Who were your heroes growing up? Who influenced you throughout your life? Did you ever feel betrayed? Having a role model fall from grace can deflate our hope.
I remember having to write a book report in my youth. I was sitting in the Auburn Public Library trying to find a book that captured my attention. I opened up a book about a boy who, at the age of two, had contracted rickets. The disease left him pigeon-toed and bow-legged. In fact, he had to wear a pair of shoes connected by an iron bar. Wow! I did, too, although I was born with a club foot, not rickets. I, too, had to wear shoes connected by an iron bar. I sat stunned, and slowly my heart filled with hope. I had felt as if I could never be successful. The little boy, Orenthal James Simpson, grew up to be one of the greatest running backs in NFL history. “Maybe I could be someone,” I thought. Despite all that has happened, I am still grateful as a young boy that I read that book. In that moment, he was my hero, and his story changed my belief of what could be possible for my life.
As a youngster I can also still remember sitting in my mom’s basement listening to Bill Cosby’s story of the chicken heart on an LP album. He was a comedy legend. When I started my career in stand-up comedy, I studied Robin Williams and Steven Wright, but in the back of my mind, I was always inspired by the “clean comedy” of Bill Cosby. He was proof that you did not have to use bad language to be funny. I also heard a story from a speaker’s bureau owner who told me that Bill Cosby had started by performing for free at colleges and selling his cassettes in the back of the room. His comedy and humble beginning were inspiring examples. They influenced my thoughts and actions.
Both Bill and O.J. have fallen from “hero status” in the public eye. We are never finished influencing people with the lives we lead. Good deeds of the past are good, but how are you living your life today? Decisions you and I make every day can either enhance our influence or hurt it. How do you keep yourself in check?
Mentors aren’t perfect. Role models aren’t perfect. You and I aren’t perfect. We all think we are good, and we would never dream of doing some of the things we hear about in the news. It is horrible. There is no excuse. I’m reminding myself also not to “cast the first stone.” You and I can learn from this. What if the people who look up to us knew everything we ever did? Would we deserve the influence we have?
It is not the speech that we give; it is the life that we live.
We can learn from other people’s experiences. People close to us are watching our actions more closely than the words they hear us say. We can’t change the past, but we can ask those whom we have wronged for forgiveness. We can re-connect to those from whom we have been distant. Maybe they need us to make the first move. Write a letter, if you feel it might help you or someone in your life.
You and I have an opportunity to influence those around us by our example. Thank you, O.J. and Bill, for examples of what to do and what not to do. I remember being at a Toastmasters conference watching the “white Bronco slow car chase” in disbelief and denial. I would never want to give that feeling to anyone who looked up to me.
As we start this New Year, be thankful for the people who have helped you, even if later on they have wronged you. Maybe they now need your help. I love the question one of my best friends, Craig, asks himself each night: “If my life were a movie, would I like the main character?” That is deep. Here is the kicker: what if we not only saw your movie, but we also saw everything you do? That’s something for us to consider as we recommit to a new beginning for this New Year. Think of your day today. Would you like the main character of today’s movie? Tomorrow is a new day too. How can you live a better movie, even if no one is watching? Remember: People notice more than you think, and you see everything.
Please share your thoughts below!
I loved your blog today. It is so important to realize especially if you get the opportunity to be on stage to honor it as a gift and be a role model to others.
Too often we see people fall from grace or struggle with their success if they feel unworthy. Even what we consider u-turns in life can be points of connection with others.
The first time I shared my story of coming out of an abusive marriage, something I wasn’t proud of. It encouraged others to identify realize I had been there too and if I could do it so could they.
It’s the good and bad that serve us. O.J. and Bill are extreme examples. Own who you are, clean up any communications and be aware that you are someone people are watching and live well.
Having watched you grow even over the past 5 years you are so open and willing to share your journey. You show up, take action and make adjustments as you go. Well done Darren for not only being an incredible human being, for inspiring others and showing them and me what’s possible.
Your examples of Bill and O.J. pretty much speak for themselves. However your comments in the last few paragraphs were absolutely terrific. I benefited by them immeasurably and Thank You for your insights. Brian
I sincerely appreciate your great emphasis on personal integrity. We are in a vulnerable position. We get banners and billing, appreciations and applause. People scribble down our words and wisdom on the edge of the program. It’s easy for us to cultivate two lives: one that is finely crafted and well memorized and sails effortlessly across the stage and through the crowd…and the other is the real us…the person we see in the mirror.
Your notes on speaking skills are excellent…your encouragement for integrity is essential.
Great thoughts for the new year. It is really hard to wrestle with the fall of an icon.
I keep wondering if it was better when the press didn’t report the dirty laundry of the Stars, so gave us undimensional, perhaps unreachable, role models, or when the movie stars started appearing on talk shows, blitzed from the “Green Room.”
Best wishes and I hope all your New Year’s dreams come true 🙂
Thanks for sharing this. So true and food for thought as we consider our own lives and how they affect others. Mentioned your blog post in my latest post. Everyone should read this and aspire to becoming their best. Thanks again.
Than ks Darren – we have lots of fallen heroes. Another who comes to mind from almost twenty years ago was Princess Di. Sometimes we forget the good things people have done and only remember the bad. That is why the judgement of history is not necessarily the popular opinion of the day.
You article makes me mindful of how our lives impact upon others. Our behaviour always needs to reflect the fact that bad actions not just hurt those who receive their direct impact but others who know us. If a priest or school teacher misbehave it impacts on all who have put their faith and trust in them .
Happy 2015 and thank you so much for constantly giving of yourself as we all benefit from that.
Well ‘said’, Darren.
Both our words and our lives send messages to others. While it is never easy – to put it mildly – to watch people fall from grace so dramatically – we can still choose to learn the right things from their rises and falls.
Happy New Year to you and your family!
Thank you for the article
It helped me through opening a wave of emotions and personal reflection. I have been on a path of conscious self love and honesty and it has been a very interesting journey. It becomes this cat and mouse game between the ego and the heart and usually a process leading to balance through acceptance of self in any direction. Your article really resonated with me and my personal journey that I have embarked on. Thank you so much for being you