Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Upon the shoulders of giants

An etymological study of the word ‘mentorship’ reveals some interesting historical facts. Originally derived from one of the most celebrated stories in Greek mythology and, later, English literature, ‘Mentor’ was the name of a character from Homer’s ‘The Odyssey.’ A friend and advisor to Odysseus, Mentor had been entrusted with the care and guardianship of Odysseus’ household while he had been away, battling in the Trojan War. Mentor acted as a guard, guide and counsellor to Telemachus, Odysseus’ son, as he was growing up, and ultimately, as he set out on a personal quest to find his lost father.
In contemporary English language, the word ‘mentor’, meaning a “wise and trusted counsellor”, has been formalised. It describes a unique type of relationship that exists between someone who is considered to be more knowledgeable and experienced imparting their wisdom to another person, with the intent of leading them along a path of personal victory and success. It is a relationship founded on trust, and requires that both mentor and mentee to invest time and energy into making the relationship work.
To illustrate the importance and nature of this relationship, principles can be taken from the athletic relay race, which is arguably one of the most beautiful sports to observe. When one thinks of an athletic relay race, there are many things that may come to mind, such as the countless moments in Olympic history where men and women’s power teams have achieved dramatic victories while crowds roared in anticipation. However, taking a closer look at the sport reveals an art that requires precision, perfect timing and a certain level of cooperation.
During the relay race, athletes must run from one point on a race track to another, while passing a baton over to a member of their team. That member then proceeds with the race, continuing in this manner until the final runner to receive the baton races to the finish line. The period in which the baton is handed over, is known as the ‘take-over zone’, and is the point at which the most crucial moments of the race take place. The success of any relay race depends largely on how well this ‘hand-over’ is done, and even though only one member crosses the finish line, the victory belongs to all. The winners of a relay race are those who complete the race with the baton in hand, and who have executed successful handovers. It is a simple concept and one which we are all aware about. What stands to be learned from this race, however, is key.
This very principle of the athletic relay race can be applied to life itself. St Louis Export Top 40 Under 40 is one example of a brand that recognises that the road to success is not an individual sprint. Rather, it is, as illustrated above, a process requiring input and the passing on of knowledge and experience from one person to another, in order to facilitate a successful race to a finish line. Ultimately, Top 40 Under 40 has aimed to unearth catalysts and eventually motivate and inspire Batswana to find their calling and do something truly great with their lives, generation after generation; with mentorship playing a key role in the achievement of this goal and indeed many of the goals set out in Botswana’s own long term vision.

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