Who can forget the eccentric Mr Miyagi, standing behind the shoulders of Daniel-San, shouting “Wax on! Wax off!” as the scrawny boy polished and pampered his vintage car collection. Spoiler Alert: it turns out that polishing cars and painting fences can turn you into a great karateka.
As enigmatic as Mr Miyagi was, we know his view of the world must have come from somewhere – someone – special! Who was it who took Mr Miyagi under their wing and taught him how to wax on, wax off? Who inspired him and guided him? Who kept him humble when he won fights and led him back to himself when the world cheered? Who was Mr Miyagi’s mentor?
It should come as no surprise that all of The Greats have mentors. The people we now look up to, all have their own Mr Miyagi’s. They have people who inspire them, who have taught them life lessons and business lessons. For some, their mentors are more than just business partners or teachers – they are family – caring for their mentees’ growth, and dedicating time to their learning. Oprah took love and guidance from Maya Angelou. Mark Zuckerberg snagged great advice from Steve Jobs. Nelson Mandela found guidance and peace in the ways and writings of Mahatma Gandhi.
Still, before there was Oprah, Mark and Nelson, each of those mentors were mentees themselves. Maya Angelou talks of Mrs Flowers – who cared, showed her the library and introduced her to poetry. Steve Jobs had a plateful of mentors – Bill Campbell, Kobun Chino Otogowa, Robert Noyce – who all took him under their wing and shared valuable advice with him. Mahatma Gandhi learnt many valuable lessons from Gopal Krishna Gokhale, and described him to be “as pure as crystal, as gentle as a lamb and as brave as a lion” – traits that undoubtedly helped Gandhi become the person he was.
Ultimately, finding a mentor is a very personal thing. They don’t have to look like you or work in the same field. The pair of you can seem like the most unlikely mentor-mentee match, but if the relationship feels right, then you have gold.
As you might not have found your perfect mentor yet, we’ve included a few valuable lessons that some of The Greats have shared:
- Care: The great poet and writer, Maya Angelou, said that above all, a mentor is someone who cares about their mentee. They don’t need to have all the knowledge in the world – they must know what they know, care for their mentee, and help their mentee to interpret the world.
- Forgive: Mahatma Gandhi believed in forgiveness. He knew that you could not make the world a better place if your actions came from a place of revenge: An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.
- Together: Nelson Mandela taught the world that it takes more than a single hero to change the trajectory of a nation. One person standing alone can’t change the practices and beliefs of each person in a country – there must be those who are willing to be inspired by the change-makers and start instilling change even at a very small local level.
- Trust: Our eccentric Mr Miyagi shared his knowledge, discipline, and care with Daniel-San, and in his own wise words: “You trust the quality of what you know, not quantity.” You’ll never know everything, but if what you do know is of excellent quality, then you will always be able to rely on yourself.