The point is not to look like our heroes, but to see like them.
Throughout time, there has been a practice of apprenticeships that have only recently begun to disappear. Apprenticeships allowed young men and women to choose a craft and learn at the side of a master craftsman. It gave them a practical, highly-educational approach to learning a skill. While traditional education would require a student to wait until tests were handed back days, sometimes weeks later, apprenticeships provided students with immediate feedback and tangible consequences to their mistakes. This hands-on form of learning under a master provided them with a key element of success: knowing where you want to be. The man or woman training them embodied who they were to become through their training. A master.
Heroes fill the important role of a guiding light in our lives — a beacon showing us who we can become if we put in the effort. Back in Biblical times, young men who wanted to become Rabbis would spend years of their lives learning under a specific Rabbi. They were taught the laws, Scriptures and rituals by that Rabbi and from that Rabbi’s unique perspective and interpretation and then expected to adhere strictly to them. They weren’t suggestions — they were law. The problem is that there was no longer any original thought but rather clones of one way of thinking passed down from teacher to student. I love Austin Kleon’s commentary on such things in his book, “Steal Like an Artist."
One of my heroes is Jeremy Cowart — he’s an artist, educator, husband, dad, founder and philanthropist. So much of what he stands for, champions and pursues falls in line with what I want for my life. But while I respect who he is and am proud to look up to him as an example of someone who is changing the world for good, I don’t want to be him. I don’t want to pursue the things he’s pursuing. He’s already putting beautiful things into the world that don’t need duplicates. It’s up to me to be my own person. To pursue my own projects. To offer the world something uniquely me. But while I don’t want to be a clone of Jeremy, I do take some plays from his playbook. I pay attention to how he sees the world. How he reacts to it. And then I knead those philosophies and values that guide his life in with my own.
So… who are your heroes? And how do they see?