Blog     Shells on the Life Shore     Mentoring is not imitation but incremental transformation

Steve Jobs strongly agreed  with the  famous painter Pablo Picasso: Good artists copy; great artists steal. It seemed counterintuitive for an innovator like Steve jobs. However getting a little deeper, ‘stealing’ an idea is just a beginning of a great revolution. When one takes an idea of someone and  changes it with one’s own compelling ideas,  a new superior version emerges.

This draws attention to the most desired practice of Mentoring which advocates, ‘to reach the top of the hill, talk to the man coming down the hill’.

Richard Branson says ask any successful businessman, s/he always had a great mentor at some point in his life.Rightly so, some of the greatest personalities had mentors.To name a few, Bill Gates had Paul Allen, Oprah had Maya Angelo, Gandhi had Gopal Krishna Ghokale, Warren Buffet had Benjamin Graham and Mark Zuckerberg had Steve jobs. However, asking the man coming down the road does not assure success . It only reduces the risk of failure by making aware of the possible impediments on the way.

The truth is, to be successful, a mentee has to display a greater deal of creativity, inventiveness  and passion. It is said luck favours the persistent and that is what is true for mentoring. A mentee tries to absorb all the strategies of a mentor adding one’s own imagination, learnings and experiences to shape it into an inventive and original piece of work. In other words, the mentor can only help the mentee to become more of what mentee already is, not to duplicate the mentor.

Undoubtedly, over a period of time there will be some similarities in the behaviour and actions of the mentor and the mentee. But this semblance should not be misinterpreted for imitation. Instead it must be respected as an incremental transformation which is sum of experiences of the mentor and  imaginative improvisation of the mentee, creating a newer version of mentee.

If you’re looking for a mentor, don’t be afraid to ask because there are great people who genuinely want to help others be successful, and if they say no, you don’t want them as a mentor anyway.  On the other hand, if you are mentoring someone, learn what their goals are, and get to know what they need from a mentor. Help them meet their goals, not yours.


Faculty of Corporate Training and Development (FCTD)