We All Need Role Models

When I was young I had posters of superheroes on my bedroom wall. As I grew older Spiderman and Batman were replaced with Shaquille O’Neil and John Starks. My approach to role models was always the same. I idolized those who seem to have supernatural powers because when I was young, I wanted to be super. We all did.

When I think about role models now my approach has completely shifted. There is some point in life when you realize that no one is super and while many people have strengths in certain fields, almost anyone can achieve almost anything with the right effort. I’m excluding some physical requirements for sports but even with the right requirements physically, most don’t achieve great success.

My current role models are people who have not only achieved greatness in their field but also have shown an ability to communicate that greatness to better the world around them. My current role models are not people whom I always agree with nor are they excellent examples of the best of humanity (they’re not risking their lives for freedom like our military nor are they handing out food to starving children in Africa). They are, however, using their skill set to make this world a better place.

This blog is not read by many so few will actually see this but I wanted to share with my readers a few people who continue to inspire me to always achieve more in life. Of course I have personal role models (family members, friends, etc) whom I admire more than anything and continue to inspire me as well. This list, however, is of people who are in the public eye who I’m sure not only inspire me but others as well. I encourage you all to look into them more.

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Neil deGrasse Tyson
Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space and a research associate in the department of astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History

I am not extremely interested in astrophysics. I don’t necessarily want to read Tyson’s books on space (even though I bet they are very interesting). What I love about Tyson is his excitement about science and his incredible way of making the pursuit of truth through science the greatest human endeavor. If you watch some of his interviews you will see he consistently and convincingly makes the case for human discovery. He makes the case for global collaboration in this pursuit. He makes me think about what we as humans can achieve if we pursued discovery instead of power. I want to live in a world where we all share Tyson’s passion.

Jason Calacanis
Internet entrepreneur and CEO of Mahalo and ThisWeekIn

Jason has helped me in my career more than he’ll ever know. He is a very successful entrepreneur who is very vocal about his opinions on the industry and entrepreneurial life. I am about to launch my own startup which will disrupt my industry and I have Jason to thank for being an inspiration on that front.

There are, however, lots of great entrepreneurs. There are plenty of people to learn from. What makes Jason different is his podcast “This Week in Startups” (TWIST). In this podcast Jason interviews entrepreneurs and industry experts on what it’s like to be an entrepreneur and the challenges they face. He reminds me of Howard Stern. He’s always blunt and always asks the questions that you want answered and not the softball nonsense questions that most interviewers ask. He doesn’t dumb things down for his audience and he doesn’t back away from a fight.

I don’t know what Jason is like personally and I disagree with many of his opinions and business decisions (but then again he is the millionaire and I’m the one launching my first startup so who cares about my opinion). I admire him for giving his knowledge back to the community that needs it. I’m a part of that community and I don’t think it gives enough credit to people like Jason who opens up their knowledge to the world week in and out. TWIST is part of my weekly listens on the way to work and I hope that one day I can thank him in person (possibly when he’s interviewing me on TWIST about my wildly successful business).

Jon Stewart
Host of The Daily Show

Almost everyone I know loves Jon Stewart. How could you not? He puts on one of the funniest shows on TV almost every day. The reason I consider him above other comics is that he’s used his position to facilitate actual change. A good example is his show on a bill to help 9/11 first responders not getting coverage on major networks. Stewart uses his show to make fun of politicians and the media. He also uses it to push rational thought through comedy. He fights for rationality and many times succeeds. That is something to admire.

Paul Krugman
Nobel Prize winning economist, Professor of Economics, and New York Times op-ed columnist

This choice is more about my opinion. Krugman just seems to make sense to me. I find economics fascinating and while I am nowhere near an expert, I learn more every time I read Krugman’s work. Krugman has been right about so many trends we’ve seen over the past decade in regards to the ups and down in the economy and I think he’s just brilliant. He seems to be one of the few economists willing to go out on a limb on many subjects and of the ones who do, he seems to be the only one that makes sense.

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When I look back at this list (there are more I could add but this is a good start) I think I see a trend. I admire people who push rationality. I admire people who push their opinion forward in the best way they know how. They do this to help the world get a tiny bit better every day. I want my kids to have that desire as well. Whatever field my kids pursue professionally, I want them to know that anyone can do great things as long as they use your skill set to better the world in their own way. I hope the people on this list don’t stop and if they ever read this they should know they are appreciated for what they continue to do.

2 Comments

  1. Neil Tyson is one of my idols. There is a fantastic Colbert / Tyson interview, but this is one of my all-time favorite clips: http://tinyurl.com/tysontides

    • I love that interview. I like Tyson however when he’s off the cuff. When it seems he’s not fully prepared with an answer. He made a big push for not cutting NASA’s budget which was inspiring. Didn’t work but inspiring nonetheless.

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