Who Mentors the Legends? 

Novak Djokovic became one of several top tennis players to appoint a 'super coach' ahead of 2014. The partnership with six-time Grand Slam Champion Boris Becker enabled Djokovic to celebrate his year-end No.1 award.

As we explored in our previous post, a key part of a legend’s success is having the right coaches, mentors and team around them. In the book “Talent Is Overrated” by Geoff Colvin, Colvin argues that every legend has support behind them in the background.

I can certainly say that a big part of my journey over the last 5 years is realising this and not being ashamed of wanting and needing support. How many of us fall for the illusion of the 'self-made’ man or woman who could do everything by themselves?

What’s interesting is that we see mentors and coaches in sport and don’t give it a second thought. Have you ever asked yourself why sporting legends such as Roger Federer, Tiger Woods and Lionel Messi have coaches when they are clearly better than their coaches at what they do! It’s so they have feedback on the things they can’t see themselves doing and put it right.

It’s interesting that a lot of people associate the death of Tiger's father as a key part in his decline as he lost that accountability and mentor. As he himself said, he thought he could play by a different set of rules as if he was above everybody.

Colvin points out that it is far easier to see the impact of mentors, coaches and teachers in sport than in other areas of our lives because sport is physical and the help needed is often related to observations of physical movements e.g. if Roger Federer is putting too much topspin on his forehand in tennis, the coach can see that and point it out. It’s far harder when something is intangible - like someone's limiting beliefs or lack of self-belief, their ideas, understanding, knowledge or perceptions.

Through enlisting the help of his boyhood hero Stefan Edberg in 2014, Roger Federer got back on track to win 5 titles in 10 tournaments in 2014 after a devastating 2013 season.

Perhaps for these reasons, we may think we don’t need mentors and teachers in our lives, careers and businesses. As Colvin says:

“In some fields, especially intellectual ones such as art, science and business, people may eventually become skilled enough to design their own practice. But anyone that thinks they’ve outgrown the benefits of a teacher's help should at least question that view. There's a reason why the worlds best golfers still go to teachers.”

He goes on to say:

“It’s apparent why becoming significantly good at almost anything is extremely difficult without a teacher or a coach, at least in the early going. Without a clear unbiased view of performance, choosing the best practice activity will be impossible, whether it's physical or deeply psychological, few of us can make a clear honest assessment of our performance.”

How does that apply to you? Many of us are doing what we’ve done before and hoping to rise to a higher level of performance than we have previously achieved. As we explored in the first part of this article, focused practice is absolutely essential to improve. Such focused practice requires us to look at what needs to be improved and then work intently on it. As most of us lack the knowledge to see what we need to improve we need help to do this! Whether it's Warren Buffet mentoring Bill Gates, Ray Charles mentoring Quincy Jones, Socrates mentoring Plato or Oprah Winfrey being inspired by her fourth grade teacher, if you look deep enough, you'll see that throughout history the true greats almost always had someone great behind them.

by Jatinder Singh, Associate Partner, Lighthouse International

Learning From Legends...


How do you feel about the fact that so many Legends have had mentors? Is there an area in your life where you would value more guidance and support and why?

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Boris Becker & Novak Djokovic, Stefan Edberg & Roger Federer images courtesy of Marianne Bevis @ Flickr