A small wood carving of two people in a red canoe
A small wood carving of two people in a red canoe
#inspiration, #rolemodels

Never Too Late for Inspiration: The Importance of Role Models in Adulthood

Paul Kiernan

Similarly, the role models who inspired us in our younger years might no longer fit our present circumstances.

When I wore younger men’s clothes (Thanks, Billy), my role models, if you could call them that, were Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, and Hunter S. Thompson. I loved these guys not just for their incredible writing but also for their lifestyle: just live, take drugs, roam the roads, and write. Their writing was like a call to me: chuck it all, find a safety pin, pack the bags, and go and write.

That spirit pulled me through grad school and some of my earlier gigs. The feeling of freedom, not giving a rat’s puckered ass, and being true to myself. What more does a man need?

It turns out that if you’re not creating a uniquely American voice that defines an entirely new genre of writing, you need a lot more. You need a job, money, a place to live, food to eat, and clothes to wear. All things that don’t come easily if you’re just “going with it, man.”

My days of going with it were fun, and I wouldn’t trade them for a fistful of coin, but now, going with it is something I pray happens in the bathroom on a regular basis.

As I get older and my perspectives change, I have been thinking about role models—mine and ones I should have held up—and whether it is ever too late to have them. The question has been in my head, so as is my wont, I am dumping it on you, unsuspecting readers. Today, I am looking at role models and whether we still need them, should we have them, and why as we age.

In we dive.

Changing Needs and Perspectives

Our aspirations, challenges, and perspectives naturally evolve as we journey through life. Our dreams and goals in our youth may no longer align with our current realities. Similarly, the role models who inspired us in our younger years might no longer fit our present circumstances. This evolution is a normal and healthy part of personal growth, underscoring the importance of seeking new role models who resonate with our current stage in life.

Shifting Aspirations

We often look up to individuals who embody the qualities and achievements we hope to attain in our youth. These role models might be celebrities, athletes, or successful professionals who represent the pinnacle of success in our eyes. As we grow older, our aspirations can shift dramatically. For instance, someone who once dreamed of a high-powered corporate career might later prioritize work-life balance, personal fulfillment, or making a social impact. Seeking new role models who reflect these evolving aspirations can provide fresh inspiration and direction.

New Challenges

With age comes a new set of challenges. Young adults might struggle with establishing their careers, building relationships, or gaining independence. In contrast, older adults might face challenges related to career advancement, financial planning for retirement, health, and maintaining meaningful relationships. Role models who have successfully navigated these later-life challenges can offer invaluable guidance and support. They can provide practical advice, share their experiences, and help us overcome obstacles unique to our current phase of life.

Evolving Perspectives

Our perspectives on life, success, and happiness can change significantly over time. What we once valued highly might lose its importance while new values and priorities emerge. For example, someone who once equated success with financial wealth might later find greater fulfillment in family, community service, or creative pursuits. Aligning with role models who share and exemplify these evolved perspectives can help reinforce our new values and encourage us to stay true to what truly matters to us.

Fresh Inspiration and Guidance

Finding role models who align with our current aspirations, challenges, and perspectives can reinvigorate our sense of purpose and direction. These role models can introduce us to new ideas, inspire us to set new goals and provide a blueprint for achieving them. They remind us that growth and change are continuous processes and that it’s never too late to strive for improvement and fulfillment.

Professional Growth

In the ever-evolving landscape of our careers, having role models can be a cornerstone of professional development and success. These individuals exemplify the skills, ethics, and achievements we aspire to attain, and they can play a crucial role in driving our career advancement. Here’s how:

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Skill Development

Role models who excel in their fields often possess a high level of expertise and skill. Observing and learning from these individuals can help us identify the critical competencies needed to succeed in our careers. Role models provide a practical example of proficiency, whether it's mastering a technical skill, honing leadership abilities, or developing effective communication techniques. By emulating their approaches and seeking their advice, we can accelerate our skill development and become more proficient in our roles.

Ethical Guidance

Ethical behavior is paramount in the professional realm. Role models who demonstrate integrity, fairness, and ethical decision-making can significantly influence our professional conduct. They show us that success is not just about achieving goals but also about maintaining a strong moral compass. By following their example, we learn to navigate ethical dilemmas with confidence and uphold the highest standards of professionalism. This enhances our reputation and builds trust with colleagues, clients, and stakeholders.

Strategic Decision-Making

Navigating complex career paths often involves making strategic decisions that can impact our long-term success. Role models who have successfully maneuvered through similar challenges can offer valuable insights into decision-making processes. They can share their experiences, highlight potential pitfalls, and provide guidance on weighing different options. By learning from their successes and mistakes, we can make more informed decisions that align with our career objectives and aspirations.

Achieving Long-Term Goals

Role models who have achieved significant career milestones serve as living proof that long-term goals are attainable. They inspire us to set ambitious targets and persevere despite obstacles. Through their stories of perseverance, resilience, and strategic planning, they provide a roadmap for achieving our long-term goals. Whether it's climbing the corporate ladder, starting a successful business, or making a meaningful impact in our field, role models show us that with dedication and hard work, our aspirations can become reality.

Networking and Opportunities

Role models often have extensive professional networks to leverage to open doors for us. By building relationships with these individuals, we gain access to valuable networking opportunities, industry insights, and potential mentors. This expanded network can introduce us to new career opportunities, collaborations, and resources we might not have encountered otherwise. Role models can also provide endorsements and recommendations that enhance our credibility and visibility within our industry.

Balancing Work and Life

Achieving professional success while maintaining a healthy work-life balance is a common challenge. Role models who have excelled in their careers while also prioritizing personal well-being can offer practical strategies for achieving this balance. They can share tips on time management, setting boundaries, and prioritizing self-care. Learning from their experiences helps us develop a holistic approach to professional growth encompassing career advancement and personal fulfillment.

Lifelong Learning

Lifelong learning is fundamental to personal and professional growth, and role models play a pivotal role in exemplifying this principle. Their dedication to continuous improvement and ability to adapt to change can inspire us to cultivate a mindset of perpetual learning and resilience.

Continuous Improvement

Role models who prioritize lifelong learning and continuous self-improvement serve as powerful examples of what it means to be committed to growth. Their relentless pursuit of knowledge and skill development showcases the importance of curiosity and openness to new experiences.

  1. Staying Curious: Observing role models constantly seeking new knowledge and experiences can ignite our curiosity. Whether they are learning a new language, acquiring a new skill, or exploring a different field, their enthusiasm for learning reminds us that there is always something new to discover. This mindset encourages us to ask questions, seek new information, and stay engaged with the world.
  2. Embracing New Challenges: Role models who thrive on challenges demonstrate the value of stepping out of our comfort zones. Watching them tackle complex projects, pursue advanced degrees, or take on leadership roles teaches us that growth often comes from embracing the unfamiliar. Their willingness to face challenges head-on inspires us to take risks and pursue opportunities that push our boundaries.
  3. Never Stop Learning: The most impactful role models show that learning doesn’t stop after formal education. Their commitment to continuous improvement, whether through attending workshops, reading extensively, or engaging in lifelong learning programs, highlights the importance of ongoing education. This dedication can motivate us to seek out opportunities for learning at every stage of our lives, ensuring that we remain intellectually and professionally vibrant.
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Adapting to Change

The ability to adapt to change is crucial in a constantly evolving world. Older role models who have successfully navigated significant technological changes, industry standards, or life circumstances provide invaluable lessons on resilience and adaptability.

  1. Resilience in the Face of Change: Role models who have weathered industry shifts, economic downturns, or personal challenges demonstrate remarkable resilience. Their ability to adapt and thrive despite adversity teaches us that change, while often challenging, can lead to growth and new opportunities. Their stories of perseverance remind us that setbacks are a natural part of life and that resilience is critical to overcoming them.
  2. Adapting to Technological Advances: Technology evolves rapidly, and keeping up with these changes is essential for personal and professional success. Role models who have embraced new technologies and integrated them into their work or personal lives show us that staying relevant in a digital age is possible. They inspire us to learn about and adopt new tools and platforms, ensuring we remain competitive and effective.
  3. Navigating Industry Changes: Many industries undergo significant transformations over time. Role models who have successfully adapted to changes in industry standards, market demands, or regulatory environments provide a blueprint for navigating these shifts. Their experiences teach us the importance of staying informed about industry trends, being flexible in our career paths, and continuously updating our skills to meet new demands.
  4. Personal Adaptability: Life circumstances, such as health issues, family dynamics, or major life events, can require significant adaptation. Role models who have managed these changes with grace and resilience show us that it’s possible to find strength and maintain a positive outlook even in the face of personal challenges. Their ability to adapt to changing circumstances encourages us to develop our adaptability and resilience.

Personal Development

Role models play a crucial role in our personal development, offering moral and ethical guidance and emotional support. Their influence can help shape our values, behaviors, and resilience, leading to a more fulfilling and balanced life.

Moral and Ethical Guidance

At any age, we can benefit from the moral and ethical compass provided by role models. Their actions and decisions are potent examples of navigating complex moral landscapes with integrity and empathy.

  1. Upholding Values: Role models who consistently uphold strong values inspire us to do the same. Whether it’s honesty, kindness, fairness, or respect, observing these traits in others reinforces their importance in our lives. These role models demonstrate that living by a set of core values is possible and rewarding, guiding us to make principled decisions even when faced with difficult choices.
  2. Integrity in Action: Integrity is a cornerstone of ethical behavior, and role models who exemplify this quality show us the importance of being true to our word and maintaining consistency between our beliefs and actions. They teach us that integrity involves honesty, accountability, and a commitment to doing what is right, even when it is challenging. Following their lead can build trust and respect in our personal and professional relationships.
  3. Empathy and Compassion: Role models who display empathy and compassion remind us of the importance of understanding and caring for others. Their ability to listen, offer support, and act with kindness encourages us to develop our empathetic abilities. This focus on empathy can enhance our interpersonal relationships, making us more considerate and supportive friends, family members, and colleagues.
  4. Navigating Ethical Dilemmas: In our personal and professional lives, we often encounter ethical dilemmas that require careful consideration and judgment. Role models who have faced similar challenges provide us with a framework for making ethical decisions. Their experiences and insights help us weigh the consequences of our actions and choose paths that align with our moral principles.
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Emotional Support

Seeing how others handle life's ups and downs can offer emotional support. Role models who have navigated similar life stages or challenges provide comfort and practical advice, helping us manage our own struggles.

  1. Coping with Adversity: Life is filled with challenges, and role models who have overcome adversity can offer valuable lessons in resilience and perseverance. Their stories of triumph over hardship show us that it’s possible to endure and emerge stronger from difficult experiences. This can provide us with hope and encouragement when we face our own struggles, reminding us that we are not alone.
  2. Practical Advice: Role models often share practical advice based on their experiences, offering insights to help us navigate similar situations. Whether it’s dealing with career setbacks, personal losses, or health issues, their guidance can provide actionable steps and coping strategies. This practical advice can be instrumental in helping us manage stress, make informed decisions, and find solutions to our problems.
  3. Comfort and Reassurance: Knowing others have faced and overcome similar challenges can be incredibly comforting. Role models who openly share their vulnerabilities and how they coped with difficult times provide reassurance that struggling is a normal part of the human experience. Their openness fosters a sense of connection and understanding, alleviating feelings of isolation and anxiety.
  4. Emotional Resilience: Role models who exhibit emotional resilience demonstrate the importance of maintaining a positive outlook and finding strength in adversity. Their ability to bounce back from setbacks and continue moving forward inspires us to cultivate our emotional resilience. This resilience helps us maintain mental and emotional well-being, enabling us to handle stress and recover from life's inevitable challenges.

Professionally: Innovators and Leaders

A seasoned professional who continues to innovate and lead in their field is an excellent role model for career growth and success. These individuals demonstrate that it is possible to remain relevant and influential, regardless of age.

  1. Continuous Innovation: A professional who consistently introduces new ideas and methods exemplifies the importance of staying ahead of the curve. Their willingness to embrace change and take calculated risks can inspire us to think creatively and seek innovative solutions in our careers.
  2. Leadership Qualities: Leaders who inspire and motivate their teams, even after many years in their field, show us the value of effective leadership. Their ability to adapt their leadership style to changing circumstances and to mentor others highlights the significance of continuous personal development and the impact of positive influence.
  3. Dedication to Excellence: Professionals who strive for excellence in everything they do set a high standard for us to follow. Their commitment to quality, attention to detail, and pursuit of mastery in their craft encourage us to develop our skills and aim for the highest levels of achievement.

Summing Up

Having role models at any stage of life can enrich our experiences, guide our decisions, and inspire us to be the best versions of ourselves. Whether they are leading professionals, active and engaged individuals, or ethical paragons, their examples provide us with valuable lessons and motivation. By looking up to these role models, we can continuously learn, grow, and strive to achieve our personal and professional goals.