Opinion

E-Canteen Fundas: Wondering how to pick a good mentor? Here are a few tips that can help   

30th Jun 2022 07:22 AM | Harimohan Paruvu

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‘Hello, Rinku,’ said Rakesh. ‘Why is Rahul so glum?’ 

‘He’s worried, bhaiyya,’ said Rinku. ‘His basketball selections are clashing with our exam. He’s scared if he misses practice they might drop him. He’s planning to lie to them that he was sick. I don’t think that’s the right thing to do.’ 

‘But what can I do, bhaiyya,’ said Rahul. ‘Our selectors are very strict.’

‘In such situations follow basic principles,’ said Rakesh. ‘In your case, the principle you could look at is — “don’t make a decision because of the fear of losing something”. Fear messes up your thinking and you end up making wrong decisions.’

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‘What do you mean?’ asked Rahul.

‘It’s your fear of being dropped from the team that’s forcing you to lie,’ said Rakesh. ‘When you know very well that the right thing to do is to tell the truth. Let’s imagine the worst — that you get dropped anyway. If you lie and they find out you lied, you’re in deep trouble. But if you tell the truth and promise to attend practice after the exam, they’ll remember you for your character, integrity and leadership qualities. Something that may tilt their decision in your favour later.’

‘Thanks, bhaiyya,’ said Rahul. ‘That was a huge help. I was so confused I could not think straight at all. I feel so much lighter now.’

Bhaiyya,’ said Rinku. ‘I have a small problem that’s bothering me as well. I wanted to apply to a foreign university for a course. But it is expensive. I don’t think we can afford it. Should I apply at all? What’s the principle I should look at, bhaiyya?’

‘The principle to look at here would be — “cross that bridge when you come to that”,’ laughed Rakesh. ‘You want that course so apply. Get that admission. Then we will see. When we move ahead positively, things happen. New ideas occur. New opportunities appear. New doors open.’

‘You’re right, bhaiyya,’ said Rinku. ‘I was overthinking it. I should just give it a shot. I feel relieved.’

‘We were both so hassled for days, not knowing what to do,’ said Rahul. ‘Our issues are seemingly small but they’re big in our heads. I wish we had access to someone to help us think straight, think clearly.’

‘What’s stopping you from accessing such people?’ smiled Rakesh. 

‘What do you mean, bhaiyya?’ said Rahul. ‘Where can we find gurus like that to talk to about our stupid problems?

‘Firstly, your problems are not small or stupid problems,’ said Rakesh. ‘They are life-changing moments. What seems small will grow into something bigger, and change your values, your behaviours and responses. They could be the difference between going forward or giving up. Secondly, you don’t have to find a guru from the Himalayas or some high-flying, bestselling corporate guru. Anyone with some knowledge, experience and maturity can give you perspectives to help you think straight. A mentor or a coach can help you navigate these issues and fast track your growth. Like Alexander had Aristotle, or Chandragupta Maurya had Chanakya, we can benefit with mentors too.’

‘Really? How does it work, bhaiyya?’ asked Rahul. 

‘It’s quite simple,’ said Rakesh. ‘Identify one or more mentors. People you trust. Could be your professor, your basketball coach, your uncle or aunt, your parents, or anyone you are comfortable sharing your issues with, who listens to you, provides you with the right perspectives and principles and helps you think clearly. Someone non-judgmental, who has your best interests at heart and with no other agenda but to help you reach your potential. Approach them. Ask them to be your mentors. Most will agree.’

‘If they agree, what do we do next?’ asked Rinku.

‘Keep in touch with them,’ said Rakesh. ‘Approach them with any issue that’s bothering you and get their perspective on it — big or small. Even when your life is going on smoothly, stay in touch with them and update them on what’s happening. Many times they may give you an insight or an idea that can give way better results for the efforts you’re putting in.’

‘Sounds simple enough,’ said Rahul. ‘But bhaiyya, what if their advice confuses us?’

‘Good question,’ said Rakesh. ‘In the end, it is you who must decide on what is good for you and what is not. A mentor or coach will offer your principles, perspectives or suggestions, but you’ll have to choose what works for you. They’ll ask questions, give examples and enable reflection to facilitate a clearer thinking process. Typically a good mentor or coach will move you from 1) a stage where you are not aware of the mistakes you are committing to 2) a stage where you can identify the mistake and she corrects it and 3) a stage where you can self-correct by yourself. A good coach will improve your self-esteem and leave you stronger, clearer and empowered.’

‘Will they change my methods drastically, bhaiyya?’ said Rahul. 

‘Not really,’ said Rakesh. ‘A good mentor or coach works with what’s already there and only suggest minor adjustments. There’s a story about a former Indian cricket captain who had lost his form badly. A mentor quietly took him aside and made a slight adjustment to his grip — that’s all it took for him to get back to his century-making ways and to prolong his career by many more years. Now that’s how light and effective, a good coach or a mentor can be. With their knowledge, skill, and experience they provoke thought and help you reach your potential.’ 

‘Hmm,’ said Rinku. ‘So simple. Why didn’t we think of this before? Do we have to pay them, bhaiyya?’ 

‘Most mentors do not charge,’ said Rakesh. ‘But if you find the right person, it’s worth engaging a good coach who fits your budget professionally. Having mentors and coaches is like having your own Board of Advisors. Life gets so much easier — sometimes with a short conversation of even ten 10 minutes. And we all could benefit from them, whatever age and stage we are in.’  

‘I’ve identified my mentors and coaches already,’ said Rahul. ‘For starters, bhaiyya, will you be my mentor?’

Rakesh laughed. ‘Delighted to.’

Pro Tip: Identify mentors and coaches to fast track your growth and development. Benefit from their knowledge, skill and experience and reach your potential. The perspectives they provide will remain with you for life as guideposts and empower you in the long run.

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