Gisela McKay

President and Co-Founder, pixcode


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The importance of role models vs charting our own paths

I am fascinated by the need for role models and the problems people have charting their own paths, either in life as a whole or in figuring out how to behave in certain situations. I am particularly interested in the latter when mores and customs shift - such as certain men not knowing how to behave with women after the advances of women's lib, or people who are lost without the rules of protocol for a specific event.

I may have been lucky in that my parents explained the reasons why we do certain things when it comes to manners and customs rather than just saying "that's the way it is", which seems to have made me more comfortable in rejecting certain traditions, but also in adapting to new situations. It's like knowing the steps to the gavotte and choosing free-style dancing instead.

So, do you prefer having the rules of conduct spelled out for you or do you simply operate from a basic foundation of treating people as you would wish to be treated?

Are you living your life to a particular template of what is or is not expected? Are there areas in which you find yourself freer or more constrained by societal rules?

Who are your role models?

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    Sep 13 2011: I don't think there is any escaping that human social development is composed exclusively of incorporated, ingested, inhaled role models from the moment of birth. We are everyone we have ever met (or seen in media) in a unique proportion that constitutes our separate being. Sometimes I think I'm nothing other than a big projection screen coupled to some sort of action router apparatus controlled by a memory city full of roll models fighting for the microphone somewhere behind my eyeballs.
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      Sep 14 2011: But for some people, there is a point at which they can deviate from the path traveled by so many others - and then there are people who cannot. Whether that is a matter of societal expectations or family business, some people seem lost when they are given the wide array of choices and told to make their own decisions.

      Look at how some men are lost with the advent of liberated women. They don't know how to approach and they don't know what is expected of them. They want some rules to be laid out (there was just a thread posted, HERE of all places, a couple of days ago wanting women to define this mythical ideal man). There's no mimicking Cary Grant to get through a situation, and no new person to replace him.

      Even the actors aren't holding to a paradigm, Imagine patterning yourself after George Clooney as the modern Cary Grant: which George Clooney? E.R.? Syriana? Ocean's Eleven? The Descendants? Cary Grant (and other studio stars) was always, reliably: Cary Grant.

      And while I understand what you say about influences (I can see bits and snippets of lots of friends and family in everything from my handwriting to the way I dry my toes when I get out of the tub), do you not every feel genuinely yourself? That you are making a decision based on your own desires rather than those of people who have shared themselves with you?
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    Aug 22 2011: I learned in a child development course years ago that children learn best from other children who are just ahead of them in development. I think it applies to adults too. We learn from and assimulate ideas best from people that we think we are 'like' or that we admire. All of this is done with full self determination and self steering. We just gather ideas and apply them to our own lives. Most healthy people do not want to actually 'be' the role model- they just want to get a sense of how it is done and apply it to their own course.
  • Aug 22 2011: I feel as though that role models are mostly a model to look up to and emulate rather than copy and do as they do. If one has a good role model then they have something to set their path to be. What I am really trying to say is that a role model is like a runway at an airport; it gives the plane a path to speed up on and something to guide the plane but at a certain point, the plane must leave the runway to go onto higher altitudes by itself, without the runway. Here is another analogy with kind of a reverse outlook: the lights on a runway at night show the plane where to head towards just as a role model shows a mentee? (not sure what the opposite of a mentor is) the path that they should point their life towards.
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    Sep 15 2011: Yah, guys are more difficult to teach about social needs and awarenesses than women, to be sure. The deal is that most of this behavior patterning is subconscious, so most of what goes into our makeup just seeps in from the edges. We have no perception of our brain gears turning, no way to look inside other than detecting overt thought patterns which are a small fraction of all waking mental events. A lot of that undetected mental activity is chalked up to "intuition", which is a word that really doesn't explain much. People think that their memories just sit there in a file cabinet until we reach for them but they are indexed according to a thousand qualities and they all get tickled into activity when we perceive anything with those qualities.

    Do I not ever feel genuinely myself? Good question. I have to then ask how many times have I caught myself about to do something stupid, or actually done something stupid and went "what was I thinking?" which begs the question, "what was WHO thinking?", because a stupid act is never in one's best interest. I suppose I may just be a conflicted kind of guy, but I'm not certain my conflicts are unique. Part of the problem may be that the brain is parallel processing a lot of impressions and various simultaneous aims are fighting for control of the microphone- comfort, safety, challenge, boredom, excitement, fear, and more all trying to come up with a middle ground, a negotiated settlement. A lot of this depends on the perceived threat level. When we have a threat situation, our options are focused there. When we have a contemplation situation our options are far wider.

    Our psyches are incredibly complex and it's impossible to assess if we are acting in a manner that a role model acted or if we are are being efficient and true. We can't see in here like we can see out there.
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    Sep 13 2011: we can make two errors: copying a behavior that is worse than we could do on our own, and not copying a behavior that is better than we can do on our own.

    in short: try to do the best, copy or not. phrasing it that way, it seems pretty much obvious.
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    Aug 21 2011: I should probably also mention that I hold the firm belief that when people know what makes them happy - and pursue it - all the rest fits into place.

    Seligman says that too much choice leads people to depression, but I do not believe that that is an accurate statement for those who truly know what works for them. The 'too much choice is bad' meme comes up a lot in business lessons (especially in relation to marketing) and I do think it is accurate with a large segment of the population, but this isn't causal.

    Using taste (tongue) as an analogy.
    1. I am a supertaster, which is not an elite thing despite what the name suggests (for instance I avoid bitter unless I train myself to tolerate it). I can pick out notes in food and wines that most can't. (Apparently, it is more common in women and those of African or Asian ancestry).
    2. Then there is a category of people with refined palates who can distinguish even slight differences in aromas and tastes from each other.
    3. I have observed, however, that most people's taste buds seem to function at the level of distinguishing whether milk is bad or not, and not a whole lot more (that's an exaggeration, but not much of one).

    (And I am probably lumping together traditionally-defined non-tasters and regular tasters into this last group while splitting supertasters into two levels. So no need to point that out, it's just an analogy.)

    The people in the third category probably think the people in the first two are exaggerating the nuances in food and wine, but go along with what is defined as "good" since it doesn't really matter to them. This is analogous to accepting the decree of others as to what is good art or who is a great designer or any other situation where people accept the judgment and valuation of others for their own taste.

    For them, going into a store with 'too much' selection is a problem because they must them rely on their own judgment, but it doesn't make choice itself a bad thing.