Choosing Your Role Models

By Scott Westerman
“Chance makes our parents, but choice makes our role models.”

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When I was growing up, television depicted life as a series of mini dramas that all resolved happily in 30 minutes or less. Adults were infallible sages. We turned to them for wisdom and they always had the right answers.

As I grew, I began to understand that this was not real life. I came to know children with abusive parents, addicted parents, absent parents. My teacher’s weren’t always the greatest, but the ones who were helped me discover and define my own strengths. No matter how upstanding our authority figures are, they  can often be just as confused and unsure as we are.

Since there’s no such thing as a perfect role model, building the image of the person we hope to become is like putting a puzzle together. Here are my to Top 10 attributes to consider.

Character – Strive to be someone who’s behaviors would be acceptable to your mother, your significant other, your pastor, your boss and the local investigative journalist.

Accessibility – The best mentors make time for their men-tees. The best people make time for the important people in their lives.

Open Minded – Breakthrough ideas are often the result of looking at old ideas through a different prism. Keep a wide field of view and seek out people who challenge paradigms and have an infectious inquisitiveness.

Comfortable In Your Own Skin – We have to accept ourselves as we are before we can give ourselves to others. Judy Garland spent a lifetime struggling with this. “Always be a first-rate version of yourself,” she said, “instead of a second-rate version of somebody else”. Avoid people with more drama in their lives than you have in yours.

Honest – Beyond the character discussion, above, a mentor should be willing to give you the feedback you need to be successful, even if it’s painful. As Goethe said, “Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being.”

Influential – At some point in our lives, we’ll get a break because someone we knew spoke to someone else on our behalf. Great role models have benefited from this and will want to pass it on.

Positive Attitude – Facing painful current realities without losing faith that you will ultimately prevail. Looking at life’s challenges as opportunities to learn, grow and exhibit courage.

Similar Goals – Effective role models are more likely to share your orbit, both of you being on a parallel track toward your passion. But don’t be afraid to reach out to people who’s interests my diverge from yours. Sometimes that’s how we discover our life’s work.

Cares About You – Beyond just being accessible, good mentors are genuinely in your corner. They exhibit all of the traits in this list with authenticity and truly care about helping you be happy and successful. Align yourself with these kind of people and, when it’s your turn to be a role model, you’ll do the same thing.,

Chemistry – Some people who others describe as great mentors just don’t seem to click with you. Others seem to magically make an instant connection. Seek chemistry. You’ll know this when you feel it.

We become who we associate with, so spend the majority of your time with people who give you energy. People you’re proud of. People who are willing to help you grow.

We don’t get to choose our parents, but we do get to choose our role models and friends. In some cases this will involve ending unproductive relationships, removing yourself from the unacceptable.

Striving to define and emulate exceptional people is well worth the effort.