Who Are Your Heroes?

The hero is one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for [people] to see by.” ~ Felix Adler

I’m reading Marshall Goldsmith’s latest book, The Earned Life: Lose Regret, Choose Fulfillment (Amazon Kindle link). I’ll provide a more in-depth review of the book in a later post; what I want to address today is Goldsmith’s discussion on heroes.

Goldsmith states that we all need heroes — they receive our admiration and provide us with inspiration. He also notes that we tend to place our heroes on “pedestals too high to reach.” We rarely consider them as role models to emulate. 

I began to think about who my heroes were — the role models I wanted to emulate.

It was actually difficult to list my heroes. 

I wondered if this struggle had to do with age. When I was younger it was easy to identify heroes: Robert Kennedy, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, Arthur Ashe, John Glenn; and even younger: Roy Rogers, Mickey Mantle, Frank and Joe Hardy, Davy Crockett. (Hmm, interestingly all males.)

These were pedestal-level heroes; and some were fictional characters — not even real people.

At 70, I’m finding it more difficult to readily identify heroes. Have I become more cynical? Have my standards changed? Why is it so difficult to identify heroes? What is a hero anyway?

The people who readily come to mind as possible heroes are mentors from a previous career that centered on public service in Colorado. Others are authors I’ve read whose innovative thoughts and ideas have influenced my current work. And there is my wife, Camille.

A Working Definition of a Hero 

I struggled to get comfortable with mentors as heroes. And, listing influential writers took some getting used to as well. Not so much, Camille.

What emerged was a working definition of a hero. To me, a hero is someone who has had a positive impact on how I live my life

My heroes have caused me to think deeply about why and how I do things in my personal and professional lives. They have caused me to shift my thinking and my behavior. They are less “pedestal-level” and more “emulatable.” 

Hero Identification Exercise

Goldsmith provides an exercise to think about heroes in terms of role models as opposed to god-like people on those pedestals whom we worship from afar. 

  1. Write down the name of your heroes.
  2. Write down one-word descriptors of the values and virtues that endear them to you.
  3. Cross out their names.
  4. Write your name in their place.

The idea, of course, is to get us ordinary folks to think — and act — like heroes.

My Heroes

Here’s my list of heroes and the values and virtues associated with them:

  • Bob Turner: Mentor and supporter of bright young talent in public service.
  • John Parr: Public policy entrepreneur and innovator; never satisfied with the status quo.
  • Randy Harrison: Strategic thinker par excellence; not afraid to pursue innovation.
  • Chris Brogan: Marketing innovator, emphasizing the value of authentic content.
  • Brene Brown: Vulnerability expert and educator.
  • Dan Pink: Author who reframes business ideas in innovative ways.
  • Camille Woodard: Personal growth and health and wellness seeker.

Who Are Your Heroes?

So, who is on your list? 


What’s been their influence on you? 

Email me and let me know. I want to hear what you’ve got to say. I can be reached at scott@scottwoodardcoaching.com.

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Image copyright: Elnur