Role models – In context

In the past few months I have come across a great deal of material on some of my role models that caused me to look at them in a different light. However, one thing I realised at the end of it all is that while these people might have disappointed me, I could not deny the fact that they had also inspired me a great deal. At some stage I had been uplifted, I had been taken to a different level, My situation had improved because of them but now the same people had in some cases failed to apply their own guidelines, principles and values.

By role models I mean people that we aspire to be like. As a chess player I was greatly inspired by certain great players . So when I played the game of chess, I tried to be like my role models. I asked myself,  ” What would he do in this situation and position. How would he play? How would he proceed?

While there were thousands of people to choose from I chose just a few players. These individuals  appealed to me for specific reasons. They were highly energetic, dynamic and persistent players. They pressed for a win in most of their games. I thought I could identify with this.  This approach made sense to me. However,  the same players I chose did not appeal to other aspiring chess players.

If you are going to choose a role model in your life you need to look at the following:

What specific area of your life do you require a role model?
Why would you rather have a role model instead of having general principles?
Do you know the risks and limitations of role models?
Outgrowing our role models?

Set the context
What specific area of your life do you require a role model? I have often heard people say, “I want to be like so and so”. Really? Do you really want to be like them? Are you really sure. I think what we really mean when we say this is that with regards to the matter at hand, we would like to be like someone else.

Your role model needs to be for something specific. There has to be a context. What we are saying that you would to emulate someone with regards to subject X. At the end of the day you only know much about your role model with regards to subject X. Outside that area  you may not know enough or even lack confidence in your role model. You choose to have one role model for everything at your own peril.

Remember it’s within the context
Sadly we sometimes lose focus regarding our role models. We chose these people for specific purpose and goal but in time we have made them general purpose. We have to realise that our role models, while excelling in certain areas may fall far short in  others.  I am yet to come across an individual who excels in every aspect, in other words, someone who is perfect.

Role model vs Principles and values
Some people choose not to have role models at all to guard against disappointment. Values and principles can stand the test of time while role models may not. However, one thing about role models is that you have an example of someone who has achieved something that you still aspire to do.  While they stand on their values are the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Do not obsess
The role model should serve to guide how things can be done. When we start delving into the nitty gritties of our role models outside the context that we have chosen them, we need to prepare for disappointment. We need not know every single detail about their life, perhaps only details that could immediately be relevant to the context.  It’s inevitable that curiosity about role models will extend to other areas, outside the context. We follow our curiosity at our own risk.

Outside the context there is no reliability
Sadly we sometimes pick role models and we expect them to be perfect in their lives. No one is perfect and if you are looking for perfection in anyone you WILL be disappointed. Perfection is an ideal.

Role model with real struggles
Just like you, your model also has his own challenges. On the face of it they might appear to have everything going their way but this is not the case much of the time. While you may assume that he has done it all, he is working very hard to maintain the bar. There is no joy without hard work and determination.

The limitations of role models
As with most other things in life there are limitations to role models. Role models are after all people who are prone to error. The sad truth is that sometimes the excellence we see in individuals has come at great cost. Some have compromised their relationships and at times even their own principles.

Outgrowing our models?
We choose role models for certain situations and circumstances. I chose attacking chess players as my role models in chess because I liked attacking and it seemed to deliver quicker results than slower patient and positional play which I used to find boring and too time consuming. With time I developed patience and willingness to work on long term plans. I had to look for different role models. The old models could not serve the same purpose. The goals had changed and I needed to use different tools.

Remember you are the real deal
After all the inspiration you still have to deliver. You have to show how the inspiration has translated to benefits that can be demonstrated. You are take the model and then make it real. Models cannot the work. You do the work. You take the values and turn them from ideas, philosophy into real action that impacts on people’s lives.


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