Life-long lessons

Last evening I got the sad news that my mentor had passed away in his sleep. No suffering. A peaceful end to a life fully lived.

As I let the news of his death seep in, I became aware of two things that happened simultaneously. The ground shifted beneath my feet – my anchor had moved away. At the same time, a flood of memories came rushing by almost drowning me with the force and current of it all.

I met my mentor in 2004. Almost 18 years later I am fortunate to support colleagues and individuals by being a mentor and/or a coach. I guess, life holds more meaning when you are able to give back and impact people in different ways.

I am cherry picking a few memories and sharing with you because the lessons learnt then hold true even today. Experiences in life are like that cookie jar wherein we can dip our hand whenever the hunger pangs hit us. And that cookie will always satisfy your hunger and bring a smile on your face.

Memory #1: The SWOT

The word ‘SWOT’ (strength, weakness, opportunities and threat) had so far existed only in books until the day I had my SWOT analysis done through my mentor. For the first time I paid attention to my own skills and competencies. The SWOT also helped me focus on my passions and interests.

Lesson learnt: When you follow your passion and enjoy what you are doing, success is always around the corner.

Memory #2: The financial analysis

This one still brings tears to my eyes. Beginning my life afresh at a turning point in my life was not easy. To add to it, money was hard to come by. When my mentor sat down with me and did my financial analysis it was an eye opener. When this analysis was linked with my SWOT, the picture became so clear. The path ahead opened up and I could see the road I needed to take to further my career. 

Lesson learnt: Think of the big picture and the future you aspire for and then work towards it.

Memory #3: The shift

Once my potentials had been identified, it became evident that I needed to move jobs and even relocate if necessary. My metamorphosis took place when I shifted gears from working with a not-for-profit to join a giant multi-national. Life changed.

Lesson learnt: The apple cart is meant to be toppled. Or else, one stagnates. 

Memory #4: The prioritisation 

Back then being a single parent with aging parents kept me on my toes all the time. It also led to building up of frustration and crushing of dreams. With the support of my mentor, I learnt how to prioritise tasks, choose what was critical and focus on what needed attention wherein the impact would be most profound.

Lesson learnt: Making choices is never easy. But we always have a choice and the choice that we make at that particular moment, is always the best choice.

Memory #5: The weaning away

I had always basked in the shadow of having a mentor. I relished having someone to turn to for support and guidance. Until one day when my mentor stopped answering my calls or responding to my messages that sought his wise advice. On being questioned, he sagely said – ‘I have done my bit. From now on, you can handle whatever comes your way. Go on. I am confident you will succeed.’ I recall feeling so lost then but eventually I figured my way around.

Lesson learnt: While one can always seek support, in the end, you have to find your own answers and follow your own instincts.

I shall miss my mentor. But he has given me priceless memories and experiences that I can leaf through whenever I flip through the pages of my life. I know I will find my answers when I am stuck. 

You too may have been influenced by someone in your life. Could be a parent or a friend or a mentor or a coach. Or even a teacher. Or an author whose book has left an everlasting mark in your life.

Dip into those experiences and relive the lessons learnt. For, they never go away really.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sarita Bahl
Country Group Head CSR at Bayer - South Asia
Sarita Bahl leads the Corporate Social Responsibility function for Bayer South Asia and is also the Director – Bayer Prayas Association. Prior to this, she successfully oversaw the communications and public affairs function for Bayer South Asia. Over her three decades of professional experience, Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, public sector, trade associations, MNCs and the Not-for-profit sector. An alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Science and the Swedish Institute of Management Program, Sarita specializes in stakeholder engagement, sustainability and communications. She is passionate about animals (is mother to a female cat), books and movies.

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