For looking to mentors for inspiration, try not to fall into the trap of hero worship. Many people will put their mentors on a pedestal, such as the hollywood actors. You’ve got to remember that these people are still people, not gods or goddesses. They still have their flaws. Many of the times, these folks have more flaws than the average person, but they have super skills in one or two areas. You’d be surprised to find out that they have tons of flaws. It’s like “man,how are they even functioning in life?”
I’ve met several celebrities who have had “hero worship” applied to them. I just talked to them like normal people and we had a normal conversation that was meaningful because it was authentic. For example, when I met Billy Zane (known for his role in Titanic and the voice of Ansem in Kingdom Hearts), it was at an art exhibit where he was the artist. I asked him a question about the art he created, which was something along the lines of “what’s the meaning behind your artwork?” He looked at me and looked at the artwork and said “oh, I just felt like making it that way. I create the art because I like making it.” (NOTE: I’m paraphrasing our conversation). He didn’t give me some sort of BS answer, rather it was the truth.
I have many friends who fell into the trap of hero worship with icons such as Lance Armstrong. And look at how that turned out. I had admired him as well, and it was a huge disappointment when it turned out that he was cheating. If you start to fall into this trap, pull back to look at the bigger picture and ask yourself to find something about them that you don’t agree with. Maybe it’s a belief of theirs. For example, if the person in question is a writer and made a book that you can’t stand (this happened to me recently with an author that I admire), then acknowledge the flaw. That process is usually very humbling and it’s healthy to practice.
Here’s a short list of some people I look to that I don’t know personally (who are still living):
- Richard Sherman – Corner back for the Seahawks
- Pete Carroll – Coach of the Seahawks
- Ryan Holiday – writer and media strategist
- Eckhart Tolle – spiritual teacher
- Marianne Williamson – spiritual teacher
- Oprah Winfrey – does she need an explanation?
- Tim Ferriss – master experimenter
- Bernie Taurig – hunter jumper champion, creator of EquestrianCoach.com
- Seth Godin – writer
- Neil Gaiman – writer
Make a list of those you admire and follow them on social media. That way you can cherry pick the topics they create content on that interests you and furthers your goals in life. Remember that life is short and your actions should lead you closer to creating your goals, not drive away from them.
As human centered designers, it’s important that we understand people. Our mentors can lead us to be inspired to innovate, if we are able to apply what we are learning from them in a constructive way.
Who are your mentors? Why do you follow them? What have you learned? Share in the comments below!