The Composite Mentor

How to Choose a Mentor


One approach to finding a mentor is to have a “composite mentor.” If you can’t find one person who embodies everything you want, but a few who each embody one of the characteristics you want, build a composite mentor out of them.

That’s what Cary Grant did. He was considered one of Hollywood’s classic leading men, but he came from very humble beginnings. He was born in England as Archibald Alexander Leach, was orphaned at an early age, had no education to speak of, and joined a vaudeville troupe in his teens.

His experience onstage as a stilt walker, acrobat, juggler, and mime taught him “phenomenal physical grace and exquisite comic timing,” as well as the value of teamwork—skills that would benefit him in Hollywood.

He ditched his birth name and chose the name Cary Grant, because the initials “C” and “G” had already proved lucky for Clark Gable and Gary Cooper, two of Hollywood’s biggest film stars.

He carefully fashioned his screen persona on a combination of three mentors: Jack Buchanan (a Scottish actor during the silent-film era), Noel Coward, and Rex Harrison. He said, “I pretended to be somebody I wanted to be, and, finally, I became that person. Or he became me.”

I’m not suggesting you try to become someone you’re not, but the concept of different mentors for different areas of your life may work well for you. You may have one mentor for your business career, one for your personal life, and one for your avocation, such as music, sailing, or athletics.

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