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Models and Mentors

Success leaves clues. No one is self-made.

It’s been said that we cannot choose our parents, but we can choose whose children we'd like to be. We can learn and extract principles from people we respect and admire.

Warren Buffett said the best thing you can do is choose the right heroes. A hero can help to propel you forward in your life. A hero is someone who represents what you would like to do or who you would like to be. A hero can help you discover the vastness of human possibility.

We need heroes and role models to help us normalize success and failure on the journey to living an impactful life. They are especially important in communities where positive role models might be scarce. Fortunately, those role models and heroes don’t have to be people with whom you can speak. They can be authors of books you read or even great people portrayed in movies.

We can emulate particular virtues or qualities that a person possesses, even though each life is unique, and our directions and actions should reflect that uniqueness. The problems start when we lose sight of who we are and try to become exactly like someone else, instead of using them as a model.

I believe that children are like sponges. The first drop goes the deepest. I was fortunate enough to be raised in an environment that gave me access to cinema and literature that would forever shape the course of my life by giving me role models and heroes. I also was introduced to people who would give me the courage to follow my unique calling and help me find a structure for organizing my life. But I was influenced in both good ways and bad ways by what I saw. It’s vital that young people begin to find people who are living overall positive lives to model themselves after.

The first three influential books I ever read were Gifted Hands by Ben Carson; Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki; and Race Matters by Cornel West. The first three movies that I remember having a significant effect on me were The Lion King, Amistad, and Malcolm X. These books and films set the trajectory for my personal development, community engagement, and historical analysis of my life that I follow until this day.

There’s a story about an eagle that was raised by a chicken. The eagle could soar high, but he chose to stay low to the ground, because all he could see were the chickens. The moment he saw another eagle fly in the sky, he realized that he was made for more than walking with the chickens, and from that day forth, he soared with the eagles.

Those movies and books help me to see how I should soar like the eagles instead of run with the chickens. There’s power in learning about the journeys of others, because it can help you craft your own destiny.

In Chapter 12, you’ll see a discussion about organizing your intentions on the different dimensions of life. Over time, you will need a combination of role models and mentors as sources of information, inspiration, and hope. These folks can help to influence productive thought in several different areas. Here are some of the people whose books I read and interviews I listen to for more insight:

1) Finances: Dave Ramsey, Suze Orman, Robert Kiyosaki

2) Social Change: Geoffrey Canada, Michelle Alexander, Steve Perry, Bryan Stevenson, Baz Dreisinger

3) Family and Relationships: Brene Brown, Henry Cloud, John Townsend

4) Motivation and Career: Eric Thomas, Les Brown, Jim Rohn, Zig Ziglar, Dan Miller

5) Wise and Brave Historical Figures: Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks

Many of the people we respect and revere would not have made it without the influence of a coach, advisor, or mentor along the way:

· Martin Luther King, Jr. had Mahatma Gandhi.

· Muhammad Ali had Angelo Dundee.

· Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan had Coach Phil Jackson.

· Steve Jobs had Edwin Land.

· Mike Tyson has Cus D’Amato.

We must learn from not just one person, but several, because they are so many different and important lessons in this complex world. Begin today by looking for positive people who are doing what you would like and living in a way that you admire and would like to emulate.

Who do you have in your life that can help you along the way when you get stuck? Take some time to list them.

Make a list today of the people you look to in different areas of your life:

1) Finances

2) Family and Relationships

3) Motivation and Career

4) Historical Figures

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