Finding the Ip Man To My Bruce Lee: The Importance of Mentorship

Two words to describe a young British Asian: proud and independent, fiercely independent.

The reality often involves a desperate need to succeed in their careers, to climb the career ladder, to make their parents proud and to feel a sense of fulfilment in their chosen job. This could be a standard 9 to 5 job, a successful corporate career in Central London, a solopreneur in the ever-growing influencer industry of Youtube and Instagram or an entrepreneur who successfully created a business and team from the ground up.

The fact is there is no self-made man or self-made woman. We all need guidance from a mentor who has achieved more in their life than us, just as Prince Arjuna had Lord Krishna, Bruce Lee had Ip Man and Oprah Winfrey had Maya Angelou.

Bruce Lee studying Wing Chun with Yip Man, 1953 (From the collection of Bruce Lee Foundation)

I have had a few mentors in my legal career who have shaped my distinctive style of writing and unconventional way of thinking. However, one mentor continues to have a significant impact on my career. Whilst working at a law firm, the head of the department I was working in became an unlikely mentor for me. Most people think a mentor is someone who has a similar personality or similar ethnic/socio-economic background to you, however, that is not always the case. This mentor was the complete opposite of me in every way possible - an Englishman who spoke very little, with Zen Buddhist like patience, brutally honest at times but also had a sharp mind that could make complex decisions or breakdown complex cases in seconds. But what intrigued me most about him was his obsessive work ethic and pure passion for the legal profession. He was still driven despite having achieved everything that can be achieved in the legal world. I at the time had just recently graduated from university and was quite arrogant, highly impatient but also enthusiastic and very ambitious. I was definitely not the mentee that he had in mind and I definitely tested that Zen Buddhist like patience of his on a few occasions. But after over a year of working under his mentorship, I learnt many valuable lessons that have stayed with me today, humility just being one.

The power of having a mentor is that you realise that there are people out there who are more talented and intelligent than you but are still kind enough to want to share their wisdom. Here are a few young British Asians who have either benefited from the mentors in their life or learnt to be a mentor themselves.

Gian Power is the founder of TLC Lions, a company that has created a platform for extraordinary speakers from all walks of life to tell their real-life stories about mental wellbeing, diversity and inclusion in a corporate environment. But Gian himself has an incredible, uplifting and tragic story. At the age of 23, he was a high performer in the corporate world working at Deutsche Bank and PwC, but sadly his father passed away whilst on a business trip in India. The level of maturity and tenacity that Gian showed as a young man to take care of his family whilst dealing with his own grief after the death of his father is truly inspiring and led him to create another dynamic company called The Unwind Experience offering a divine meditation experience in the heart of London. For me, Gian's experience, his compassion to help others is truly inspiring and a representation of the Sikh way of life.

‘Naam japna, wand ke shakna te dharam dhe kirat karnee’. (Punjabi)

‘Mediate on the name of God, Share one’s blessings with those less fortunate than you and Earn an honest living.’ (English Translation)

“I've had a number of mentors at various stages of my life and today I'm proud to have a strong advisory board who support and challenge me personally and professionally. They include Dr Kamel Hothi OBE whose career spans 40+ years in financial services, Mark Sherwood (former global MD of Saatchi & Saatchi) and Chris Brown (Head of Sales & Partnerships at Capita plc). My mentors have taught me not to accept the status quo in my life or my surroundings but instead to challenge my thinking and to push and stretch my boundaries. They've provided me with their wise perspectives, decades of experience and support in difficult times too”.

Simranjeet Kaur Mann is a future trainee solicitor at a top London law firm who provides free legal mentoring to South Asians looking for training contracts to contribute towards increasing diversity in the legal field. She uses her Youtube platform to share her own experience in the legal field and advice on how to go about your legal career.

“I’ve not actually had any mentors in my professional life but I wish I went out of my way to contact a few when I was applying for training contracts. However, as I mentor numerous South Asian aspiring solicitors, I can say one thing I’ve learnt from mentoring others is how to improve my communication style and presentation of content so my mentees can understand my perspective. I would say the fulfilment I receive from mentoring other people is the best thing about what I do. It feels good to be able to give back to the community in that sense”.

Jessie Randhawa at is a young woman with many talents - a creative director at Tara Homes which is a successful British residential property company, an articulate podcaster at #AskHow and an incredible illustrator.

“I would say my Dad is my mentor, especially during my first two years working in the family business (Tara Homes), I really shadowed him. By observing meetings and deals, it really allowed me to see how to operate and conduct yourself in professional scenarios. A lot of learning and lessons on how to carry yourself, taking risks, being accountable for yourself and the decisions you make. My mentor has pushed me to take on various situations and deal with them head-on instead of sliding them away to deal with later which is not the best approach since a simple problem will tend to build into a larger problem”.

I believe that mentorship is sadly lacking in the British Asian community due to the stubbornness, ego, insecurity and desperate need for independence of both the younger and older generation. The most important point to bear in mind is that we surround ourselves with people who bring out the best in us (mentors and mentees), who challenge us and even make us feel uncomfortable at times, but it is those individuals that will make us grow and live to our highest potential.