Those awesome people

Recently, I found myself in a situation where I had to write about my role models. When I could not furnish an answer instantly, I was taken aback by my lack of an immediate response. Surely everyone has role models, right? Of course, I must have some too. But who are they?

I had to think hard about this. Of course, there are many people whom I admire but I don’t think I treat them as role models. These people have qualities I’d like to imbibe but those are the qualities I imagine they must have because I don’t know any of them personally. To me role models are more the people whom I am surrounded by. They are people who have touched lives I know and whom I’ve observed make a direct impact.

With that definition, when I think about role models, I realise that I don’t have one. I have many. None of them is the perfect one, but all of them have certain characteristics that I would like to see in myself. The important bit, though, is that I can watch and learn from these role models. If I had to, then I could divide myself into many parts and give credit to the many role models who have inspired me to develop that part in me.

On the same note, Shweta writes about her awesome people. She says that when she was an undergrad student she found these people who made her say, “I want to be like him!” But now she is a grad student at Georgia Tech, where she went with an expectation to find hundreds of such people. Instead, she hasn’t found one.

I can relate to her experience. During my time at ICT, I had my list of awesome people too. And yes, I did say “I want to be like him!” when I saw them. But after coming to Oxford, I’ve not had that moment. Of course, it’s not because the calibre of the people is not higher or anything. There are many super-achievers here.

Shweta asks

[Not being able to find people who blew me away] Would that be because I have raised the bar of the people getting into my awesome club? Or did I not meet the right people yet? Or have I (actually) matured over idealising? 🙂

Of course, I can’t answer the question for her but I think, in my case, it has been so because by the time I came to Oxford, I had a better idea about who I wanted to be than when I started at ICT. So rather than naively wanting to be like someone, I looked at what made someone awesome and tried to imbibe those qualities.

How important is it to have heroes?

In a recent post Seth Godin compared the efforts needed to learn a new thing with the joy one gets from doing it.

Graph 1: Over time, as we discover new things and get better at it, our satisfaction increases. At some point, there’s a bump when we get quite good at it, and then, in most activities, it fades because we get bored. (Ignore the last peak, that’s the joy of being an expert)

Graph 2: Over time, the trouble to do something decreases

Graph 3: The two graphs overlaid. That zone on the left, the red zone, is the gap between the initial hassle and the initial joy. My contention is that the only reason we ever get through that gap is that someone on the other side (the little green dot) is rooting us on, or telling us stories of how great it is on the other side.

It’s a good thought and probably very true. And assuming that is the truth what strikes to me as the most important lesson from the post is this: The bigger your red zone, the louder your green dot needs to be.

Let me repeat that.

The bigger your red zone, the louder your green dot needs to be.

That right there is why we need to have heroes. Those green dots are our heroes, they help us get through the red zone. If our heroes are people we know then we hopefully they will realise that they have to ‘get louder’. If not, then we can use our own voice to make the green dot louder by using the self-manipulation toolbox.

But what happens when we don’t have heroes for a particular situation? As we go ahead in life, we specialise. We use the inspiration that we have gained from our heroes to achieve new things. In the process, we go through unique experiences and we become unique individuals. Individuals with our own very unique problems. It can get very hard to share those problems, let alone find a hero who has been through the same problems and emerged successful. What then? What if we don’t have a ‘green dot’?