Gurus v Mentors

My disdain for those that position themselves as Gurus usually manifests quite passively - I just ignore them.

However, as I feel my social responsibility grow, it has become apparent that there are certain groups of people (think: young coaches, impressionable parents and developmental athletes) that need guidance to ensure their 'hard earned' isn't handed over to the (usually self-proclaimed) Guru.

MORE: Find out what the Twitterverse had to say about this

Below are some heuristics to help you decide if you're being advised by a Mentor or are following another Guru.

  • Gurus create Disciples They see themselves as a messiah, giving their followers a 'mission' to spread their word.
  • Mentors create Mentees They will offer guidance but encourage the Mentee to think for themselves. A 'show you where to look, not what to see' approach.


  • Gurus say 'Follow Me' And then create a 'us versus them' mentality.
  • Mentors say 'Create your own path' And 'I'll be there when you need me'.


  • Gurus focus on the differences Being 'revolutionary' allows them to charge more.
  • Mentors focus on the similarities For example, in strength training there are effectively only 3 methods: Maximal Effort, Dynamic Effort and Repetition Effort. The rest is marketing.


  • Gurus are only comfortable if you're behind them If you're the messiah, and others pass you, you're no longer the messiah.
  • Mentors are excited for you to surpass them They have a 'Pay it Forward' mentality.


  • A Guru will charge you A Guru's reward is extrinsic - watching their bank account grow.
  • A Mentor will invest in you A Mentor's reward is intrinsic - watching you grow.


  • Gurus give you Rules Black or white. Right or wrong. No middle ground.
  • Mentors suggest Principles After years of experience, they understand that life is more grey than most appreciate.


  • Gurus advertise themselves You know the picture: shirt off, mostly barefoot, 'look what my program did for me'.
  • Mentees advertise their Mentor Whether it's social media, their own website or word of mouth...


  • Question the Guru and you'll be blocked or vilified Sometimes you'll be both... Often by their disciples.
  • Question the Mentor and you'll be praised And if they don't have the answer they'll sure as hell go find it


Hopefully these heuristics will help you decide who you should be taking advice from.

And hopefully some Gurus will pull their head in.

Grant Jenkins is a Physical Performance Coach who thinks that mentoring should be considered an honour and a privilege. Contact him here or follow him on Twitter @Grant_Jenkins

PS To see what the Twitterverse had to say about Gurus click here.

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