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Stop Looking at Role Models to Do the Dirty Work for You

This is a guest post by Hulbert Lee, @hulbertlee.

Role models are great to give us inspiration or motivation. You may have some role models of your own right now. I know I have some of my own, and it still amazes me to this day the certain work ethics of famous people.

It leaves me in awe to wonder how famous comedians like Jay Leno can work through a day with only 4 to 5 hours of sleep a night, or how famous bloggers like Steve Pavlina can wake up at up 5:00 AM every day full of energy, or how famous wine-collectors like Gary Vaynerchuk can work 18 hours straight talking to people about wine. Doesn’t that get boring?

I used to think, “Wow, if I could be like them, my life would be great.” Then I hit a wall. Nothing significant happened to me for about a year, and I realized why. It felt great to have that role model spirit next to me at all times, but it was also weakening me at the same time. Ironic, huh? Not really… I know it sounds kind of counter-intuitive, so let me try me explain.

When you look up to someone all your life, someone that’s always there who gives you hope, courage, motivation, inspiration, excitement, desire, or what have you, what happens one day when they don’t have that same impact on you anymore? Who do you really become? Who are you? Are you nobody? Do you feel empty? I know I did… I wondered who the heck I was. I wasn’t a star. I wasn’t a celebrity. I wasn’t someone famous. I was just another person, among the billions of others out there.

I think too often, we gain confidence from people we will probably never meet in our lives called role models. Role models come in many different forms. Some sell you their ideas for $47 per month; others charge you $100 per hour session. Some can be found from audio tapes to self-help books or from videos to articles. This is all great. I’m not saying you can’t learn anything mind-blowing from them, but when you indulge yourself in the idea that you need a role model to improve your life, that’s when something’s wrong.

A while ago in his Kung Fu Panda article, Dragos mentioned role models as being catalysts, nothing more. I wholeheartedly agree. Role models are here to get us that extra nudge, but they are definitely not here to do our dirty work for us, nor do they define us. Ultimately, all of that comes down to us and nobody else. But that’s good news. I think all of us are capable of becoming whoever we want to be, but it comes down to whether or not you believe in yourself. Here is a strategy outline to become the greatest role model that you can be.

A. Raise Your Standards

Tony Robbins has always told people that to have lasting change we must raise our standards. He says that everybody goes through life with a “should list” – “I should take out the trash.” “I should get a job.” “I should interact with more people.” “I should start getting work done today.” We all know what happens to our shoulds; they end up getting pushed back further and further away from us until they are completely forgotten.

But what if we start changing our shoulds into musts? These are two completely different things. I should eat this vegetables right now is a lot different than I must eat this vegetable right now! Try saying it aloud to yourself and you’ll see a big difference. One is 50% chance I’ll do it. The other is 100% I’ll do it. To raise our standards, we have to start turning things that we should do into things that we must do.

B. Have a Belief System

All role models have a set of beliefs that make up who they are. Human beliefs have been one of the most powerful tools over the last two centuries. Even when something can’t be seen or when others strongly disagree with you, our beliefs are still as true and real to us as this article you are reading right now.

I’m sure you have seen people who have crazy beliefs do crazy things. But to them, it’s real. It’s as simple as that, and if you were to get inside their head, it might be real for you too. Write down a short list of what you would like to believe even if you aren’t it yet. It could be, “I am a hard working millionaire” or “I influence the world in creative ways.” Here are a few of mine:

1. I write articles that people want to read and share them with as many people as I can.

2. I work harder than anybody else expects me to.

3. I live in the present moment.

4. I realize that the more internal pain I feel, the stronger I become (I have this one because I struggle with OCD).

5. I love my family.

Gary Vaynerchukís set of beliefs or rules that he followed were:

1. Love your family.

2. Work superhard.

3. Live your passion.

Write down a list of your beliefs and place them somewhere where you can see them every single day.

C. Envision What You Want to Achieve in Your Mind on a Constant Basis

In 1943, the world record for the mile was 4:02. This record stood for 11 years where almost everybody, including doctors, believed it was physically impossible for the human body to run a mile in less than 4 minutes. Then came a guy named Roger Bannister. He didn’t have someone to look up to in terms of running because no one had ever run a mile in less than 4 minutes prior to him. He tried and tried to do this, but his physical body couldn’t get him past that mark.

Because he couldn’t physically achieve this task, he had to start doing it mentally. He started to envision himself beating the mile in under 4 minutes over and over again in his mind. After numerous tries, he ran the mile again and this time broke it. He became the first person in history to run a mile in under 4 minutes. The following year, the 4-minute barrier was broken 26 times.

The point here is you don’t need to wait for somebody to prove to you that something impossible can be done. If you envision it enough times in your mind, that is the only proof you’ll need.

D. Prepare Yourself to Be a Role Model to Tens of Thousands of Other People

It’s good that you’ve raised your standards, that you’ve set your beliefs, and that see you envisioning your new self played out in your mind, but it’s time to put all this to the test, because every day is a test. In fact, Everyday is an opportunity – an opportunity to prove to yourself that you are an example of the beliefs that you’ve set out for yourself.

Imagine for a second right now that one day you will have to be a role model to tens of thousands of other people. Are you going to be a cover up story, or are you going to be a person who can back up your beliefs with examples from your life experience? When you have the mentality that one day, you’ll have to be a role model to people who look up to you, then naturally you’ll create a burning desire within you to become the best role model you can be to other people.

You have to always remember role models – even the greatest ones – all started as average people. The only difference between them and other people who complain all day about how they are not getting the results they want is that they were able to raise their own standards and follow through with their beliefs. No one else could have made this happen for them except themselves.

My final tip to this role model strategy outline is to be wise with time. Don’t waste it because you’ll never get it back. Use every day as a measuring stick to figure out where you are right now and how far you need to go. I hope that by following some of these things, you won’t have to rely on a role model to be your unique, awesome self.

About the author: Hulbert Lee is a aspiring writer who writes about personal development and success at his blog, FromBottomUp. Make sure you sign up for his RSS to receive updates or follow him on Twitter.


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This Post Has 24 Comments
    1. Hi Lana, thanks for the words! I think when we naturally do what we love and just change our beliefs a little bit towards being a role model to others, then our standards from ourselves will raise by themselves rather than us trying to force them to happen. I’m glad you liked reading this article and I’m off to read yours in a second.
      .-= Hulbert´s last blog ..Sylvester Stallone and Hits =-.

    1. Hey Anne, haha you didn’t get carried away… or at least it didn’t seem like that. I think you also hit the nail on the head with that phrase which I think is absolutely true. We shouldn’t wait for somebody else to prove to us that something impossible can be done, when we have all the power within us already to try and prove it ourselves.
      .-= Hulbert´s last blog ..Sylvester Stallone and Hits =-.

    1. Hi Mihai, that’s a great question. I think there is a big risk in doing that. If you have children, they should be your top priority to take care of. They are family, and they are part of your blood, while tends of thousands of people may be just strangers. I believe that if you were to be a good role model for your children, it can be just as effective as being a good role model for tens of thousands of people or vice versa.
      .-= Hulbert´s last blog ..Sylvester Stallone and Hits =-.

  1. Hulbert,
    marvelous post. Ken Robinson in his book Element touched the topic of having heroes too, he said that having a mentor is much better than to dream of your hero.
    We can get inspired, but to copy someone else’s journey is simply waste of time. We are unique and we are here to go our own authentic way. No one will be new Gary Vee or Michael Jordan. Seizing the days and creating our own art, pushing own limits and leaving footprints in the world is life worth living;-)

    Have a super cool day.
    cheers from Slovakia
    i.

    1. Thank you Ivana. I’ve never heard of the book Element but it sounds interesting and I might go check it out. I totally agree with you though that to try and completely copy someone else’s journey is a waste of time and also a waste of one’s own uniqueness. Everyone is unique, but in order to show it, we have to believe in ourselves and make everyday count!
      .-= Hulbert´s last blog ..Sylvester Stallone and Hits =-.

  2. Hulbert brings up an awesome point about role models not being able to do the “dirty work” for us. In the end, success really comes down to your own sheer will and dedication to what you are passionate about. There isn’t any celebrity, movie star, or musician who can instill that passion in you – it has to come from inside!

    I kind of disagree with Part C though – just because you envision something doesn’t mean that it is proof of its existence. Although certainly I believe our imagination is an important tool for exploring possibilities.

    And I definitely agree with Part D – if we see ourselves as role models to others – that is an empowering vision. It also gives us a stronger sense of responsibility to others (which in return makes us take better care of ourselves and be more mindful of our actions – because people are always looking up to us).

    I have to admit, I am a little bit disappointed Hulbert didn’t mention my article Discovering My Inner Rockstar: Building Character Through Archetypes (I know he read it, because he commented it). I think in this article I give a very intuitive analysis of how role models can be an important tool for guiding changes in one’s personality. Not by simply looking up to others, but by discerning what it is we really like about their character – and instilling that in our own sense of being.
    .-= Steven | The Emotion Machine´s last blog ..Separate The Face From The Idea =-.

    1. Hi Steven, sorry I should of have mentioned your post. Too many things were going in my mind as I was writing it and I forgot to include other posts in this post, except the one on Kung Fu Panda. My apologies.

      Great reply though! Success does come down to to having the will power and determination to carry through in life. Being passionate about what we’re enjoy doing, despite being different from other people, will usually give us that natural drive already though. Like you say, these things all have to come from inside.

      As for part C, yeah I think you’re right it doesn’t prove it’s actual existence, but I think it’s somewhat helpful to think of something over and over and over again that doesn’t exist, and try to make it exist in our head, so that it can at least seem potentially more possible in real life. There’s many perspectives on this though, and thank you for sharing yours.

      I also agree with you in part D that if we see ourselves more as a role model to others, then we will hold more responsibilities for ourselves. This makes us more aware of our actions and furthermore, turns bad habits into good ones. Nicely put!

      Finally, if anyone wants to read a great article, visit Steven’s post, Discovering My Inner Rockstar: Building Character Through Archetypes. There are some great tips in there on building character, influencing others, and exploring the possibilities of what you want to do in life!
      .-= Hulbert´s last blog ..Sylvester Stallone and Hits =-.

  3. Hulbert,

    A great post reminding us that we ‘must’ be careful when we rely or lean on our role models too much. They are great people to admire and mimic in terms of their success; however dependency can be dangerous.

    A bit like losing a loved one, who you’ve grow ever so close to.

    Regards

    Paul
    .-= Paul´s last blog ..Special People =-.

  4. Hi Paul, you just basically summed up one of the most important messages of the post which is that it’s okay to depend on others for little things like advice, but too much dependency can make us weaker. If we must become role model to others, then we will have to learn to be more independent ourselves. Thanks Paul.
    .-= Hulbert´s last blog ..Sylvester Stallone and Hits =-.

  5. Really enjoyed this article Hulbert.

    Even though I like a previous commenter think that just because we can imagine something it doesn’t make it real. I really like the thought behind the visualization technique – I have heard of it before, but this has made me more determined to try it in my own life.

    Anyway, thanks and good evening!!
    .-= Michelle´s last blog ..Mar 15, Time Management Books: A Collection of Books on Time Management With Reviews =-.

    1. No problem! Visualization is a very powerful technique. The more you can see something in your mind before it happens, the better the chances of making it happen in real life. Thank you Michelle.
      .-= Hulbert´s last blog ..Sylvester Stallone and Hits =-.

  6. Hello Hulbert,

    Writing this article you have nailed the important point remarkably. The people we look up to did their dirty work themselves. In order to be successful we cannot just sit in one chair and say my role model is ‘Mahatma Gandhi’ and hope to succeed by putting in no efforts.
    The role models worked infinite hours sticking to one plan which they believe will work for them or the society or the nation. Most important part “they never thought to quit”.
    There is no perfect moment to start. It is now or never.

    Bye for now,
    Cheryl Paris
    .-= Cheryl Paris´s last blog ..Saturday 9: Gimme Three Steps Girl =-.

    1. Hi Cheryl, that’s completely right. I like your example with Gandhi. People didn’t just say, “Hey I want to be like him or her” and suddenly they became him or her; they actually went out and experimented with life. I think when we go through enough experimentation, we realize one day that we would rather create our own destiny, rather than follow the shoes of someone else’s.
      .-= Hulbert´s last blog ..Sylvester Stallone and Hits =-.

  7. I really enjoyed this post Hulbert. This is something I have done in the past — thinking role models have something I don’t. Realising that my role models are human and that I have as much power as them has helped me to make my own contribution. Thanks for the reminder and great to see you guest posting in so many places .. way to go!

    1. Hi Jen, yeah exactly. However great role models may appear to us, we have to realize that they are human beings too just like us. If we try hard enough, we have the power to accomplish the same things or maybe even more. I’m glad you enjoyed this post and thanks for the comment. 🙂
      .-= Hulbert´s last blog ..Sylvester Stallone and Hits =-.

  8. Steve Pavlina is amazing. Since reading his site I’ve started a blog, got up at 5am daily, exercised, gone Raw Vegan and quit my job. Not bad for 3 months. No exagerrations here either. How does Jay Leno get 4-5hours a night though, that’s crazy?
    .-= Richard | RichardShelmerdine.com´s last blog ..Tabata Intervals : Day 30 (Post Mortem) =-.

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