Business startup

It’s time to look beyond the obvious when it comes to mentors

- December 4, 2015 3 MIN READ

I don’t know who Warren Buffet is, or what he does. I’m not captivated by Tony Robbins, and while Sir Richard Branson has accomplished amazing things I don’t hang off his every word.

‘Eerrrrrrrrmmaaaaaggaaaaaaaaawwwwwddd!!!’ I hear you say, but stay with me…

‘Conventional’ is not a word you expect to hear when people are discussing the figures who have achieved role model status in today’s popular culture. People like Gandhi and Mandela as well as modern day idols like Warren Buffett, Tony Robbins and Richard Branson.

These were and are people who took a stand for the actualisation of their vision and achieved inextraordinary results, which is why many of us rightly look up to and try to emulate them.

A few of them seem the very embodiment of virtue and righteousness (which is why they are so commonly listed as role models), but it’s refreshing to realise that at the end of the day they were no angels. I’m sure they would all have some stories to tell and they would all have had at least a few regrets about things they’d done in their past that they were not too proud of.

So if no one is perfect then you may as well pick role models who you identify with and who inspire you with some unique, relatable part of their personality right?

If you’re reading this then you’re old and wise enough to be responsible for emulating the traits you like and ditching those you don’t, taking what inspires you and aspiring to fuse those traits with your own innate qualities to give you the best chance of fulfilling in your own personal vision, whatever that may be.

Which gives you a lot of freedom when it comes to choosing mentors.

On the wall of my office is a piece of cardboard with my mentors’ names on it, surrounded by the values that draw me to them.

Who are they?

Let’s start with Roy Keane, Nick Saban and Derek Jeter.

Never heard of them? That’s ok, they’re my mentors, not yours.

And that’s the thing, just because you’re an entrepreneur, there is no requirement to default to other successful entrepreneurs as your mentors…

Roy, Nick and Derek are sporting legends who reached the pinnacle of their respective sports through a commitment to winning, out-working all others and being ordinary people who achieve extraordinary things. These are things I aspire to daily.

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How about Dr Dre, Eminem and Field Marshall Erwin Rommel?

WTF? I have a Nazi in my list of people I look up to??

Indeed, I do.

Let me explain …

Rommel was a straight talker who led by example and saw opportunity not negativity; a professional who was feared by his opponents and respected by his peers. That’s a role model right there.

(And before anyone starts typing up enraged comments, keep in mind that his Afrika Corps was never accused of war crimes, and he repeatedly ignored orders to kill Jewish civilians, soldiers and commandos.)

Field adversaries George S. Patton and Bernard Montgomery respected him greatly, and no less a man than Winston Churchill said “His ardour and daring inflicted grievous disasters upon us, but he deserves the salute which I made to him… He also deserves our respect because, although a loyal German soldier, he came to hate Hitler and all his works, and took part in the conspiracy of 1944 to rescue Germany by displacing the maniac and tyrant.”

If it’s good enough for those guys, then it’s good enough for me.

The opportunity here is that when you’re looking to be inspired by someone, it pays to look beyond the obvious. You can choose someone in a similar situation to your own or someone who you really relate to, or simply someone who inspired or amazed you with just one thing that they were able to achieve or one personality trait that they displayed that you connected with.

What becomes available is choosing to emulate traits that really call out to you and make you feel excited. What then becomes possible is practicing and harnessing those traits as tools in your arsenal for achieving your own dreams and making your own kind of difference.

Remember, greatness is not restricted to ‘goodness’ and mentors are just like clothing, one size does not fit all…find the ones that fit you and wear them with pride.