How do you choose a role model for yourself? There are endless self-help gurus. Television throws politicians, activists, movie stars, writers in our faces. There are books that you can find about any type of person. There are role models if you’re technical, creative instead, or only improving your household. This can be a good thing.
Having so many options can also be overwhelming too. How do you decide who’s the right person to focus on? Which habits of theirs do you want to emulate? Where’s the best bang for your buck? Removing bad habits? Increasing good ones?
I don’t think I have any answers to these questions. They can all be helpful depending on the situation. Instead, I’m going to continue to talk real things. Ways that work well, don’t work well, and maybe a little bit of both at the same time.
After finishing Walter Isaacson’s book, The Innovators, I’ve been on a role model kick. The book looks at how the computer and the internet got invented. Large scale innovation is not the work of one or two people. It’s built upon the foundations of a lot of other work. Maybe the big names aren’t the best role models?
In most cases, we remember the most outspoken, the faces of each of these big changes. These can be the CEOs, they can be the marketing people, maybe even the ones in commercials. But they are just the front end. There are many people who helped added smaller, but important contributions along the way to innovation. Without these people, the improvement and innovation would not have worked so well.
Role Model – Behind the Scenes
I’ve already ranted about Facebook. All we’re seeing when we go on Facebook is a filtered insight into someone’s life. The best parts, the best pictures, the best adventures. The Karate Kid would be proud.
We’re seeing the pictures of awesome their kid is, but the tantrums are missing. We’re focusing on graduation, not the failed tests or the rejection letters. A professor recently published a failure CV which has gotten more attention than his real one!
eBay isn’t so different. Once you sell something online, you realize that the part the customer sees is just the tip of the iceberg.
When I tell friends or family that I sell on eBay or that I paid for my doors using eBay money, they see all the benefits. They see the end result. All too often, we forget about the journey. I’ve shown my eBay process and work that go into getting one item to someone’s door. Researching, cleaning, photographing, measuring, storing, listing, inventory tracking, and shipping. These little steps that get an item online and finally at someone’s door. Being aware of the little things makes you appreciate the big things even more. And that’s why it might not be best to choose that forward facing person as your role model.
You hear all the stories about how Steve Jobs was a complete asshole. We see the results of Robin Williams failing to cope with severe depression. Celebrity icons do a lot of good things, but in the end, we need to choose a role model that works for us.
This is a fine line. If you only set goals within your own expected limits, you might sell yourself short. Instead, if you see that someone else has done something, then you start thinking, “why can’t I do that too?”
Communities like the ones at Scavenger Life prove this. Tracking your goals and sharing your knowledge helps others. Mustachians and their forum are another group that thrives through constant improvement. The mutual benefit of showing what you can do and seeing what others have already done is impressive.
I’d recommend choosing a stretch role model. If you want to build an online empire, you might want to start with someone who has a mildly popular website. Then as you grow, you even look towards a major CEO. But make sure to follow their whole progression to that point. There were a lot of little steps along the way, and you can use that as a guide to your path.
Who’s your role model? Just a flavor of the month or a long lasting one?
Image Credit: Jeremy Fennell