A prominent thought leader and influential conservative writer, Charles Krauthammer, recently passed away. When the news of his death hit the Internet, everyday citizens and major influencers took the chance to comment on how he influenced their career paths and personal beliefs. This led me to consider how essential it is to have people we look up to.
When we are children, we are often asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
As young adults, perhaps we should be asked, “Whom do you want to be when you grow up?”
It is important to find people we admire—not just those we like, relate to or are entertained by, but people we want to be. At times, this concept is lost on the millennial generation, and too quickly we create our idols out of the person who wins the popularity contest through the most followers or “likes” or the best-looking view out the window of their vacation room.
This is the culture in which we live, but it does not have to be the set of rules to which you adhere.
One day we will be the adults guiding the next generation. It starts with having heroes; it ends with potentially being someone’s hero.
A way to break out of this is to actively seek out ways to enrich your thinking and discovery. When you are asked, “Who are your heroes?” you should have an answer. This is not only because it is an important step in growing up and defining what it is you believe. These heroes come in the form of influencers we may never meet, people who have passed away but whose words and actions remain, and even those in our everyday, personal lives. We should keep in mind the inevitable flaws of human beings, and never put anyone on an unbreakable pedestal. However, in order to grow and learn—whether in our personal or professional aspirations—it is vital and encouraging to watch those who have done it already.
The wonderful advantage to having mentors is being able to see the path they paved and decide how we want to follow or do it differently.
One day we will be the adults guiding the next generation. It starts with having heroes; it ends with potentially being someone’s hero. The next logical step after defining your heroes is manifesting the desire to be someone from whom the younger generation can learn, as well. If we do not have heroes of our own, then we will not care about being someone’s hero. We should not desire this to pump up our own egos, but rather to encourage and help the younger generation as we were once guided by those older than we.
Once we decide the next generation is important and a worthy cause of our attention, we realize our legacy and impact is not about us, but them. Just as many of our heroes have since passed on from this life, we too will follow one day. It matters what we leave behind. Thus it matters whom we admire while we have the chance to choose.
Like Charles Krauthammer, I hope people remember me to be someone who challenged them to think differently, loved those around me and never settled for the easiest route. I hope, too, I depart with a similar sentiment Krauthammer wrote in a final column in “The Washington Post,” “I leave this life with no regrets. It was a wonderful life—full and complete with the great loves and great endeavors that make it worth living. I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life that I intended.”
May we seek the life we intend to live and never cease to surround ourselves with those who inspire us to continue the search.