The Value of Silent Mentors

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Silent Mentors Can Be Real or Imagined

Characters in a film or a television show or a novel, famous people, authors and speakers who give advice, or even a person in your company who works at a different location from where you work can all be silent mentors. Over my lifetime I have had several dozen silent mentors. They were people I observed, read about, or heard of, and each of them gave me something to consider using in my own life. I learned a great deal more from these silent mentors than I did in all the years I was in the classroom combined.

Make a List of What You’ve Learned from Silent Mentors

Here’s a partial list for me:

Johnny Carson – Poke fun at yourself, relax, see the humor even when something goes wrong, and facial expressions can say a lot.

Oprah Winfrey – Really listen to people and remind them they already are empowered to make their own decisions and live their lives in whatever way they want.

Ralph Lauren – Each person can have his or her own style. It’s not about fashion. It’s about style.

Tom Cruise’s character in the film, A Few Good Men – Be willing to stand up to authority figures and say what you believe to be true.

Famous Five Children’s Book Series – Life can be an adventure as long we look at it that way.

Jimmy Stewart in the film, It’s a Wonderful Life – Look at the good in life and stay excited about that.

George Washington and Martin Luther King, Jr. – Do what you think is the right thing to do at that moment and live with integrity.

Gary Cooper in the film, Pride of the Yankees – See how lucky and blessed you are even when things go terribly wrong at different points in your life.

I’ve never met any of these people and I can certainly find negatives in each of them if I tried, but by focusing on their positive attributes they have enriched my life as silent mentors. 

Make a list of your own. Think about people you’ve never met who have influenced you in a positive way. Write down their names and what you learned from or admired in each of them. That list of positive attributes becomes your homework assignment to strive for and make part of your day-to-day life. Don’t try to be exactly like them. Just capture the best essence of the person and work to make it a reality in your own life.

Actively Seek Out More Silent Mentors

In the past month, different people have recommended that I watch the films High Noon, Twelve Angry Men, and The Big Short. In each of those films, I’ve been told that there are insights into understanding important nuances of leadership. I used to love to watch the TV series, M*A*S*H* because I admired the main character, Hawkeye Pierce, so much for being a great doctor and for being completely true to himself. He could be funny, and he could be serious.

I encourage you to always be on the lookout for silent mentors. Look for them at your company meetings,in films and TV shows, in books and articles and out there in your community. By looking for the best that you can perceive in other people you will begin to focus more and more on the best within yourself and what you have to offer..


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About Dan Coughlin

As a business keynote speaker, executive coach, seminar leader and management consultant, Dan Coughlin works with business owners, executives and managers on an individual and group basis to increase their effectiveness and significance. Visit his free Business Leadership Idea Center at