You are the combination of the 5 people you look up to – Mike Yanek
It is human nature to seek out leaders and achievers who wear the heavy crown of success upon their heads: as a source of inspiration, as a role model, and as a beacon of light, when our own lives appear mired in darkness.
But ever so often some of these legends turn out to have clay feet, a cinch in the armour, or an inherent weakness that’s their ultimate failing – a single source of weakness that brings their world crashing down in the most spectacular fashion. Such instances, damaging and ruinous as they are for the person concerned, are often quite impactful and devastating for their followers as well; laypeople who followed the celebrity blindly, hung on to each word, followed his every act, and emulated him in all respects.
We come across such shocking revelations from time to time – superstars, political figures, brand ambassadors, who have been stripped of their accolades due to some reproachable act or debilitating addiction – a stark reminder that despite the brightest of halos or the most dazzling of crowns, we are all human beings…slaves to our own shortcomings and follies.
Take the case of the elite cyclist Lance Armstrong – regarded as a sports icon for his seven consecutive Tour de France wins from 1995 to 2005, the most in the event’s history. The race is one of the most prestigious sports event in the world and also one of the most gruelling. Whilst I’m not particularly a fan of the sport, I remember being uplifted by Lance’ bestseller ‘It’s Not About the Bike’…as did millions worldwide.
The book described in great detail the inspiring journey of world-class hero Lance Armstrong, from the dark night of advanced cancer through his dramatic victory in the 1999 Tour de France, and beyond. Like millions around the world, the story had quite a positive influence to me; and I was impressed when I read about the rigorous nature of the game and Lance’s superhuman efforts to overcome his battle with cancer and his stellar achievements post the intensive chemotherapy treatment, which made him look like a superhuman. This certainly was one incredible story of grit, determination, sportsmanship, and of unparalleled success written by one of the legends of the sporting fraternity.
And then, one fine day, out of nowhere came the news that Lance had lied to us all and was caught in a doping scandal – an event which would eventually shake the very foundation of the sport. The news ended his career, damaged the reputation of the game, and caused many fans to turn away from him and the sport.
Yet, amid several such falling stars, a few shining examples do exist: of persons of utmost integrity and unfailing virtues who serve as a beacon of hope for all.
However, even in the case of all the fallen stars and the toppled icons, there are some vital life lessons that we can (and we must) learn. Some of my own learnings have been:
- Whether we are role models to one person or to a million, the ability (and power) to influence people should never be misused or taken lightly;
- We should never take our success for granted, nor let it get to our head…ever.
- We are all fallible: we all have certain weaknesses and vices, and if left unchecked, these have the potential to destroy – not just our lives but the lives of those around us as well. We must be mindful of this and work on these shortcomings every day, lest we are overcome by our desire.
- Being great at something does not mean we are perfect at everything.
- If you do happen to have a role model who turned out to be a failure, admire the act and not the person.
- Look with kindness, don’t be quick to condemn, absorb all of the good the icon has done and move on.
- Has any of your role models had a fall from grace? How did you feel about it? What are the positive lessons you can take from it?
- Are you a role model for someone – your children, your employees, your community perhaps? Are you mindful of the influence your actions can have on the lives of people around you?
Choose your role model wisely, and then too be wary of placing them on a high pedestal lest their brilliance turns out to be only skin deep – Jason Rebello