I grew up without any heroes. That’s a hard thing to admit.
In the 5th grade when every kid had to stand up in front of the room and talk about his or her role model, I just made one up that would sound good.
How is this possible? Even at that tender age, I basically thought everyone was full of shit. I cared deeply about all of the amazing inventions and legislature and revolutions in our world’s history, but didn’t think much of the people who made them happen — hell, I didn’t even idolize Steve Jobs.
The first time I realized that I had somehow acquired a mentor was during my sophomore year of college. It was the first time I can recall really looking up to someone and seeking their advice when it came to my academic and professional career. My first mentor was Jim Davidson, my journalism professor at Carnegie Mellon, who helped me hone my writing skills and encouraged me to pursue writing as a profession. My second mentor was Richard Scheines, the director of the undergraduate program in Human-Computer Interaction, who was key in fostering my passion for positive user experiences and played an integral role in getting me accepted to the program, and later the Master’s program.
While I am no longer in regular contact with these men, they have forever changed the course of my life and I owe them so much. In the past year and a half, I have gained two other invaluable mentors; I’ll wait to tell you about them at a later time.
It was only recently that I realized I might have finally found my hero, and he is Abraham Maslow, the founder of humanistic psychology and the concept of self-actualization.
Suffice it to say, I have been thinking a lot lately about what mentorship means and how it contrasts to the hero-admirer relationship; it’s something I’ve been wanting to explore here on the blog and the time has finally come.
I asked 50 people whom I greatly admire to tell me about their mentor or their hero — it was their choice whom to highlight. For the next several weeks, I’ll be posting their responses: every Tuesday will feature a mentor and every Thursday will feature a hero. It’s a little experiment that I’m doing in an attempt to illustrate our interconnectedness and the significance of role models in our careers and our personal journeys.
I hope you find it useful and interesting. I’ve already learned so much.
[This post is part of a series on Mentors and Heroes]