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Heroes and mentors

Mentors provide bespoke guidance. They take a personal interest in you. It’s customized, rare and expensive.

Heroes live their lives in public, broadcasting their model to anyone who cares to look.

The internet has created a long tail of heroes. There are tens of thousands of musicians, artists, entrepreneurs, social leaders, politicians (okay, maybe not thousands of these), coders and colleagues to find and emulate. WWHD. What would my hero do?

I find heroes everywhere I look. I find people who speak to me over my shoulder, virtual muses, who encourage me to solve a problem or deal with a situation the way they would. This is thrilling news, because there are so many heroes, so freely available, whenever we need them.

For all the people out there using the fact that Jeff Bezos (or Jacqueline Novogratz or Husain Abdullah or Chris Anderson or Anne Jackson) won’t be their mentor as an excuse for inaction, there are a dozen who realize that their example is enough.

Like a custom made suit, a mentor is a fine thing to have if you can find or afford it. But for the rest of us, heroes will have to do.

Posted by Seth Godin on October 15, 2010 | Permalink


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I find the issue of mentors, heroes and role models quite emblematic of our times. At a time when we are all hidden behind our computers, living “anonymous” lives and are faced with rising incivility in cities (a consequence of the stress of daily life, the difficult economic times and rising populations), how are we to make positive social strides? I believe that being able to identify a role model makes for a great personal journey. It starts with identifying someone that you actually know and can observe and, ideally, with whom you can interact. The journey then allows you : (a) to admit you can improve; (b) to identify what part of someone else inspires you; (c) to attempt to implement. It is not about copying everything about that person because that would mean being entirely self-effacing. It is just about identifying one or a set of traits that inspire you. And, then, it is about taking small steps forward! My discussions about role models with friends over here in France has brought up loads of questions… What do you think? Is it harder to find a role model the older you get? Is it a good idea to find one?

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