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Everyone needs a hero

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It is an irrefutable fact that those whom we admire, those whom our lives idolise, those whose life stories we crave to emulate and we are not ashamed to share their beliefs with our colleagues, speak volumes about us. Lance Kurke was right that the actions we take to substantiate our regard for those heroes also reveal a bundle about us. Kurke challenges us to contrast the heroes of someone who collects sports memorabilia with the heroes of someone who collects rare antique maps.

We walk blindly through the labyrinths of life if we are not certain of what we want to achieve as we end up having no heroes. The soccer stars of today used to idolise the Brazilian Ronaldo. Up-and-coming athletes in Ethiopia have Gebreselassie to look to. Take time to chat with successful entrepreneurs; their stories will centre around the success stories of business icons such as Bill Gates, Aliko Dangote, Warren Buffet and Thomson Mpinganjira among many others. Basketball stars will often read the autobiography of Michael Jordan and Magic Johnston. Literature enthusiasts have Wole Soyinka, Ngugi wa Thiongo and Chinua Achebe in mind. Military gurus will always refer you to Alexander the Great as those in leadership will often talk of Spartacus and Abraham Lincoln. Human rights activists marvel at Martin Luther King Jnr. Freedom fighters get courage from the life and achievements of Ne l son Mandela.

Everyone needs a hero. Heroes are a biggest inspiration in our lives. When the going gets tough, we get comforted with their courage and we ask ourselves, how could they deal with the situation we find ourselves in? Come to think about it, Alexander the Great’s hero was Homer. Alexander was hero to Caesar, Augustus, Napoleon and Frederick the Great.

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To a greater extent, the professions we are in are as a result of the heroes of our lives. Most accountants will idolise other accountants. Medical doctors are no exception with other doctors; the same is true with space scientists, musicians, sculptors, architects and any profession you come to think about.

It is evident, as Heidi Halvorson writes in Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals, that people who associate their father with high achievement (and who made a positive relationship with their father) work much harder and perform much better if they were, before the task given to them, unconsciously exposed to their father’s name. Halvorson goes on to say that college students who are asked to read a few one-page profiles about the effortful and gritty pursuit of goals by great achievers such as Nobel prize-winning scientist show greater commitment to learning and do better academically. Consider the response given by Howard Brody in the placebo. He explains that a large proportion of students who were shown a film of Mother Theresa at Harvard University in 1988 reported a strong increase in their desire to serve others.

To be successful in life, you have to walk the life of your heroes. Read their biographies, memorise their famous quotes and share their stories with those that admire them. In such a dimension, you will be giving yourself the courage and belief that you will make it. Those that crave public office and do idolise Lincoln will always be courageous to stand again and again for public office no matter how many times they lose. The story of Lincoln encourages them to move on.

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Hitendra Wadhwa was right that when you study the lives of great leaders – their actions, thoughts, choices, struggles, failures and triumphs – it unconsciously motivates you to be your best every day.

There is a wonderful lesson i n Alexander the Great: Leadership Lessons From a Man Who Created an Empire. The lesson is very straight: paying homage, affiliating yourself with esteemed predecessors, sincerely quoting others’ speeches, copying cherished attire, mannerisms or symbols – all these actions can potentially amplify your reputation, prominence and identity.

Wadhwa once again gives us the words of wisdom: “Are there times in life when your instincts are pulling you down, when you are struggling to fight your inner demons, when you lack motivation, hope or wisdom equal to what the occasion demands for you? What if we cultivated a strong inner kinship with our heroes so they can silently, even without our knowing, nudge us to choose the right path when we encounter such forks on the road? And if we were more consistent in making the right choices, what kind of leaders could we become?”

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