February 17, 2012 at 2:25 pm #153450
This week I wrote some inflammatory posts:
Aside from a chronicle of my reaction to Steve’s biography and examples of lessons to be learned from him for project managers, it became a theme about how to think about our heroes.
In reality, no person or organization is totally lousy or totally great. But in the celebrity-worship culture and massive brands of today, sometimes we start to get binary in our thinking.
So I think it’s healthy to look at our heroes and contemplate not only their positive attributes, but also their negative ones. Otherwise, we may emulate bad practices as well as good ones.
So, who are your heroes, and which of their attributes are/were lousy?
February 17, 2012 at 3:40 pm #153498
One person I look up to would be Greg Graffin. He’s the singer of a punk band that’s been around for 32 years, which is also my favorite band, and is a professor at UCLA holding a Ph.D. in Geology from Cornell. I admire that he still does what he loves to do, puts on a pretty awesome show, and found time to pursue academia (though I hear he’s a much more boring professor than he is on stage!). This is only an educated guess, but it seems to me like he’s focused heavily on his career/band and not so much on his family life (it doesn’t really seem like he has one/divorce). Maybe that’s what he prefers, I don’t know, but it doesn’t seem like it from some of his songs. So I guess that would be not necessarily something lousy about him but something that I don’t want to fall into, but doing so much is also what I admire about him. I live in a pardox.
February 17, 2012 at 4:02 pm #153496
I think you did a smashing job Josh with your two posts this week. And you’re right, there is no absolute black and white for humanity.
I don’t know if our heroes are “lousy” because they’re not perfect.
Our heroes’ imperfections are what make them human, and more like us.
February 17, 2012 at 4:21 pm #153494
Thanks Deb. You are right, I could have defined my question more specifically to say “What attributes of your heroes are/were lousy?”
February 17, 2012 at 4:22 pm #153492
I just updated the question to reflect my intent.
February 17, 2012 at 5:26 pm #153490
Perfect example Corey, thanks for sharing!
I was a big Michael Jordan fan when I was a kid. I thought he must be the perfect human being. I think that ‘halo’ effect is one of the mental shortcuts we’ve evolved to have when making judgments. After some of my other favorite celebrities were shown to be doing some things I didn’t like at all, it made me rethink my binary approach to ‘heroes and villains’ in general. Michael Jordan may still indeed be the best guy in the world, but I realized he might be a complete jerk too. So I started thinking about specific attributes in context and fighting against the halo effect as much as I could.
February 17, 2012 at 5:27 pm #153488
I have two principle heroes. One is composer Charles Ives, who had the most remarkable career as brilliant visionary composer, co-founder of the Mutual of New York insurance company (the very company whose brightly lit sign was the inspiration for the title of the Tommy James / Billy Idol hit “Mony, Mony”), patron and bankroller of a considerable chunk of early 20th century American composers (with the fortune made in insurance), and doting father of 5. He was also, by all outward appearances and accounts, a crank. I have no idea what sort of boss he was, but I’d be curious.
My other hero is Fred (Mister) Rogers, and quite frankly, I have yet to hear anything bad about him from anyone. Sometimes that happens. People made fun of him, so I guess his flaw was that he was one of the most wonderful dweebs there ever was.
Oddly enough, they both studied at Dartmouth College in NH.
February 17, 2012 at 5:34 pm #153486
Just think about how nearly all of us do this with politicians… So many times when you ask someone about a candidate for public office, they are either ‘evil’ or ‘the best candidate America has ever seen’.
February 17, 2012 at 5:45 pm #153484
Thanks Mark, I love your examples. And I love how you showed with Ives that you can be in awe of a particular attribute or set of attributes a person has, and still acknowledge they have flaws you wouldn’t necessarily want to emulate.
Fred Roger is a great example too, I’ve never heard anything bad about him either. You may have stumped me with that one! 🙂
February 17, 2012 at 6:28 pm #153482
Don’t tell either of our main political parties that it’s not binary. If they started buying into this concept, they’d have to rewrite a lot of speeches.
February 17, 2012 at 6:59 pm #153480
LOL! I’d love it if they did, and if we all did! It seems hard-wired though…you’re either with us or against us, good or bad, etc.
February 17, 2012 at 9:16 pm #153478
You’re very welcome!
Jordan is a great example also. His leadership is admirable and he was an extraordinarily tough competitor. It also made him a jerk sometimes though. I think there’s a downside to even the attributes that makes someone do great things.
February 17, 2012 at 10:02 pm #153476
Very true. What is good in one situation can be very bad in another. It’s all situational too.
February 21, 2012 at 2:28 pm #153474
Albert F. BurnettParticipant
My hero is my father. December 7, 1941 my father was a freshman at Texas A&M College and just like the rest of the Class of 1945, he dropped out of school and joined the military. In the case of my father, he joined the Army Air Corps and flew as a B-17 bombardier. He was wounded over Germany and spent several weeks in a hospital back at his base in England. He went on to complete 30 bombing missions in B-17s before being sent back to the States to train follow-on bomber crews. During this time his brother, a B-26 pilot was shot down during the Battle of the Bulge and declared Missing in Action (later was liberated from his POW camp by Patton’s 3rd Army). My father was on the West Coast training in B-29s, prior to being shipped out to begin bombing raids against Japan, when two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan and they finally decided to surrender. He was mustered out of the military,went back to college on the GI Bill and was awarded a degree in Accounting. Just when he was settling into a career as a CPA, he was recalled for the Korean War. After hostilities ended, he was asked to remain in the new USAF and help standup Strategic Air Command. He sat nuclear alert during the Cuban Missile Crisis and finished his career after several tours in Vietnam flying the B-52. During all this time he never boasted, nor complained of these trying times. He also wanted to shelter his two sons of the difficult things he experienced and made it too easy for my brother and I. It has taken me a long time to appreciate all the wonderful opportunities this country can provide, if only you are willing to work hard for it.
February 21, 2012 at 9:10 pm #153472
My mom is one of my biggest heroes – single mom with 4 daughters who all went to selective 4 year colleges, 2 with masters (not part of extended family’s experience). My mom went back to college at least once each decade, but health and economics kept her from getting a BA (despite enough credits, they were never the “right” ones). She taught us to fight for justice by choosing where and how to spend our money; shopping at a store meant we financial supported what it stood for. We were to always stand up for the underdog, and try to be friends when possible. But to never tolerate bigotry or hatred (no this was not the multicultural 1990’s, it was late 1960s, 70s and until her death last year). Lousy attributes – well it’s my mom, how to address that? She was self-centered – for someone as liberal as she was, her mind was not open to conservative views. She and I had some terrible moments when I suggested that, while not agreeing, I thought my right-wing brother-in-law made some very legitimate arguments against legislation she worked for. She was hot headed – which kept her fighting the good fight when on course, and cause so many problems when off course. My biggest complaint as a teen: I felt like I was taking a backseat to local politics. That I cared about this new crisis called AIDS, but didn’t need her lecturing me every time I came home from college. But she was correct – voting was not a privilege, not even a right, it was a responsibility to ourselves, our families, neighbors down the street and strangers on the bus. It was our duty as citizens to vote and keep the country going.
At her funeral my sister and my mom’s dearest friend, Pat Dillon gave eulogies. And I realized the very things that made her my hero were also what made her intolerable at times.
My mom had been confined to a nursing home and wheel chair for several years. Not only did she live to see our first President of color, with amazing voter turnout, my mom used my extra cell phone to make campaign calls for him. 2010 she died two days before tight November election and we learned that she had already sent in her absentee ballot. When making arrangements, the minister and funeral home director didn’t understand how adamant we were that the service set around election day. As they heard my sister and Rep. Dillon speak, they came to understand that my mom saw poetry, social justice via local politics as fulfilling God’s call for us to care for each other.
My other heroes” Amelia Earhart (childhood hero); Susan B. Anthony (childhood hero); Maya Angelou; some of the homeless men who come into our library every day with grace and dignity and kindness to spare despite the hand they have been dealt; my friend who fought breast cancer at 25 and turned around to help other young women who couldn’t relate to older volunteers
February 22, 2012 at 1:04 pm #153470
Albert F. BurnettParticipant
I too was a single parent of two girls and a boy for over 10 years, when Dad’s were not the preferred parent for the children to live with. During that time my job in the Air Force had us move three times to three different States. I must have done something right since all have turned out to be very prodcutive citizens. My oldest daughter completed her Master’s Degree and is working , my son after two years of college joined the Air Force, and my youngest daughter is in her senior year in college. Sometimes my children say I’m their hero and thanks for raising them right, other times they remind me that I was too strict and forced them to move away from their friends..
February 22, 2012 at 7:19 pm #153468
not even lousy – but maybe negative attributes for one person are positive for another.
Do those negative attributes diminish the person’s standing as a hero? Sometimes, but not always.
What would diminish a person’s standing as a hero?
Some of my heroes died decades ago – I know of their legacies, but not necessarily the dirty laundry (from times when such things were not aired and in worst case scenario, swept under the rug). I have been disappointed in people I’ve respected – often I no longer revere them, but may (or not) still respect a part of their life/personality/actions, etc
February 22, 2012 at 7:24 pm #153466
Yes, Fred Rogers is a hero of mine too. My friends and I tried so hard to get him to be our commencement speaker at Connecticut College in 1986. I doubt that Mr. Rogers would have backed out at the last minute like the scheduled politician from a wealthy Connecticut family who is more tied to Texas or Florida.
I still get postings from Mr. Rogers Facebook (or PBS?) that speak to me as an adult. When I share with no image and nondescript attributes, people LOVE the postings. When I simply hit “share” button and people see Mr. Rogers, I get teased or ignored. Funny – often it is the exact same posting a week later that gets a much different response. I think Mr. Rogers would be happy that he reached the person somehow.
February 22, 2012 at 7:47 pm #153464
You display great taste, Jenny.
I think folks all too often underestimate how much courage and determination it takes to be gentle, and what nobility and grace it takes to prize simply getting along, being kind, and being grateful above all else. Dig up the Youtube video of his brief thank-you speech for his lifetime achievement award at the Emmys. Not a dry eye in the house. I think people get it. They just tend to get distracted and forget it it all too quickly.
Now if you’ll forgive me, I have a trolley to catch.
February 26, 2012 at 2:47 am #153462
I have become rather caustic in my perceptions of a “hero” lately. In one sense I think of my Uncle Dave. He spent 6 years in China as a Military advisor during WW2 (yes, he was there before the US entered WW2). It was a nasty forgotten theater of WW2, very little glamor, and a whole bunch of hard times. He received the Distinguished Service Cross, 2 Silver Stars, 4 Bronze Stars (and 2 purple hearts) ….and threw them all into the Pacific on the way back to the United States after the war. When asked, all he would say was he did his duty, just like everyone else. Now, I think of many of the current leaders we have. And for the most part, I just don’t see that selfless service, the raw courage, and the fortitude to do what is right because it is the right thing to do. Especially with our political leaders, and many other leaders in our government(s). What I do see is checking the wind vane and the barometer of political correctness, approval ratings, and falling in line with agency politics before making any decision, and if it is the moral and right thing to do it is just incidental to the decision process rather than the prime factor of the decision process. I challenge everyone to think of the last 5 years, and identify who would be worthy of the “hero” status. I find my list being very short. (Actually, I can’t think of anyone in the last five years that I would put in that status, though I can think of many from previous generations that I could). The real question to ask is why the list is so short now, as compared to previous generations. What has caused the balance to shift from mostly good and a hero, to mostly not so good and not a hero?
February 26, 2012 at 2:53 am #153460
Thanks Jenny. Yeah I’ll admit, my use of the term “lousy” was just a shock tactic. 🙂
I think your comments reflect exactly what I’m trying to get across.
February 26, 2012 at 2:56 am #153458
Great comments Earl. It makes me wonder too if in our own anecdotal perceptions, perhaps it’s just that older stories told to us that we didn’t witness recently have a mythical component to them. The good tends to be remembered and revered, and the bad is forgotten. When it’s happening in the present day, we see both sides. I have no idea, but it’s an interesting question..
February 26, 2012 at 2:58 am #153456
Thanks Albert. Life is not black-and-white, is it? I believe we all do the best we can, and some do better than others. We all have our strengths and flaws, our share of triumphs and mistakes. Props to you for sure for raising some great kids.
February 27, 2012 at 1:59 pm #153454
can I repost your comments on my personal facebook page? I have friends who would love to hear it takes courage to be gentle
February 27, 2012 at 2:06 pm #153452
Do you mean in the popular culture/public sector? I think you have some very good points – maybe I’m not quite so jaded – or I don’t pay attention to the sound bytes and look at the bigger picture – or maybe I’m not in the hip world and choose to invite a different sort into my life. A wonderful woman once said to me that every time you turn on your tv you are inviting those people into your home. She asked me if the characters on the shows I watch are the sort of people I would invite into my home if they were real. While I don’t follow that thinking completely – I do think it is a good thing to stop and ponder every now and again.
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