The Best Role Models Are Dead

by James Hendrickson on October 6, 2019 · 0 comments

This afternoon I was just reflecting on an interesting conversation with one of the interns from my old research center at the U of Maryland. This young man was just finishing his Bachelors degree, but had begun to make good progress towards paying off his debts and was beginning to think about saving to buy a home.

Our conversation got me thinking about proper role models for attaining one’s goals.

The major problem with choosing one’s contemporaries as role models is that you never know how their advice is going to turn out. For example, I had a great political science teacher in high school. I loved the guy, his students loved him. He gave interesting and engaging lectures, but was later thrown out of school for dating one of his students.

Financial Guru’s like Suze Orman or Bob Kiyosaki have the same problem. They dispense a lot of advice (some of it good, some not so good), but ultimately you don’t know how their pontifications will turn out. It may be that Orman isn’t so helpful, despite her popularity, or that Kiyosaki gets nailed for fraud or tax evasion. The basic problem is that using your contemporaries as role models can yield a great deal of uncertainty.

In contrast, people who are dead have much less potential for surprises. For example, history has the benefit of decades of research on the leadership styles of Abraham Lincoln, or the wealth building prowess of Henry Ford or JP Morgan. Unlike Orman or Kiyosaki, Lincolns or Ford’s tactics for success carry far fewer surprises. You know they work. What this means is that everyday Joes like you and me get a much better picture of the effectiveness of the value of Ford or Lincoln as role models. Basically, if you know what has worked in the past, you have a better chance of confronting the future.

Simply put, the best role models are dead.

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