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You should meet your heroes
Arguing against the statement to 'Never meet your heroes'
I recently meet a number of folks I’ve admired for some time in one trip. When talking about these interactions upon my return, the recipient of my excitement said something like, ‘sounds like the old saying to never meet your heroes was wrong, huh?’
Over this trip but also over the last few months as I’ve jumped at various opportunities to put myself in novel settings, I’ve learned to disagree with the statement, ‘Never meet your heroes’.
This saying stems from the idea that you should not seek out a personal interaction with the people you look up to, because they may fail to meet your expectations, inevitably leaving you disappointed. This is an adolescent way of looking at the opportunity to meet those that you admire. I think the saying is an excuse to avoid 2 types of interaction with one’s hero that might at the surface seem undesirable:
Your heroes will criticize you
You will realize your hero is just a person like you
Each of the above is uniquely valuable, and is an interaction that should be sought out, and not avoided.
Criticism is heroic
There have been many times that I’ve gotten feedback from mentor figures that I don’t agree with, but later seen to be true. I’m sure anyone reading this has experienced a time where a respected figure in their lives gave them input that didn’t exactly align with what they thought was correct and later turned out to be apt feedback. The constructive criticism we receive from those we trust can be incredibly valuable, and illuminate areas for improvement that we are too naïve to see ourselves.
That isn’t always the case though. Sometimes the insights offered by those around us with more life experience are outdated, or at least lacking context that would make it totally applicable to our situation.
In either scenario, criticism is something to seek out. It’s your job to independently filter feedback for what’s salient and what isn’t.
The worst thing to do is to avoid an interaction all together out of insecurity of criticism. This goes for both interactions with our heroes, but also in general.
Heroes are people too
The more common reason some say not to meet your heroes is because it would bring them down to earth in the eyes of their admirer. Meeting the person you hold to high esteem and coming to the realization they, like you, are just a person seems to some like an outcome not worth the interaction.
This too is a false con. There are no gods that walk this earth in human form, only others like ourselves. So why avoid creating an interaction with another human being out of some desire to continue viewing them as a holy figure rather than leveling with them for an interaction?
It is healthier to view those you admire as equals with different experiences rather than look up to them from below. We all exist at different positions in the many different hierarchies of life, but are equals in ability to traverse those levels of organization whether it be economic, social status, experience, etc.
Getting to know a hero for who they are as a person can help illuminate how they traversed that hierarchy themselves, whether it had been for the better or even the worse. These insights are what you might then take into account to follow or avoid the same trajectory.
The best thing you could probe for in an interaction with your hero are stories. Stories are the most effective teachers throughout time. The most valuable stories subjectively are the ones that are relatable to present personal context. Talking with someone you hold to the esteem of being a hero is like uncovering a tailored story just for you from the tapestry of their experiences.
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To uncover better stories, ‘don’t be interesting—be interested.’1
Maybe another problem that people have when interacting with a figure they admire is that they try to make as much of an impression on them as they can as fast as possible.
I used to do this. If I met someone who I looked up to or at least knew from their name brand alone before interacting, I would spend the entire interaction talking and little to none listening. I wanted them to know who I was, rather than get to know them for more than who everyone else said they were.
It was my friend and business partner who taught me to start asking better questions to have more valuable interactions with those I looked up to. I’ve since come to know that all good conversations are downstream of curiosity.
Now when I meet someone I admire, I spend the bulk of the interaction asking questions both out of that same genuine curiosity, but also questions leading to stories that lend value to the context of my life.
I hear about wins and shortcomings. I hear about places where they wish they’d done something differently or were glad to have made the decision that they did. At the same time, my heroes are humanized before my eyes, and I feel gratitude in the fact we are both human.
“The journey of the hero is about the courage to seek the depths; the image of creative rebirth; the eternal cycle of change within us; the uncanny discovery that the seeker is the mystery which the seeker seeks to know.”
― Joseph Campbell
Send me signal on Urbit: ~padlyn-sogrum
Original quote: “To be interesting, be interested.” – Dale Carnegie