(image courtesy Warner Bros)
We all have heroes. Role models. Or simply inspirational people who we learn from and look up to. But what happens when your heroes disappoint you so profoundly that it rocks you to your very core?
That happened to me recently. For some years I gained inspiration from the teaching, lifestyle and philosophy of a certain individual. We’ll call him Mike.
Mike is an entrepreneur, author, high achiever and considered by many to be a role model. I’ve admired him for years. We’ve met on several occasions and in those brief interactions he’s been courteous, warm and friendly.
Even as his star continued to rise on an international scale, we would exchange occasional emails and refer to each other as friends. I was not only inspired by his success, I was proud of the way he approached life with integrity.
He was what we Aussies would simply call “a top bloke”.
Until he wasn’t.
Some years after first getting to know him, I witnessed behaviour that made me question everything I thought was admirable about him. I won’t go into details here but, frankly, it traumatised me.
At first, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. After all, everyone can have a bad day. And when we’re under stress, we can all behave in ways that we regret. However, as his actions continued, they got worse, they were personal and there was no remorse.
This guy had been such a role model to me that this experience was like finding out the Dalai Lama is actually a heroin dealer who is cruel to cute animals in his spare time. (Okay, maybe not quite but you get the idea).
Before I go on, I’ll say from the outset that I’m not going to name this person. And if you’re thinking of emailing me about this, don’t bother. I’m not going to answer!
That’s because there are legions of people out there who still consider him to be a hero or role model. And while I’ve witnessed a side of him I wish I hadn’t, his carefully crafted public persona has actually helped people. I can’t argue with that.
Since it happened, I haven’t spoken about it to anyone. It was stressful, disappointing and caused me more than a few sleepless nights.
But you know what? Your heroes can fail you – in big ways and small.
So be careful of the pedestal on which you place them.
The higher it is, the harder they fall. But that’s not actually their fault. It’s yours.
Just like it was mine when I let this man’s behaviour affect me so much. Yes, he disappointed me. Yes, he showed a lack of integrity. But, more importantly, when you place someone on a pedestal, you automatically place yourself at a level far lower than you deserve.
You’re more worthwhile than that.
Your heroes are human. They make mistakes, sometimes they make big ones. Sometimes they learn from them; sometimes they continue being a**holes.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big believer in learning from others. Be inspired by what they do. Admire their success.
But live your own life.
And be your own hero.