Admirably Done

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I was at the statehouse on Friday because my wife is someone to be admired. Being there, I got to watch a bunch of people from all walks of life: teachers, professors, students, and politicians. I noticed two in particular.

More correctly, I noticed one half of that pair, a middle manager. In some small talk this person gushed about a boss to me (a nobody in the scheme of things) and I noticed this person had modeled personality traits on the boss in question. The boss has some traits to be admired, and some not. But the pointless traits were the ones I noticed being mimicked: taste in coffee, dress, and oddly enough speech patterns.

I admire many of my coworkers for various reasons. But I had to ask myself in light of this, how should I model myself after those I admire and seek to emulate? Does college football make me a kick-ass people person? Those aren’t the behaviors that begat the qualities I want for my own.

Back to my wife. She is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. I admire her personability, her persistence, her compassion, and her organization among other fine qualities. But one of her defining character traits is, “likes pink.” This doesn’t mean I’m putting pink into my wardrobe. It does mean that I’ve started to work on my own professional development while she is hard at work, I’ve started to take an interest in other people, and I’ve kept my stuff in its place. Honestly, I still have much improvement in these areas, but the point is simple. Seek to understand how the people you admire got that way, and that will gives you tools to truly improve yourself, not merely parrot it.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Jeremy Jarvis  •  Sep 27, 2010 @1:55 pm

    Congrats to Sally for her recognition. It’s great to see a teacher’s hard work and good ideas recognized.

    I agree with your post as well. Admirable folk aren’t meant to be copied. Learn from them – their successes, their failures – and use that knowledge to become what you want to be.

  2. Chris H  •  Sep 27, 2010 @2:57 pm

    The one saying from Confucius that has always stuck with me is (going from memory, I’m sure I’m mangling it):
    “When I am with companions, I try to find their best qualities and cultivate them in myself. Likewise I find their worst habits and seek to avoid them”.
    He didn’t mention anything about how to figure out which is which, but that process seems at least as relevant. Maybe it’s sort of like deliberate practice – you have to think about it. Otherwise you may end up changing tastes in coffee instead of managerial style.

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