The difference between a mentor and an informant

I recently finished watching The Family Man’s second season, an Indian action thriller series. And it was fantastic! The story, plot, and characters are well-developed, making it a worthy contender on your watchlist.

I’ve noticed a trend lately on web series — characters from the most popular ones get immortalised in our culture through viral memes. As I write this post, one of the characters from The Family Man has gained popularity on the internet, and especially the LinkedIn community (and other socials, but I’m not at all active elsewhere).

The character, Chellam, barely has less than 15 minutes of screen time over the nine episodes. He is one of those retired officers from three-letter Indian organisations who helps the protagonist in the background. And he’s got answers to almost every question! Like a walking-talking encyclopaedia and search engine with algorithms that might put Google to shame!

And I was pretty happy for Chellam until he became the talk of the LinkedIn town, with memes that essentially state that he’s an exceptional example of a mentor and that he’s a dream mentor for anyone who needs one. Note that I’m talking about LinkedIn; we talk about serious stuff here; if you’re looking for entertainment, Google “Chellam Sir” and be merry.

Back to the topic — I have an issue with the situation on LinkedIn because people are mistaking an informant for a mentor. They’re not the same, and it’s essential to know the difference. Here you go:

  1. Mentors teach, guide, and live you up by their experience and insights. An informant merely gives you information that can get you unstuck from that situation.
  2. Mentors are experienced and are usually farther ahead of you on the path, which doesn’t mean they’re older. An informant doesn’t have to have any experience but information that’s valuable at that moment. It may not be as helpful tomorrow as it is when you need it.
  3. A mentor is someone with a head full of experience and a heart full of generosity that brings those things together in your life. Informants may have experience, but I’m not too sure about a heart full of generosity, although Chellam was an exception. But that’s not the norm.
  4. Mentors have wisdom and insights that they are happy to show how best to apply in your specific situation. That’s life-changing. An informant cares less about knowledge or understanding than the information they’re passing on and the perceived value to the recipient for that situation.
  5. Mentors are willing to walk with you through your journey and help you learn from your experiences. That requires a whole lot of commitment than that of an informant whose role ends the moment the phone call disconnects or that email is discarded.

You can see why calling Chellam a mentor offends me, right? He was an informant who happened to like and respect the protagonist. That’s it! Calling him a mentor is disrespectful, especially to all the mentors out there who are impacting the lives of their proteges.

I hope this helped you understand the difference between a mentor and an informant.

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