What I’ve learnt from my favourite TV series

I started watching TV series with the intention of improving my English and immersing my mind in a different, more enjoyable world, where I could daydream and escape my daily life. Gradually, I realised that in addition to learning English, I was learning about relationships, the art of influencing, law, politics and many other life lessons. So, here are my favourite TV series that have helped me to grow into the person I am today and here is a summary of I've learnt from them:

1) Suits

I love Suits – everything from the highly suitable name of the show, to the way in which the complex personalities of each character have been crafted, to the interesting situations they are put in and the smart language they use to articulate and internalise them. Each and every episode captivated me and got my mind wired and excited, in a way that no other TV show or film did. No matter how tired or stressed I was, as soon as I started watching Suits, all of that would go away. I would get mesmerised from the first moments I started watch each episode. I would forget the notion of time and my relentless drive to do something all the time. Each episode was magical, each new story a whirlwind to my mind. I could just sit and watch it for days on end, content without needing anything else.

I could spend hours and hours expressing my deep appreciation for the show and the more I do, the more I acknowledge all of the intricate nuances that have made this show to appeal to my mind on so many levels. So, as I’ve sat watching it each and every time, I reflected on why I love it so much and I’ve realised it is because it embellishes many of the values that I aspire to acquire and live by and because it has taught me so many lessons about life and self-improvement.

It was actually Suits that inspired me to acknowledge some of the learnings I was taking in from the show and write this article.

1.1 The power of mentoring

In the words of Patrick J. Adams (Mike Ross), the show is about the mentoring relationship between Harvey (the mentor) and Mike (the mentee). I just loved to see the development of this relationship, particularly from Harvey’s perspective. On the surface he appears to be the arrogant high-achiever, who has it all and doesn’t need anything, so for me it was interesting to see how meeting Mike melted him and  brought to light his softer side. Harvey saw a spark in Mike which prompted him to take the initiative to become Mike’s mentor and protector. I really admired how Harvey ended up defying what he loved and practiced (the law) in order to be able to help Mike.    

Seeing this has inspired me to look out for a mentor in my workplace. And I found him 500 kilometres away across the Channel Islands. I’m so grateful to Suits for inspiring me to look out for and nurture a mentoring relationship with a work colleague.

I think mentoring is such a beautiful relationship of sharing knowledge and gaining the trust of one another and I am so happy that Suits has inspired me to pursue it.

1.2 The power of working smart

Mike’s gift (his impressive visual memory) makes him a smart worker. It gives him an edge that no one else can compete it. Of course, this is fictional and probably no one in this world has the visual memory capacity portrayed in the show. However, it’s still inspired me to try and work smarter. I used to be such a perfectionist, spending countless of hours on things that maybe didn’t need that much attention and I used to shy away from bigger tasks for fear of not being able to complete them to perfection. Now, thanks to Mike's clever way of working, I look for shortcuts in my work and ways in which I can automate things to work smarter and get things done quicker.

1.3 The power of working hard

That lawyers are hard working people is common knowledge and Suits evokes this very well. All the main characters are often portrayed working through the night to find the keys to solve their cases. Rachel is the epitome of hard work. As the paralegal supporting most cases, she spends countless of hours researching and, fueled by her ambition to become a real lawyer, she also takes up law school and starts attending it alongside working at the firm part time. Seeing this has inspired me to push through the drudgery of my work (when work felt like this), imagining myself to be one of the characters in Suits, plotting away at the job I’ve committed to.  Whenever I found myself tired or bored at work, I would often find myself asking myself "What would Rachel do right now?" or "How would Mike overcome this situation?"Putting myself in this situation and mentality gave me strength, energy and power to carry on.

1.4 The power of knowing people

What fascinates me about Suits is the idea of maximising the use of your social circle in situations when you need help. Mike reaches out to Frank Gallo when he needs help to solve a case, even though the latter made his life miserable while he was in prison and even threatened to kill him several times. Or, he turns to Anna, the lawyer who put him in prison, when he needs someone to handle a social case that he cares deeply about but is not in a position to take on. Similarly, when he needs help, Harvey turns to Scoty, the girlfriend who made him choose between her and his job, neglecting the fact that she asked him to forget about her when their relationship ended badly. Also, even Donna, Harvey’s PA, thinks of using a very remote connection, the banker who leased a working space at the firm, when she needs financial help to launch her business.

What I wanted to express though all these examples, is that it really struck me how the characters are portrayed as going the extra mile and pushing boundaries to the point of turning to their enemies and adversaries in order to make things happen and get what they want.  This has definitely been a big lesson, in inspiring me to engage with people, pull them into my journey and ask them for help and support to get things done. 

1.5 The power of reading people

More than knowing people, through the character of Donna, Suits evokes the social acuity of being able to understand people’s behaviours and motivations, to predict how they will act. This is a great skill to have because it enables one to engage with people at a deeper level. Acknowledging this has made me more mindful of the way in which I interact with people. One can only wish they had Donna’s know-it-all talent.

2. House of Cards

House of Cards is not an example of life lessons to follow and there aren’t many things that I’ve taken away as examples. However, there is one thing that has stuck with me: Claire’s attitude and demeanour. I love how calm and composed she is. Even in tough situations, she maintains her elegantly balanced way of approaching or responding to pressures.

True to the status of a First Lady, her appearance is often immaculate, studied and perfected to the last detail, which evokes beautifully her perfectionist style.

I love how Claire speaks slowly, her choice of words is thought through and calculated, which highlights that she is able to exercise a great deal of control in the way she thinks and acts. 

This perfectly calculated attitude and controlled personality enables her to influence people to the point of being able to change the course of history. She works quietly behind the scenes to get Frank Underwood elected to become the president of the US, so she can then manipulate things through him and manage his power. The negotiations she leads on her with the president of Russia are a great example of her ability to learn from working behind the scenes and employing that knowledge to full power to make things happen.

3. Gilmore Girls

I love Gilmore Girls for it portrays, in my view, the ideal mother-daughter relationship. I love how Lorelai has managed to find many ways in which to connect with her daughter, Rory, and often draws upon popular media and culture to diminish the gravity of difficult situations.

I find that once you get older, the gap between yourself and those 10 years younger than you widens, because it takes so much more mental effort to maintain yourself receptive to the new – the mind has a comfortable tendency to settle into what’s familiar, as that requires less effort.

To me, Lorelai is the ultimate embodiment of a mum role model.  She is able to elevate the mother-daughter relationship to the point where her daughter becomes her equal – she never judges or reprimands Rory for doing something irresponsible (like dropping out of Yale, or having an affair with an engaged man) and is simply there for her.

I think that Lorelai becomes a great mentor for Rory through this clever way of acting puts her daughter, someone in a developmental stage in their life, in a position of self-awareness, openness towards her mother and at ease with talking about the most troubling thoughts and intimate issues. In my view, all mums should be able to do this.

4. Friends

There was a time in my teenage life when Friends was my daily dosage of happiness. On some days, I used to literally run from school to get home as soon as possible, as I could not wait to watch another episode. At weekends and during holidays I used to indulge in a Friends marathon. Without being aware, I learnt so much from growing up with Friends. I learnt about the importance of living in a humorous way and turning to humour especially during tough times. I also learnt about the power of friendship and forming a close-knit community of friends around you.

My favourite character from Friends is Monica, as I recognised similar traits in my personality and in hers. From the very beginning I perceived her as a role model for having had the motivation to achieve dramatic weight loss and turning her passion for eating into a passion for cooking.  Recognising that I’ve been on a similar journey as Monica has made me appreciate the evolution of her character even more. Also, both myself and Monica have turned our sloppy lifestyle into one governed by order and control (and compulsive cleaning, which I’ve subsequently overcome). Furthermore, Monica and Chandler are the only characters from Friends that have managed to maintain a strong relationship throughout the years and this is something that I have also been blessed with, which gives me another reason to identify myself with her character.

I hope hat through this article has inspired you to take the opportunity to internalise more the content you consume, reflect upon the messages conveyed in the films or TV series you watch and apply some of the lessons that you capture as valuable, as, liken my case, they will give your life a greater dimension and meaning. If, in the stories you watch or read about, you identify some characters that you truly admire and start living through their lens, you will be surprised how much more interesting your life becomes. Become the actor in your own play and have a gloriously good time doing so.

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