I’m going through some findings NextStage has on role models. More accurately they are called exemplars because they can be role models for good or for ill.
Exemplars for good: U2 lead singer Bono for his work with groups such as Project Red, Jimmy Carter for his work with Habitat for Humanity, George Clooney for Not On Our Watch and let’s not forget the man everybody loved to hate, Bill Gates and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
I remember someone vehemently telling me that Bill Gates was the anti-christ of the electronic age because of Microsoft. I replied that the Gates Foundation was spending multiplee-multiplee millions of dollars on education, research and the prevention of diseases all over the world so if (if!) he wasn’t nice in the past he sure was making up for it now.
Jimmy Carter, by the way, is one of my personal heroes. All the people mentioned above are. I hope to someday be able to do what they do for the world. They are my role models, my exemplars for the good.
I also have negative role models, exemplars for ill. There’s an ex-governor of NH I consider an exemplar for ill and not for political reasons but because of something I heard, “People should be allowed to drive whatever they can afford to drive,” a statement made in defense of this then-governor’s 10mpg Hummer.
Technically, the statement is obviously true.
Marketing-wise, it and several other statements were marketing coffin-nails. Statements, actions, things this then-governor did and the people he did them with (up to and including this ex-governor’s actions in defeat); all were massive demonstrations of someone who didn’t know who their real audience was, someone who truly thought “it will ship and it will be a success” was the way of the world and not just some myopic corner of it, someone who believed their own hype more than their own truth.
Exemplars for ill, negative role models, are easy to pick out. Michael Douglas’ fictional Gordon Gekko of Wall Street is now considered a negative role model and probably due mostly to our current economic situation. Do remember that back in the day that character wasn’t considered so bad. People cheered and applauded “Greed is good” and it went into public consciousness as a statement for the good (of the individual) not the ill (of society).
President George W. Bush is currently an exemplar for ill, at least judging by how both Republicans and Democrats are distancing themselves from him and his policies. Yet he was voted into office by an absolute majority in 2004. Not a big margin but definitely an absolute majority. Was he a negative role model then?
Who are the Role Models Now?
I write about this because I don’t see a lot of role models in industry these days. For that matter, I don’t see lots of them in sports, politics, religion, … pick your field. It’s hard to be a positive role model. I imagine it takes some effort to be a negative role model, too.
Whether good or ill, being a role model means (I think) recognizing something beyond yourself and striving for it. The “striving” part is the effort. So is the “recognizing”.
One of my favorite quotes is “What a fantastic combination of stars there must have been in the fifth century before Christ! So many great spirits, all born at the same time: Sophocles, Pericles, Plato and Aristotle in Greece; Zoroaster in Persia; Buddha in India; Lao Tse and Confucius in China. All, more or less, in the space of a hundred years. Today many, many more people are born, but not a single one who can measure up to those. Why? Is the reason in the stars?” (Tiziano Terzani in A Fortune-Teller Told me).
Any role models out there? Any exemplars? Hellooo?
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