Are role models still a thing?
In a world full of bitter truths, fake news, climate issues, and a generation of workaholics being called snowflakes, are role models still needed?
People don’t have heroes anymore.
Kids are thought that they can do whatever they want, teens are super busy being teens, and figuring out what’s happening to them and grown-ups are in the “know-it-all" mode.
As a kid, there are some role-models that we (may) had by default: mom, dad, bigger brothers, and teachers. Or some cartoon characters (Batman, Superman, Wonderwoman, etc). Let’s think about this very common conversation from the kindergarten or primary school:
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Some did reach their dream, most did not. But those job titles were actually role-models that we highly respected and liked.
As we grow, these models may fade, we start to follow our own voice and thoughts and we start making the choices that lead us to this very moment.
Without making further throwbacks to anyone’s childhood or memories, let’s see what is a role model nowadays, who could be THE one and why having such a person in your following list
Every single time, when I ask someone if he or she has a favorite person in the industry or in day-to-day life to follow and wants to learn from: they either give me a weird stare and a hmmm, never thought about it!, tell me about some nice and famous book (without knowing the author most of the time) or saying famous names from the US mainly (like Gary V, which is not bad, but it won’t be enough). Youngsters tend to mention local influencers a lot, though. The ones that talk about a lot of things every day in their stories: where they shop from, their lunch, dinner, events, etc (but that’s it).
Going deeper on this topic with everyone, I’ve seen that most of them don’t have a role model or a hero anymore. Everyone looks at role-models like they should not be real (e.g. Batman) or they are some really cool people from the past (e.g. courageous people who fought or stood up for something, people who fought against communism and died for democracy — the case in Romania, etc).
So, here I am thinking and talking about people in the same industry as we are, about people with the same values as we have or used to have, people who keep fighting to be better every day and who are giving their best.
The role models are people who you watch, listen, kick-ass and who motivate you to get shit done without thinking twice. The ones who tackle your pains and speak as your equal, no matter if it is about work, family, love or day-to-day issue. The ones that you could talk to, meet them or see them live.
And no, I don’t care about the ones waving their hands like they learned in public speaking courses and repeat all those truisms over and over with nice words and great talking, but won’t do a thing that makes an actual difference.
Now that I bragged about contemporary role-models, maybe we should look into some people that worth a mention here and I’d love to know some more people, no matter where are they from.
The kick-ass misfits
She is, by far, one of my favorites: political activist, conceptual artist, and a vocal political prisoner when it comes to human rights. She keeps standing up to the severity of the Russian authorities and leadership. And that, my friends, is extremely badass: knowing when oppression strikes-in and doing something for it (wink wink, US, Hungary, Poland, and Romania), caring about others around and fighting for equal rights, standing up in front of all the religious bigots and much more.
The teen who called BS in the US after a mass shooting. Even though she’s 17–18 yo she managed to speak up better than anyone in the US on the guns policy and to politicians. She also managed to make an entire crowd (and people all over the world, afterward) burst while also grieving. A burst of anger and sadness, made everyone tear up, yell, and stand up.
The effective marketers, growth hackers, and PR people
- Sarah Hurwitz, the best speechwriter out there. She wrote most of the Michelle Obama speeches and many others.
- Brooke Hammerling, the PR behind a bunch of companies in tech space.
- Josh Fetcher, one of the youngest, fun, a somehow naive, resourceful, and smart dude in the growth hacking industry.
- Aaron Krall, the go-to person for the SaaS industry. He is the onboarding guy who knows how to fix your conversions
Awesome people in Design and Art/Creative Direction
- Ioana Filip, a woman with a super creative and strategic mind. If you are familiar with the awards in the industry, then you might’ve heard of her from Cannes Lions, Eurobest, Webby, Golden Drum, etc. She is now the current Executive Creative Director at Energy BBDO, but there are lots of awesome agencies and clients in her portfolio.
- James Victore wanted to be a poster designer, but he is now a fucking badass and witty designer, illustrator, author, and a family-oriented dude. I guess he could define work-life-balance better than anyone in this list.
- Jessica Walsh — ok, she is fucking awesome. Shortly, she is the founder or & Walsh and co-founder of former Sagmeister & Walsh — the agency that has clients such as MoMA, Levi’s, The New York Times, Warner Brothers, Lou Reed, and others. She also founded ladieswinedesign, an event that is now all over the world and letstalkaboutmentalhealth — an initiative to raise awareness on mental health and aims end the stigma around this topic.
- Stefan Sagmeister — as you can imagine, he is the Sagmeister mentioned above. He is a very straight-forwarded person, awarded multiple times for being a graphic designer and typographer, and, of course, he is also a great storyteller who shares his experience and thoughts all over the world. Hence, I am going to add my favorite speech from his portfolio here
Amazing artists to follow
- Marina Abramović, a controversial Serbian performer who explores body &endurance art, the limits of the body, and the possibilities of the mind. She used her body to see what people could do to her if there are no rules or boundaries and so much more. Having an Eastern European background is not easy, but she managed to define all odds and rule the performance scene. I know this video has some privacy settings and it cannot be played here, but do watch Marina Abramovic on Rhythm 0 (1974).
- Guerilla Girls — an anonymous group of female artists devoted to fighting sexism and racism within the art world.
Not sure how you think these women look like, but they wear gorilla masks in public and use facts, humor, and outrageous visuals to expose gender and ethnic bias as well as corruption in politics, art, film, and pop culture.
Dan Perjovschi was born on the east side of the wall, to quote him. The grey and communist side. As an artist, that is quite a rough medium to express yourself. He is now exploring political topics, conflicts, and everything running through headlines and critically sketches them. He has a very rare way to portray reality in such a simple and witty form. And, as you can imagine, he is my favorite artist.
Lia, knows how much Eastern Europeans lost during the communism: information, education, art, music, everything. Through her artwork, she has researched and created tens of thousands (I guess) of mindmaps to cluster all information to create a Knowledge Museum. At the moment the project is a huge archive with a lot of books and objects that comprise valuable information about the Universe/Earth, a brief and subjective history of art and science facts (R&D, global warming, etc).
Some extra super famous and rich people, that are also smart, fun, some are also humble, that you already follow, must probably: Elon Musk, The Obamas (both: Barak and Michelle),
Nota bene: By having someone to follow, I do not mean to build a shrine for them or to be a stalker. Neither to follow the same steps as they did. But just by following someone whose values, goals, background or success that resonates with you. :) This gives you a push forward, an idea when you’re stuck or just some inspiration while drinking your coffee and scrolling your insta feed.