When I was 18 I moved into my car and had to figure out how to buy dinner when I had no money, the safest places to park so I could sleep without strangers watching me, and what to do with my time between getting off of work and parking for the night.

When I was 22 I needed to figure out how to finish my bachelor’s degree—and how to become a dad after I got married and adopted my wife’s 4 year old. Then, on multiple occasions, I almost lost the things I had tried to build by being an all around idiot – and had to figure out how to avoid going from almost losing them to actually losing them.

I tried to figure all of these things out while not really having role models. Not that they weren’t available—role models can be found all around you, if you look, and are humble enough to acknowledge that you don’t have it all figured out.

Which I wasn’t.

I think I thought that my life was so unique that no one could possibly understand what it was like to be me.

I was wrong.

Role Models & Mentors

Mentor is a term that gets used a lot. If you actively seek to mentor someone, or actively seek to be mentored, it’s admirable (and it is). There are mentoring networks and mentoring organizations across the entire socioeconomic spectrum, from the very poor to highly successful CEOs.

But having or being a role model is something we don’t really talk about. I don’t know if it’s because we associate it with being a kid, and idolizing athletes and rock stars. I don’t know if it’s because the words “role model” bring to mind a less equal relationship than mentoring.


Whatever the reason, it should change. Your mentors might be your role models, but even if they are not, your life will be better if you find people who you would like to emulate, and try and find out how they got there. Admitting that there are other people who’ve figured out how to get where you want to go, and being willing to look up to them is not a sign of weakness.

It’s a sign that you’ve realized your own limitations, and realizing your limitations is the first step to eliminating them.

Not Just One Role Model

I also use to think having a role model meant finding someone who had it all figured out. They had to have the whole package. They needed to have the type of career I wanted, the family dynamic I envisioned—more or less wholly embody everything I wanted to be.

And then you grow up, and realize that no one ever has it all figured out, and that you need to look up to more than one person.

My father-in-law, for example, has very different beliefs than I do, and is a very different person than me. However, his marriage to my mother-in-law has outlasted all of the other marriages I’ve ever known of—combined.

I don’t have to agree with him on everything to admire what’s he accomplished.

The most impactful boss I’ve ever had is also a very different person than me. But he has the best business instincts I’ve ever seen, and taught me lessons on psychology and selling that were far more advanced and insightful than anything I ever learned on those subjects in school.


Your role models aren’t going to be the “whole package”, because the whole package just doesn’t exist. No one makes it through life without some battle wounds. Look for role models for yourself, and aspire to be a role model for someone else.

Neither one of you has to be rich, famous, or have it all figured to find what you’re looking for.

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