Using Your Role Models to Find out Your Priorities

I’ve always loved reading biographies. Maybe it’s because I like stories about people who accomplished big things against the odds. Perhaps it’s because when I’m down, reading about other people’s struggles helps put my own life in perspective. But most of all, I think I read biographies to find new role models.

Most people know that having role models is a good thing; after all, they provide tremendous motivation and inspiration. This is definitely true, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The real value of role models is prioritization: figuring out what matters most to you.

Why is this so important? It’s simple: we can’t win every battle. There’s no way to be the best at everything, and if we spread ourselves too thin, we risk accomplishing nothing at all. The solution is to find out the things that matter most, and focus your energies on being mind-numbingly awesome (best in the world) at those things.

When I was in high school, I had a million different dreams. I wanted to be a professional musician, a contestant on the TV show “Survivor,” a successful politician, a best-selling author, and a self-made billionaire (among other things). Of course I had absolutely no idea how much work (and luck) any of these things required. But I figured that with hard work and persistence, anything is possible.

“Anything is possible.” It’s a line straight out of a bad movie, and it definitely isn’t true. Sure, there are a few people that accomplish the impossible. But most of us will earn more by focusing on the few things where we can really make the most impact. I soon figured how that my role models included authors like Malcolm Gladwell and Tim Ferriss rather than Bill Clinton and Bill Gates.  This knowledge helped steer me in the right direction. I’ll probably never be a billionaire or a politician, but I now realize that those things aren’t as important to me as being a successful author.

So how should you identify a good role model? Here are a few characteristics that I’ve always looked for:

-   Confidence: A good role model knows who they are. They play to their strengths and aren’t afraid to admit to their faults. Those who pander to the needs of others, rather than being true to themselves, are rarely people you want to emulate.

-   Uniqueness: A role model should be unique – ideally, in a way that you strongly admire. This can be a personality trait (like kindness, charm, or skill) or an accomplishment (publishing a best-selling book or winning the Nobel Prize). Always look for people who’ve set themselves apart in a positive way.

-   Someone Who Embodies Your Ideal Life: How do you really want to live? What do you want to be known for? These are important questions in establishing your personal priorities in life.

-   Someone Who Isn’t Afraid to Fail: Few great things are accomplished without some level of failure. Good role models have experienced failure – possibly many times over  – and understand what it takes to rebound. You don’t have to limit your learning to your role model’s successes; take time to figure out what they did wrong and how you can do it better.

Do you have role models? Have they helped you figure out your priorities?

One Response to “Using Your Role Models to Find out Your Priorities”

  1. Linda G says:

    speaking of role models… one of the most inspiring things I follow on the web is a site called  (fear.less)  … each month there is a new newsletter with a group of stories written by well known people on how they overcame fear in their life.  They are beautifully written and affecting.  Each one is a gem of a short essay that can change lives.  Powerful.  Check it out if you ever want an inspirational break, or to experience the inner rumblings of other human beings striving to overcome the odds — and succeeding.
    I love your blog!  Linda

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