The reason to have role models

May 18, 2016

“Tell me who your heroes are
and I’ll tell you who you’ll turn out to be.”

– Warren Buffett

I didn’t have any heroes til college.
One night, I was watching tv late night instead of doing homework, probably a rerun of Three’s Company, and saw an infomercial by Tony Robbins.

After seeing the ad a few more times, I drove to the campus Barnes & Noble and bought one of my first self-help books ever, Awaken the Giant Within. That moment led me to a life-long path of self improvement.

The main idea I took from Tony is that success can be modeled. Success can be studied. Success leaves clues, like Jim Rohn says.

Now I have a bunch of heroes.
I try to emulate their good habits as best as I can, and try to reduce my bad habits. It’s not easy but I’m doing my best.

On that point, I hear some interesting questions from people.

I’ve been on a health kick for a few years now and someone in my family asked: “Well, Steve Jobs was super healthy and ate a lot of vegetables, how come he died at an early age?”

Interesting question.
I never thought I’d have to defend eating more veggies, but ok.

Someone else told me: “You’ll never be Warren Buffett no matter how many books you read. So give that up and lead a regular life.”

Equally interesting.

No one said these things maliciously, but their comments made me think. I never had a good answer to these types of questions. Until now.

We don’t have role models so that we can become them.
It would be equally as silly to say “If flossing your teeth is so healthy, how come [that person] got cavities?” “No matter how much you meditate, you’ll never be Paramahansa Yogananda. So give that up.”

There are universally good habits and universally bad habits. Great role models have figured that out and live accordingly.

We (hopefully) choose good heroes so that they serve as a guidepost on how to behave in life. We don’t do it so that we become their clones. We do it to become better versions of ourselves.

No one wise is ever going to tell us to eat less vegetables. Or to not floss our teeth. Or to not calm the mind. Or to tip less. Or to cut people off in traffic. Or to be rude. But if we don’t have heroes, it will be hard to know which habits to cultivate and which to eradicate.

Ben Franklin famously had a list of virtues he tried to emulate. And bad habits to reduce. He kept a daily checklist to track his progress.

Buddha taught his followers virtues to follow. His four noble truths and the eight-fold path to achieve nirvana.

Jesus had his sermon on the mount.

And Marcus Aurelius kept a journal to remind himself all the great Stoic lessons when life became tough.

We can learn from the masters.

No matter who our hero, there are only a few good habits to cultivate, and many bad habits to eliminate.

Shouldn’t we be trying out best to improve?