Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Importance of a Mentor

What do you remember about the 1985 Chicago Bears? The commercials: Taco Bell, Pontiac, KFC, Honda Scooter. Who hasn’t seen the “Super Bowl Shuffle?” Perhaps it’s Jim McMahon, the Punky QB known for his brash playing style as well as his rebellious nature off the field.  How about Mike Singletary who earned the nickname “Samurai Mike” in recognition of the intimidating focus and intensity he displayed on the field? Arguably one of the best, if not the best, balanced NFL team of all time.

The following is an excerpt from Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and the Wild Heart of Football:

“Like the Beatles, there was a Bear for every sort of fan: Jim McMahon, the Punky QB, for the cocky daredevils. Walter Payton, Sweetness, the great running back, for the aficionados. William Perry, the Fridge, the gap-toothed 325-pounder, for big tall men. Dan Hampton, Danimal, the ferocious defensive tackle, for band geeks filled with secret violence. Mike Ditka, the coach who actually looked like a bear, for lovers of Patton-like rhetoric and the military boot. The offense was good but the defense was vicious: the famed 46, a concussion machine that swarmed and confused and beat other teams bloody.”

Peel back all the layers surrounding this bigger than life team and inside you will find a lesson in mentorship that had a lifelong impact on one person, Mike Singletary.

Buddy Ryan, Defensive Coordinator was the architect of one of the most feared defenses in NFL history, as well as the inventor of the fabled 46 defense.

Although Mike Singletary’s outstanding play in 1981 was enough to earn him near unanimous all-rookie recognition, Buddy Ryan constantly pushed the young linebacker to do more. Ryan, who was initially displeased with the way Singletary handled himself in the "46" defense, rode the rookie mercilessly. For the first year of their association Ryan never called Singletary by his name. He referred to him only as "Number 50". For nearly two seasons Ryan refused to let Singletary play on third downs or obvious passing situations.

Ryan's constant pressure pushed Mike to become a complete linebacker. By 1983, Singletary, who was named defensive team captain, was playing on all downs and even the acid-tongued Ryan was singing his praises. "Mike is the best linebacker in pro football," said Ryan.

Mike went on to become the cornerstone of Ryan's "46" defense. For 11 consecutive seasons, beginning in 1982, he finished as the team's first or second leading tackler.

Mike Singletary gives much of the credit for his success to Buddy Ryan. "I really didn't like Buddy for a long time," Singletary said. "But, he taught me about myself, made me reach for things I thought I never had. I never would have achieved what I have without Buddy."

Once Mike put his ego to the side he became a “student” of Ryan’s purpose.

The point of all this is that having a mentor is an invaluable asset to your success in every part of your life. Certainly this is true on the job.  When you are exploring a job opportunity it is important to identify the mentor who will be available to you. A mentor can guide you to success in your new role. It’s important that the chemistry be right between you and that individual.  A person can be a mentor or a tormentor.  In Mike Singletary’s case, Buddy Ryan was first seen by Mike as a tormentor, but once he put his own ego to the side, he gained invaluable knowledge from Ryan that made him who he became.


Identify who your mentor will be. Make certain you have an opportunity to meet that person during the interview process. Ask the questions to be certain this is a relationship where you can gain the education you seek to continue to grow and succeed. 

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