When I was a kid my idol was Mark Spitz. You see, I was a competitive swimmer. And in 1972, Mark Spitz won 7 gold medals in the Olympics. That was amazing! And afterwards, he was offered hundreds of thousands of dollars to shave his moustache (legend has it), and he refused! I even had a poster of him, mustache and all, with his gold medals in my garage. Sounds kinda creepy now. But I was 8 years old, and I aspired to be just like him.
That was my hero at that time. As I grew older and my aspirations of becoming an Olympic swimmer diminished, I had other idols. Dustin Hoffman because of the roles he portrayed on the silver screen (I also wanted to be an actor). Stephen Speilberg because of the astoundingly successful movies he put out time after time. My Dad and my Mom were my idols. Even though they were divorced, both had a great work ethic that hopefully I absorbed. In my eyes, all of these folks had great CHARACTER. Character traits that I admired. Hard work. Talent. Ethics. Honed skills. All things that I aspired to. And to this day I hold on to those values. I hope my children see these in me.
Idols are different now. It seems like todays idols are manufactured. Reality TV has made it that way. Look at The Kardashians (any of them), The Jersey Shore Boys or Girls (any of them), The Housewives of you-pick-the-city. None of these folks ACCOMPLISHED anything through character and hard work. I guess you can make the argument that once they got famous, they used their fame to leverage business. But they became famous because of acting WITHOUT CHARACTER. Doing outrageous things that get people’s attention. Is that really a character trait that we want to see in our children.
Look at the most famous people in world right now: Justin Beiber & Lindsey Lohan. Are they famous because they accomplished great things? Well, Justin has many platinum albums and his movie really was great, but is now in trouble with the law over and over. Lindsey had unquestionable talent as a child actor, but used her fame in ways that shouldn’t be public.
Heck, even Michael Phelps (the greatest swimmer of all time) was caught smoking pot.
Now, I’m not suggesting that heroes of my day didn’t have any vices or discretions. Many did. But they weren’t in the news every day smacking our kids in the face!
If you do a bit more than scratch the surface, you can find GREAT IDOLS today. But you have to be diligent and aware. We may even have to point them out to our children. Here are a few of my favorites right now:
- Any of the Self Made Millionaires on Shark Tank (Yes, the sharks themselves) – Each worked very hard and put THEMSELVES in position to be successful.
- Tom Hanks – He’s become very famous through his talent AND kept his personal life personal.
- George St. Pierre – Former UFC Welterweight champion. Ate clean, trained hard, used his skills to dominate his division for over 7 years.
- Malala Yousafzai – Pakastani teen standing up against Al Queda and shot for backing girls’ education and human rights.
- Jay Leno – Retired after hosting the Tonight Show from 1992 – 2014 (with a brief hiatus in 2009). Known for his work ethic and clean material, throughout his stint on the tonight show, worked new material every Sunday night at the Comedy Magic Club in Hermosa Beach. Is now travelling performing at comedy clubs.
There are many many more. As you watch TV, as you surf the internet, as you listen to the radio on your drive to work, keep your eyes and ears open. Those amazing idols are out there. Those people with the character traits that we admire and want our children to emulate are around. We need to recognize them and point them out to our children so that they can grow up with Idols with Character.
Oh, and lastly. Remember, YOU are your child’s closest idol. A real living person that they look up to. One that can guide them with the character traits that you’d like to see. Be the best Idol you can be!
I welcome your comments.
Dedicated to adding character to the classroom (and outside the classroom)
John Abrams – www.AmazingSchoolAssemblies.com
Southern California’s Top Elementary School Assembly Performer