How often in your life have you come close to achieving a goal and either slipped up at the last moment or felt it was too hard to achieve and given up?

I know there have been times in my life when I have failed to achieve my potential through moments of self-doubt or simply not pushing myself that ‘little’ bit harder. Then I have experienced the ‘what if?’ moments. What if I had not walked up that hill during a cross-country race? What if I had stood up and expressed my honest opinion about that matter?

Thomas Edison, founder of General Electric, famously once stated: “Many of life’s failures are men who didn’t realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” 

There are many stories about people who have overcome tough times and achieved much with their lives. I love these stories. I find them inspirational and motivating, and a continual reminder that each one of us is unique, has gifts and talents and, when we choose to chase our dreams we can achieve a great deal.

Never give up

This was the case with golfer Richard Bland during the past weekend. Aged forty-eight, he was playing his 478th tournament on the European Tour, having never won. He emerged as the oldest first-time winner on the European Tour, a wonderful example of perseverance and persistence over more than twenty years as a golfer chasing a dream to win a tournament on the European Tour. He has bounced back from a number of setbacks over the years, so there was little surprise when he shed a few tears after winning the tournament at the first play-off hole. A great story to share with youth, many of whom do not yet understand how hard they must practice, or study to achieve their goals. Behind many great achievers’ stories will be times of self-sacrifice, failure, even self-doubt. 

I genuinely believe that life is all about striving to reach our unique potential. It’s not about being successful, when success is measured by how much money we have, or what car we drive, or the size of our house. It is more about becoming the best person we can possibly be. And this is why mentors are so important as the ‘wise guides on the side’ of young people trying to find their way.

I always encourage youth to discover their passion, chase their dreams and then watch as doors open, opportunities come their way and they enjoy their career journey. And, as they do this, they are encouraged never to forget the importance of relationships in their lives, as they will value the non-judgmental voice when they experience the inevitable setbacks, stumbles and challenging times.

Who are the people that really matter to you? Nurture them. Communicate with them. Ask them to share their life stories. Bounce ideas off them and listen, listen, listen!

I read plenty of stories about achievers. Some I truly admire, others I do not admire at all. Those who make their fortune by exploiting others, cheating, doing illegal stuff, or treating employees badly—I have no respect for such people and, while others might want to model themselves on such people, I am not one of those.

Image, image, image. How many people are more worried about their image than about being true to themselves? This is often evident in the world of pop stars, celebrities and the so-called glamorous ‘Hollywood life’ which is promoted even more by social media platforms and egocentric media personalities. It actually saddens me to see people who are so often superficial, even false as they chase ‘stardom’, which means different things to different people.

Here are some key thoughts mentors can use as they encourage mentees to take responsibility and become accountable for their choices. It is also a useful checklist which mentees can discuss and share with their friends. Each of these points can create great discussion points during the mentoring journey.


  1. I am working at becoming a genuinely positive person with a positive self-image.
  2. I am living for today and taking responsibility for my life.
  3. I am a dreamer imagining where I will be in one month, three months, five years from now.
  4. I have set my specific, measurable, realistic, achievable goals and have a timetable for achieving them.
  5. I am enjoying life to the full, making good friends and reaching out to others in need of help.
  6. I am working at my self-discipline.
  7. I believe in myself more and more each day.
  8. I know my strengths and the areas I need to improve.
  9. I am unafraid to make decisions, think things out for myself, while appreciating feedback in areas I could improve.
  10. I am flexible and a good team player.
  11. My behavior is consistent and predictable most of the time.
  12. I am developing the qualities of trustworthiness, honesty, humility, empathy and self-reliance.
  13. I know myself, back myself and believe in myself – I am capable and lovable.
  14. I enjoy my work and am comfortable and self-confident in the company of others.
  15. I am prepared to take calculated and non-life-threatening risks.
  16. I dare to be different.
  17. I am prepared to move out of my comfort zone.
  18. I follow a healthy and balanced lifestyle.

(Cox Robin. Letter 2 a Teen: Becoming the best I can be.)