How important are mentors?

As an avid reader of business and sport autobiographies, one commonality that I found running throughout the pages is that the people on the front cover almost always had someone guiding them in the background; a trusted and experienced advisor steering and correcting their direction. Much like the ghostwriters they hire to help them in making their publication at least legible.

Taking a look through literature alone, we can find thousands of examples of these types of fiduciary relationships — a guru who plays a central role in teaching and training their student(s): Warren Buffet with Bill Gates, Steve Jobs with Mark Zuckerberg, Jesus with his disciples, Baloo with Mowgli, Dumbledore with Harry, Mr. Miyagi and the Karate Kid. The list of fictional and factual examples goes on-and-on.

If you stop and think now, I’m sure that you’ll be able to recognize a character in the story of your life who played a key part in a crucial chapter. In our early years, these cast members are likely to be our parents, immediate relatives, schoolteachers or friends. They may well still form the bedrock upon which you base your biggest decisions.

But as we grow and develop, we begin to find other heroes. And by that I don’t necessarily mean of the comic-book type like Superman or Wonder Woman, although their inter-galactic expertise might well come in handy if you want to be an astronaut.

Taking a look at football, there are two examples that stick out in my mind.

An acne-bearing Cristiano Ronaldo joined Manchester United at 18 years old, trading the warm-climates of Portugal for the dreariness of North West England. Aside from joining the then worlds biggest club, Ronaldo also astutely knew he was signing up to be taken under the wing of The Scottish Yoda — Sir Alex Ferguson. I wont beat the “Class of ’92” drum, but it is clear that Fergie and his backroom staff had a knack for spotting and nurturing talent.

What’s more — as Ronaldo’s father died of an alcoholism-related liver condition just two years in to his stint at Old Trafford — Ferguson became a father-like figure to the emerging world-beater. And despite the prodigal son swapping Manchester for Madrid almost a decade ago, there is still clearly a paternal bond between the two: Ronaldo still insists on calling Ferguson “boss” whenever the two meet.

An even more heartwarming example is Ian Wright with his old schoolteacher, Mr. Pigden…

In the video above you’ll see Wright moved to tears as he is surprised by the man who he says was “the first main imposing figure in my life who was trying to guide me on the right road.”

A good mentor or coach can help to release a psychological handbrake and/or kick you into a higher gear. Their importance cannot be understated.