The Unlikely Role Models
“Who is your role model, Ma?”, asked my 10 year old son. He had been asked to write an essay on his role model for school and was having a hard time picking one.
“Oh! That’s easy, Its Indira Nooyi!”, I declared without a second thought and a smug smile on my face. Even though I had never actively thought about who my role model would be, in all these years of my professional life, I was very pleased with my spur of the moment choice. She had grown up in the same city as I had and had gone on to achieving great heights in the corporate world. And not to mention that I had been super impressed and inspired by a recent interview of hers that I had the privilege of attending in person. And so it was decided that henceforth, Indira would be my role model.
Or should it be Sheryl Sandberg? She handles operations and I handle operations and I loved the book -Lean In. I have similar ideas on how women should support each other in their careers. Did it not make sense then that I chose her as my role model instead?
Or how about Michelle Obama? Hers is the impressive story of a woman from humble background going on to becoming the first African American First Lady of the United States and her journey as essayed in her biography was truly inspiring. And plus she had such amazingly toned arms, definitely worth aspiring for.
Should it not be someone from the same country as I? Should it only be a woman, why not a man?
Not wanting to settle this debate in my mind hastily, prematurely, i turned to my son and said — “Actually, I am not sure, I have to think about it. Who is your role model?”, I asked. “I am also finding it very difficult to choose one”, he replied, “I cannot decide between Captain America and Iron Man”, he said. I smiled.
The next day I had an interview scheduled with a fresh college student for an intern position at our office. As I was about to wrap up the interview, I asked her — “What is your one quality that you are really proud of?”. “Punctuality!”, she replied immediately. “I make sure that I plan ahead to be on time for every appointment. So far, I have not been late ever and I intend to keep that up”, she said proudly. Tardiness has always been an internal demon I have been trying to battle, and looking at this young girl define herself through the principles of punctuality, one powerful thought came into my mind. If she can, why can’t I? At that instance, this young girl became my role model for punctuality in my life. Since that interview, I have made a sincere attempt at being punctual for every single appointment of mine.
This episode got me thinking. Role models should be those who inspire and motivate you into action, show you that you have so much more in you than even you care to believe. So why settle on only one role model? We ought to choose different role models for different facets of our life. Typically, as we are climbing our career ladders, we look up to see those in front of us and try to model ourselves based on someone that we admire. Once in a while, it also behooves us to look behind to see if there are worthy role models from those junior to us. These unlikely role models are far more powerful as they will propel you into immediate action. The simple thought — “ If they can, why can’t I”, has such potent power.
And as for my son, he settled his debate with a simple logic. He went with Ironman because, in his words, “Ironman has way cooler gadgets than does the Captain”.