TV Thursdays: What Can We Learn From Our Mentors? (Suits, White Collar)

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Do you get envious from time to time? Like really jealous of the person sitting next to you, wondering why ‘he has this and this and this, and I have only that’? Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean you’re abnormal or anything, just that you are curious and human, like we all are. What if I were to tell you that most of the time (alright, some of the time then…), part of the reason why people succeed is because of an experienced and cultured mentor guiding them and giving them sound advice in their decision making? That part of the reason why people succeed is that a superior in work or in life experiences imparts wisdom and shares knowledge to them?

That’s not to say that people with mentors always succeed, or people without mentors are totally hopeless, however the trend seems to be that to succeed, you normally need to bounce ideas off someone, and not keep everything to yourself. How does mentors and the relationship between a student and a teacher relate to these TV shows? Well Mike and Harvey (Suits) and Neal and Peter (White Collar) both have a mentor like relationship, and we can learn a lot from these bromances, as we unpack the details of how having a trusted adviser and a family friend can help us in all walks of life.

Premiering in 2011, and already in its 4th season, Suits is one of the anchors of USA Network, alongside others like Royal Pains and Covert Affairs. The series follows a young prodigy, Mike Ross (Patrick J Adams), with eidetic memory, who is desperate for a big break after falling in with the wrong crowd. His saving grace comes in the form of Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht), who is recruiting for a law associate at a firm he’s a senior partner at. Though one of Harvey’s rules is that he only chooses people from Harvard, through a stroke of luck and genius, Mike gets the gig, and thus his whole life is changed. As Mike learns life lessons, and how to be a lawyer from one of the best in the country, despite him not ever graduating from any law school, he meets and interacts with colleagues, and also tries to keep his secret of ‘being a fraud’ a secret, while also navigating his on/off romance with paralegal Rachel (Meghan Markle) and somewhat hostile rivalry with the firm ‘bully’ and tough guy Louis Litt (Rick Hoffman). Though the show sounds a bit too much like a soapie for a drama, what we do see is the relationship between Mike and Harvey evolve and grow out of mutual respect for one another, as Mike fits in more and more with his team, and plays a major part in some cases as the seasons progress.

White Collar, another USA show, which debuted in 2009, features another mentor/mentee relationship, albeit less intense than Mike and Harvey. Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer), an expert con artist, is on the run, and is caught in the pilot episode by white collar FBI agent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay), charged with many counts of counterfeiting, forgery, and trying to escape prison, amongst other things. Sometime later, Neal is offered a deal, to work with the FBI and bring down bigger international fugitives, in exchange for supervised freedom. Neal has to wear a tracking anklet at all times, and if he behaves, them time will behave off his sentence accordingly. So begins the somewhat reluctant partnership between Neal and Peter. Though Neal tries to break free from ‘The Suit’ as Mozzie (Willie Garson), Neal’s friend and partner in crime puts it; Neal has a ton of respect for Peter and his wife Elizabeth (Tiffani Thiessen), and hardly ever tries to downright disobey them…he only tries to stretch and bend the limits of the FBI protection, and as the series progresses, he even contemplates having a normal life and retiring his criminal lifestyle, showing the viewers’ how much of Peter has rubbed off on him.

Though Suits and White Collar are very different series, both highlight the unsteadiness of a relationship turned into one forged and strengthened by a common adversity and determination. As Mike and Harvey and Neal and Peter never back down from a challenge, so should we have that special relationship with our mentors (or our mentees), so that we can grow as people and can be a positive influence for someone else as well. Just as Peter and Harvey have change both Neal and Mike’s life for the better respectively; so can we change the lives of others through being authentic and actively interested in each other’s lives, and so can we learn from our mentors, as we are taught their life experiences, so that we can learn from mistakes and look forward to the future.

So in light of these eye opening two shows, who is a mentor to you? It may not be someone that is your work superior, maybe it is a family friend or a parent, or an older sibling. If you don’t have one already, don’t despair- in time you will find the right person, and maybe it’s all about the timing. And conversely, who are you a mentor of? If it’s no-one, then that’s fine too, but remember that your experiences are invaluable and are not to be discounted, even if you are young. Your story may be the one to inspire millions, and all you have to do is step out in faith and choose someone to impart your life into and encourage. Let me know your journey in the comments below, I’d love to hear how someone has influence your life or how you have with someone else’s like how the main characters in Suits and White Collar have.

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