top of page

Success Leaves Clues

American entrepreneur and bestselling author Tony Robbins said, “Success leaves clues. Go figure out what someone who was successful did, and model it. Improve it, but learn their steps. They have knowledge.”

Often, successful people are more than willing to help and guide budding entrepreneurs to attain their goals. They become mentors or role models to the younger generation by sharing their wealth of experience. Modern role models that come to mind frequently are the likes of Richard Bryson, Warren Buffet, Mark Zuckerberg, and Oprah Winfrey.

In a recent article featured in Entrepreneur magazine, these influential leaders shed light on who had inspired or mentored them.


Richard Branson says the “missing link” between a “promising businessperson and a successful one” is often a good mentor. A role model. Someone to inspire greatness within.

He should know. If not for the “invaluable advice and guidance” from Branson’s business mentor — the bullish founder of Laker Airways, one of the first no-frills long-haul airlines — the self-made British billionaire might never have gotten Virgin Atlantic off the ground.

“It’s always good to have a helping hand at the start,” Branson wrote in a post on his blog. “I wouldn’t have got anywhere in the airline industry without the mentorship of Sir Freddie Laker. Now, I love mentoring young entrepreneurs.”


Benjamin Graham changed Warren Buffett’s trajectory long before the billionaire businessman held court as the “Oracle of Omaha.” Buffett devoured the American economist’s seminal book, The Intelligent Investor while attending the University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL). He had stocked up on wise “value investing” tips for later use.

The Berkshire Hathaway chairman and CEO described discovering Graham as “almost like” finding “a god,” his former UNL housemate Truman Wood said. In Buffett’s own words, Graham was his “idol.” He considers him the most influential person in his life, apart from his stockbroker father.

Graham, a longtime Columbia Business School professor who met and got to know Buffett at the school, eventually hired Buffett to work at his firm. They forged a strong bond and the key lessons Buffett learned from his mentor, friend, and idol still pay dividends today.


You might assume that Mark Zuckerberg would name Steve Jobs as his hero, especially after the late legend personally advised him in the early days of Facebook. Not so. Turns out Zuck is more of a Bill Gates idolator. In fact, he calls the Microsoft co-founder his childhood hero. “Bill Gates ran one of the most mission-driven companies I can think of,” he said at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in 2013. “Microsoft had a great mission. To put a computer on every desktop and in every home.”

Zuckerberg’s mission: To put the internet, and of course Facebook, on every device everywhere in the world. Coincidence? We think not.

Mind you, Gates, also a Harvard dropout like Zuckerberg, created a Facebook account after Microsoft (which he was no longer at the helm of at the time) dumped a $240 million-dollar equity stake into Facebook in 2007. What a day that must’ve been for Zuckerberg.


The most famous female media mogul of our time looked to anti-apartheid revolutionary Nelson Mandela as a role model. As her friend and mentor, he taught her not only how to give back to others with grace, but also how to remain gracefully humble. “He was everything you’ve ever heard and more — humble and unscathed by bitterness,” she said of the late leader in a statement following his death. “And he always loved to tell a good joke. Being in his presence was like sitting with grace and majesty at the same time.”

Lesser-known individuals from her past also inspired her to be her best and climb great heights. “My fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Benton, was the first person that I really could see believed in me,” Winfrey told Parade magazine. “She would tell me that I was just the smartest little girl she’d ever seen.”

Interestingly, Oprah also says her “favorite role models” are dogs. Here’s why: “I want to work like a dog, doing what I was born to do with joy and purpose. I want to play like a dog, with total, jolly abandon. I want to love like a dog, with unabashed devotion and complete lack of concern about what people do for a living, how much money they have, or how much they weigh.”

The article is adapted from


bottom of page