As someone who has devoted my life to education, I love reading and adore popular science and history books. Consequently, one of my favourite historical fables goes that, as a child, George Washington, the first President of the United States, accidentally cut down a rare species of cherry tree with a donated hatchet. When his father asked Washington who had dared to damage the cherry tree, the latter, despite fear of punishment, replied: “I cannot lie. It was me who cut down the cherry tree”.
Today, this story is a favourite legend among Americans, passed down from generation to generation. Through this story, Americans explain their straightforward and honest mentality since George Washington taught the nation by his own example what a responsible and decent citizen should be. Therefore, you could argue that George Washington became the first role model in history.
What is a role model, and how do you become one?
When I get asked to explain in simple language what a role model is, I say the following: it is a person one wants to follow, and whose model of behaviour one wants to adopt. Of course, role models are not always positive, and sometimes we adopt them involuntarily. For example, when influenced by someone powerful and authoritative. However, if you consciously choose a role model, do not doubt – the desired life changes will come soon!
Almost anyone can become a role model for those around them. Nevertheless, celebrities and well-known niche professionals are usually considered role models – for example, actors, musicians, wealthy business people and all those with an established audience. Their small army of followers is the one who sees them as role models in the first place.
As you may have noticed from the examples I have given, the visibility and popularity of a particular person play a significant role in making them a role model. It is impossible to become a full-fledged role model for someone if you are not known, at least in narrow circles. Also, for people to want to emulate you, i.e., learn and work from your role model, you must have the appropriate qualities, skills, and attitudes that are effective in practice and help you achieve your goals. In short, a role model is a formula implemented in your experience which other people can follow.
Why you need a role model
Let me be blunt. Not everyone needs one. It’s only for those who want to build a successful career, implement a specific life plan and achieve the same level of excellence and prosperity that those people you admire have achieved. If you are one of those people, following the role model will help you to:
- Visualise and concretise your goals
A role model is the literal embodiment of the outcome you dream of becoming. For instance, people who dream of learning fast, uninterrupted, and stress-free or who dream of quitting recruitment and launching their own start-up in EdTech, often choose me as their role model. After all, my example helps them understand what it means to want to “launch their own EdTech start-up” in practice. To do this, all they must do is look at how, with whom and where I work, what products I develop, what articles I write, etc. Consequently, people who follow my role model see specific opportunities, development prospects and criteria for success that allow them to build their own path to a similar dream.
- Stay motivated and self-confident
I frequently think back to the story of Roger Bannister, namely how he ran a mile in three minutes and fifty-nine seconds at a time when renowned champions ran it in at least 4 minutes. So, Bannister set a new world record and proved to others that what they thought was impossible was possible and doable. He has served as a role model for many athletes, helping them to rise to new challenges.
- Build a plan for success
Of course, a role model is not a manual after all. You won’t be able to replicate your idol’s path exactly, but you will have a rough scenario and plan of action that you can adapt to your needs, resources, and use.
- Form a learning trajectory
Pay attention to your role model’s skills – you need to level up the same ones! For example, you know that your role model has completed a digital design course to become the head of an international company; this is your dream job. Consequently, you should complete similar courses or the same ones.
Simply put, the role model will serve as your mentor and advocate. If you don’t know what to do next, you can always turn to them with this question: “Hmm, what would my idol do if they were here?” Thus, a role model will accelerate your career growth and help you reach your cherished goal, give you a sense of stability, and become an “anchor” during stormy days.
How to find and choose your role model
You can have several role models at once! It all depends on the number and specifics of your goals. For example, sometimes you need one role model for one plan, another for a second plan, and so on. But since you’ll have to study your chosen role model up and down, from their background to their skills, I suggest limiting yourself to two or a maximum of three to be effective. Otherwise, you’ll waste too much time and get confused.
Here are some personal tips from me on how to choose a role model that will fit and help you:
- Start by analysing your environment
As I said, the role model doesn’t necessarily have to be a global personality. It can also be someone explicitly known in your niche or your company (if it’s big enough). Pay attention not to the degree of fame, but to whether this person has the positive qualities you need and has achieved what you, too, would one day like to achieve. Someone who makes you reach up, grow, and learn will be a better role model for you! Even if you have lunch with that person on Thursdays or live next door.
- Explore the media and historical figures
Who are the media talking about now? Who were they talking about in the past? Was there someone in your school days whom you admired in history class? Or maybe you’re a fan of a particular director’s films, a specific artist’s paintings, or a famous author’s books? Analyse the whole art, production, and science field, not just your niche at this time. Start by researching biographies and go through them until you find a heartfelt resonance in any of the past or present heroes.
- Make sure that the role model you choose will influence you positively
Not all famous people are suitable as role models. Yes, Al Capone was undoubtedly a good strategist and entrepreneur, but you shouldn’t really follow his example. A role model should not only have the skills and achievements you aspire to but also inspire you, encourage you in difficult moments and help you become a better version of yourself. So give your potential role model an imaginary interview and a tough one at that!
The top three examples of role models
You don’t have to be original in your choice of role models! People often follow individuals who are household names and have already established themselves as “effective idols.” For example, I very often encounter role models such as…
Steve Jobs: “Let’s go invent tomorrow instead of worrying about what happened yesterday.”
Like other people say, what inspires me most about Steve Jobs is his ability not to give up. Forced to leave his own creation, Apple, he was able to not only return to the company but take it from crisis to a whole new level. Passion for his business, adaptability, determination, and good oratory skills are the very qualities that made Steve Jobs a role model for millions of followers.
Oprah Winfrey: “Follow your instincts. That’s where true wisdom manifests itself.”
This woman is known for her indomitable character and tragic past, which she had the willpower to end. As a result, Oprah revolutionised the talk show industry and, to this day, shows people by her own example that anyone can get rich and become famous.
Dalai Lama XIV: “Be willing to change your goals, but never change your values.”
The Dalai Lama is a great role model for those who lack mental harmony, self-confidence, and understanding of their needs. Moreover, as the highest spiritual leader in Tibet, he helps people find their way to success and themselves.
Finally, I would like to remind you that there is no such thing as a universal role model with such patterns of behaviour that will one hundred per cent lead you where you need to go. To make a role model effective, it is essential to adapt it to your realities and needs, sometimes adding something new to it and sometimes discarding something else. The role model is your beacon in the darkness, a ray of light you can follow, so you don’t accidentally crash on the rocks. But don’t strive to emulate it in everything because each of us is entirely unique, and you are no exception! Follow rather than be led, and the role model will help you.