When was the last time that you took a few minutes to consider who you look up to and why you look up to them?
Someone asked me this question the other day and just as I was about to throw out a few names and superficial reasons why just so I could move on and get back to the "real work", I took a moment to pause and genuinely consider the question.
Who do I look up to and why? If I'm honest, the last time I considered this question in earnest, I was a young adult trying to decide what to study in college. And frankly, at that age, a lot of people I admired were the same people everyone else admired. Could I really identify who I admired when I was still forming my own individuality as well as selecting what values would drive my life's work?
Our culture and corresponding cultural expectations continue to move at a breakneck speed that is not sustainable for anyone of the human race. Advances in technology that make our lives and work easier and more efficient are also a curse because there's a slippery slope when finding harmony between healthy productivity and restorative rest.
And before I go too far down that rabbit hole, I'll just say that this pace we're being held accountable to — and unknowingly holding others accountable to — is my excuse for not having considered this question in depth in so long.
Since this seems like the perfect opportunity to reclaim the sequence, timing, and pace of my life and work, I am sitting down right this very minute to reflect on who I look up to and why.
The Stranger on the Internet: There's a woman I'm friends with on Facebook that I've never met in real life. It seems odd that I would look up to her but I admire the raw vulnerability with which she writes about her life. From what I've gathered, she comes from a rough background and doesn't have many she can rely on. She isn't letting that stop her from finding her truth and taking every advantage of this precious life she's been given. She's not perfect and frequently shares things that don't resonate for me, but I admire that she's speaking her truth out loud and fighting to find her personal healing.
The Woman that Owned the Bank: In 2010, I was presented with an opportunity to purchase an existing profitable business. Trouble was, on paper, I didn't meet a traditional bank's lending requirements. Fortunately for me, I was good friends with a woman who owned a bank. When discussing this challenge with her, I wasn't angling for a personal loan just her expertise on how to creatively resolve the challenge. To my surprise, she extended me a personal business loan. I admire her because she required that I learn how to create an amortization schedule that calculated and illustrated the interest rate we'd agree to. In addition, she required I put 20% of my own money into the transaction and held me accountable to timely payments. I'm happy to report I never missed a payment and paid in full as per our agreement. I admire that she ran a prudent business transaction between friends and taught me how to navigate it with integrity.
The International Community Leader: In 2017 when I moved back to the US after 12 years living abroad, I felt like the odd man out when trying to network in my new business community. Few professionals had experience outside their chosen business community and it seemed they didn't know how to relate to my international experience except for one. I was introduced to a man that had a similar background living and working abroad as I did. Finally! Someone who "got it" and knew from experience what reverse culture shock looked like. I admire him for having the courage to live and create a body of work that isn't mainstream and for continuing to pave his own way and create the types of opportunities that align with his bigger vision.
As I edit the words I've written, a commercial interrupts my Spotify listening experience. The spokeswoman says, "Not everyone has what it takes to be different. Lead the way and let the world catch up."
Although the ad was for an Infinity, some would argue the message is serendipity, some would argue it's even more divinely inspired than that. Regardless, I think we can all agree that the timing of the message is impeccable and adds an extra dimension to what I'm trying to communicate, which is exactly that: not everyone has what it takes to be different and as is illustrated in the stories I've shared above, different is admirable
I encourage you to take a minute or two to consider who you look up to and why? What kind of impact have they made in your life or business? How can you become someone others can look up to?