We often think that to be successful, we need those who have experienced great success to mentor us.  If we follow their path, so the thinking goes, we too will be successful.  Not always.  On the contrary, there are those who have experienced failure and in the process have learned a great deal.  And their failures can help you gain massive success.

Richard Branson said, “If you ask any successful businessperson, they will always (say they) have had a great mentor at some point along the road.” He recognized the importance of mentorship and he used it to build iconic business success in records, wireless communications, radio stations, hotels, health clubs, financial services, nightclubs, renewable technologies, a Formula One racing team, and even space tourism.  But his largest success came in the airline industry.  But in that industry, he was hardly an overnight success.

As he struggled to get Virgin Atlantic airlines off the ground, he realized he needed the help of someone with a great deal more knowledge and experience in the industry. He turned to airline entrepreneur, Sir Freddie Laker, for mentoring. Laker was not himself a successful airline executive.  He founded Laker Airways in 1966, which went bankrupt in less than two decades. But his lack of success did not mean he didn’t know the business and may have even learned a thing or two from his failings.  As Branson explained “It’s always good to have a helping hand at the start. I wouldn’t have got anywhere in the airline industry without the mentorship of Sir Freddie Laker.”

Three things allowed someone who failed to mentor another to extraordinary success:

  1. Laker’s wisdom and knowledge hard-earned through experience and failure.
  2. Branson’s recognition that he needed help.
  3. Humility of both mentor and mentee.