“Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary!”
Many of us may recall the fiery words of Professor Keating to his students in the movie Dead Poets Society. The professor does not just teach English literature and poetry. He inspires his students to dream bigger; he kindles their souls. Urging them to discover the greatness lying dormant within themselves, he shows them a path to become the best they can be.
Each of us may have a Professor Keating in our lives. This mentor could be someone from our school, college or workplace. Or it could even be a loved one. Sometimes, it could simply be an acquaintance we cherish. In fact, Brendon Burchard, an American author and motivational speaker, is known to have said, “My best mentor is a mechanic–and he never left the sixth grade. By any competency measure, he doesn’t have it. But the perspective he brings to me and my life is, bar none, the most helpful.”
No matter who we are or how great our deeds, we need someone to guide us from time to time. We want someone to believe in us and push us to become better. We want more than a teacher; we want a mentor. Says Carnatic musician Mangala Karthik, “A mentor is more than just a guide or a well-wisher. A mentor looks after our interests, as if it were their own.” She gives the example of Gurukulavasam–the traditional form of teaching, whereby a disciple stayed in the guru’s house and attended to daily chores. This way, the student absorbed as much from the teacher as possible, through both direct and indirect learning. This was done to create an open and trust-filled relationship. Such a bond is necessary for mentoring, Mangala believes.
A strong relationship forged with a mentor then enables the student to be receptive of constructive criticism. Singer Sujatha Iyer believes this is true of her. She says, “My mentor gives constant feedback on my singing–good and bad. This honest evaluation motivates me to do better the next time and get brownie points from him. As his student, I feel grounded and look forward to learning more from him.” Sujatha feels that without her mentor, it would have been impossible for her to make any progress.
Indeed, a mentor sculpts us diligently, so we may achieve our goals. But finding ourselves a mentor is not always easy. While many may be good at what they do, they might not necessarily know how to impart that knowledge to others. Dr R Balachandran, who had studied for a PhD in Chemistry, can relate to this. “During the early phases of my research, I was lost without proper guidance. My seniors took it for granted that as a post-graduate, I would be able to figure it all out myself,” he says. Revealing how he had to implement a trial-and-error approach, he stresses on the importance of mentorship in the field of education. He remembers a lot of his peers just wanting to give up.
A mentor’s guidance can take us from darkness to light, from a nobody to a somebody, and eventually, from a disciple to a guru.
A mentor’s confidence could certainly uplift our spirits. Their words of encouragement could give us the necessary push we sometimes lack. It is especially true of the field of sports. Mysuru Warriors head coach Murali Rx says, “A beginner requires training and guidance. But as a sportsperson progresses, s/he requires reassurance and motivation. Often, the boost of confidence from a coach works miracles and gets the sportsperson to perform better.”
True, a mentor ensures the ambition within the protégé does not crumble under the weight of external pressure. A mentor has complete faith in the student, even when the student does not. But above everything else, a mentor’s greatest role is, perhaps, to help students accentuate their best qualities. After all, physician and Bharatanatyam dancer Tony Pius imbibes life lessons from his dance teacher. He says, “A guide ingrains the student with discipline, devotion, surrender, and perseverance, even as the student learns the art. This way, artistes can become better versions of themselves.” Clearly, for Tony, it is not merely about dance anymore. It is about a way of life.
No matter the pursuit, a mentor can help us tap into our true potential. Even on a spiritual plane, a guru can be instrumental in honing an individual for his/her higher self. It is certainly true of entrepreneur Sriram S. Thanks to his spiritual guru, Sriram has come to realise that each of us has a seed of unlimited potential within us. “A good teacher helps nurture this seed and allows it to sprout and grow. S/he makes sure we blossom in our own way, in our own time,” he observes.
A mentor sure expels ignorance and self-doubt, making way for the protégé’s innate nature to shine forth. Interestingly, a guru (meaning mentor in Sanskrit) literally translates to ‘dispeller of darkness’. A mentor’s guidance can take us from darkness to light, from a nobody to a somebody, and eventually, from a disciple to a guru. On the day of Guru Purnima, Soulveda salutes mentors for influencing our lives positively, leading us by example and inspiring us to become extraordinary.