over at Designer News, and someone asked “How do seek out mentors/teachers?”

My answer:

I’ve never sought out mentors or teachers, because I think they are plentiful and all around us. The person who you think has all the answers probably has far fewer than you think.

I observe. When I walk into a small retail store, I observe how they do business. What’s working, what isn’t? How do they treat employees? Customers? Their merchandise? What can I learn from them at this moment?

When I get my hair cut I observe the salon. Who’s there? Why? If I had an appointment at 3:30, but it’s still 3:50 and I’m waiting, what’s that feel like? How does it feel to be on time and then have someone else who’s not on time? How does it feel to pay for something? To tip? When? How?

When I go to a restaurant I observe. How is the food presented. How does the server communicate? How’s the menu written? How’s the lighting? Is it sufficient to read the menu? Do I have to ask twice for things, or do things just show up on time before I have to ask? What happens if I have a substitution request – how do they handle that? Is it a burden for them or a pleasure to serve? Are they pushy or comfortable? How do I feel about being there?

Every moment is a teaching moment. You don’t have to wait to be taught anything. Don’t delay learning because you haven’t found that magic teacher yet. Everyone, and everything, is a teacher.