“Life is always bigger than the problem at hand.”

Before you know it, you’re thirty-five and confused about life and there are eighteen-year-olds learning at a pace that looks like they could win the Nobel Prize. The secret sauce to make it through all? Keep learning – is what his usual rant to me looks like.

The hero of my transformation and story is my mentor.

It’s been around 4 years now since he stopped at my work station and asked, ‘You’ve any idea what big data is?’ What started as a plain vanilla conversation ended up being something much greater. Well, to say the least, I evolved from a girl pretending to know content to becoming the subject matter expert of big data, quite literally.

When I think of the word ‘teacher’, floating about in space, I imagine it settling on his Harry Potter’s reading glasses, like chalk dust. I remember his hand holding a pen and his frowns at the ‘review’ section in my documents. How he sat with me all day to teach me, and make me a human being of words and knowledge. Yes, he shouted at me hard when I couldn’t solve algorithms and fabricate them to weave into a story. He taught me that while life isn’t an equation, where right hand is equal to the left hand side, it sure does give us our due.

“The art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” – Sun Tzu. He introduced me to this Chinese warrior and created a world so vast and compelling that I still find myself turning page after page of challenges, saying, ‘Just one more.’ Those meetings and learning sessions with him never let me forget that for something as precise as the English language, god has to exist. This is where the sense of believing in god came from. He taught me how to choose wisdom over intelligence, empathy over sympathy and learning, over everything else.

‘A leader leads by example, not force.’ – He taught me how to acknowledge if I don’t know something. In an episode where the entire team was supposed to deliver a project by end of the day, I couldn’t understand what it was about – and there came a knight in shining armour who coached me throughout and I could finally deliver what was expected of me.

Every time I thought I’m not enough, he went out of his way to tell me “But you don’t need to do everything today. Today is all about promising yourself longer time to learn, develop and evolve into a better version of yourself. One step at a time, remember?”

 Here are 5 lessons that he knowingly or unknowingly taught me –

  1. If you think you’re the smartest person in the room, it’s time you need to meet some more people.
  2. Listen to learn – “Communication is easy when you’re just talking. It’s listening that takes time.” This trait of him taught me, how listening can merely solve so much.
  3. Treat this profession as if it’s your last – Had it not been him, I’d have never embraced the role to give my best. “Your jobs are not stepping stones to the next ‘big thing’, in fact, they’re the biggest things happening to you, right now, in this very moment.”
  4. Success is not success until it’s repeated, otherwise, it’s a mistake – While it’s important to celebrate every small victory in life, he taught me how it’s not shallow to crave for more, and most importantly – not stop.
  5. Be Kind – No matter what it takes, gratitude should be an inseparable part of our lives. “Spend as much as you can, go to fancy places, work like an animal, be confident about it, but don’t forget to join your hands and say thank you to give back to people.”

Even today, when I read his pieces, I don’t know why do they make me look up at the sky and feel happiness tug at my insides. I’ve no idea how he manages to capture the bitter tragedies of corporate functions while putting a smile on the reader’s face. I’ll never know. But I do know that his words transported me to places I’d never imagined and been to, the ones that made me want to dream more and the ones that made me realize that wherever my heart was, there I’d surely find my treasure – and I found mine in Content and Communication. He was right.