The Five Friends: What’s Right and Wrong About Today’s Role Models?

Screenshot 2014-10-29 09.53.48






What’s Good and Bad About Today’s Role Models?

From Larry Winget:

larry-winget-headshotRole models are nothing more than a reflection of what we value. When we value honesty, integrity, doing the right thing, morals, good parenting, leadership and hard work, we will have role models who exemplify those values. Since we instead value fame, celebrity, being pretty and living an ostentatious life style those are the role models we find ourselves with. When we elevate our values we will elevate our role models.

It’s fine to admire what a person accomplishes in business, sports or the financial world, but it’s stupid to turn them into a role model unless they are the kind of person you want your child to grow up to be.

For instance: Steve Jobs quotes are posted on social media every day as if he a guru of business, yet he screwed over his partners. Some great football players beat their girlfriends. Tiger is the greatest golfer who ever lived but he is not a good guy.

Before we hold any person up as a role model, we need to look at more than what they do, what they have and how they look. We must look at who they are and how they live.

Larry Winget, the Pitbull of Personal Development©, is a six-time NYT/WSJ bestselling author, social commentator and appears regularly on many national television news shows. To find out more, go to

From Scott McKain:

Scott McKain, Distinction ExpertIn 1993, Charles Barkley said something – via a Nike commercial he personally wrote – that was quite astounding.

“I am not a role model. A million guys who can dunk a basketball are in jail. Should they be role models?”

Athletes as role models were formerly appropriate because the press only reported their redeeming qualities. We never heard of Mickey Mantle’s problems with alcohol, Babe Ruth’s womanizing, or Ty Cobb’s racism. Now, we all know of steroid abuse, domestic violence, and drug addiction in sports — as well as entertainment, politics, and about every other walk of life.

Here’s the challenge – separating the message from the messenger.

Jimmy Swaggart failing in his personal life doesn’t mean the Bible was wrong. Michael Jordan may not be a nice guy, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t learn from his dedication to excellence.

It’s our personal responsibility to determine what we desire to accomplish – then, find a role model who has succeeded in that area, using their standard of performance to motivate us in a specific aspect.

Just as we all have fallen short in our personal endeavors, we have to realize that our role models don’t need to be all-encompassing examples of inspiration.

Scott McKain teaches how organizations and individual professionals can create distinction in their marketplace, and deliver the “Ultimate Customer Experience ®.” For more information, visit

From Randy Pennington:

randy-pennington-headshotI had heroes growing up just like every little kid. Along the way, I learned that many of them had feet of clay. That is no different today.

I also had role models. They taught me important life lessons about being productive, responsible, and honorable. If you are lucky, your heroes can also be your role models.

It is difficult for heroes and role models today. Immediate information exposes real life to the world much quicker. It isn’t that the heroes and role models of our youth were so much better than the ones today. It is that the illusion of their goodness is more easily stripped away.

The real problem isn’t a lack of role models. It is us.

We have confused being good at something or famous with being a role model. And, we have decided to celebrate, aspire to, or explain away the character flaws and failures of those we seek to emulate.

My father came to a stop sign on an empty country road. He stopped completely and looked both ways. My mother, telling me this story many years later, asked him why he stopped when no one was around or watching. My father nodded to my brother and I in the back seat and said, “There are four eyes watching my every move.”

That’s a role model and one of my true heroes. Anyone who thinks that is strange, hokey, or old-fashioned is what’s wrong with our role models today.

Randy Pennington helps leaders deliver positive results in a world of accelerating change. To find out more, go to

From Joe Calloway:

joe-calloway-headshotAmerica’s number one role model is fame.

Sadly, in our society what seems to be admired, prized, and revered more than anything is quite simply fame. If you’re famous, then you’re admired. You can be famous for good, for bad, or just for being famous (Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian). If you’re famous, people will flock to be near you, to have their picture made with you, and many of them will want to be just like you.

How many people choose a teacher or a master carpenter or a single mom working two jobs to provide for her kids as a role model? Not many. More often we admire singers, dancers, movie stars, and anyone who gets on TV. Personally, I don’t get it. What makes someone worthy of adoration or admiration simply because they do their job in front of lots of people?

By the way, you can be a great role model and be famous, but you shouldn’t be a role model because you’re famous.
My role models tend to be great dads. I doubt you’ve ever heard of any of them.

Joe Calloway helps great companies get even better.

From Mark Sanborn:

mark-sanborn-headshotRole models greatly impact learning and development. There’s no debate about that.

Positive role models provide us both example and inspiration. We can see the reality of a life well lived rather than just learn about the abstract concept. In addition to living role models, history also offers a buffet of role models to choose from. (One advantage in choosing role models from history is that you know how their lives ended up.)

The danger is picking the wrong role model. We often confuse greatness with fame. Greatness is about what you give. Fame is about what you get. Contribution is the hallmark of greatness, not attention.

Be careful in selecting your role models, and take just as much responsibility in being the kind of person others would benefit from choosing as a role model for themselves. It might just make you a better person.

Mark Sanborn is president of Sanborn & Associates, Inc., an idea studio for leadership development. He is an award-winning speaker bestselling author of books including, The Fred Factor. For more information and free resources, visit

Want more referrals? Two points that will make it happen…

I’ve decided that I just have to see the new Michael Keaton movie, “Birdman.” My buddy, Larry Winget, said it is a “can’t miss.”

Same thing with the film, “The Judge.” Randy Pennington told me it was terrific.

Just downloaded music from Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell…because Joe Calloway saw them in concert last night in Nashville and said they were remarkable.

One of my favorite bourbons is Breckenridge. After Mark Sanborn shared some with me, I knew I had to get a bottle.

Do you notice anything these decisions of mine to purchase everything from movie tickets, to movies, to whiskey have in common?

It wasn’t because of the literally millions of dollars that the respective companies trying to sell them were spending on advertising and other forms of marketing. It’s not even because of ratings or reviews in newspapers, magazines, or speciality publications.

It’s because each represents something so distinctive that my friends were compelled to share them with me.

When a movie, music, or drink – or just about ANYTHING else, for that matter – is memorable and remarkable, our natural inclination is to share it with our closest friends. Because we trust them, and know there isn’t an ulterior motive like a commission, kickback, or other incentive, we are very willing to try what they suggest we buy.

Point #1: Your business will grow when you are so distinctive at what you do, your customers can’t wait to tell their friends.

Joe never suggested that at the end of their respective performances that singer/songwriters Simpson or Isbell said, “By the way, folks – make sure to tell all your friends to buy my music!” Breckenridge Whiskey isn’t sending Mark postcards asking for referrals. And, neither movie offered Randy or Larry a few dollars back because they are rounding up people to buy tickets.

Many years ago, I attended a seminar on how to get more referrals. There were a number of techniques that the speaker revealed. “Hand your customer a pen and pad,” for example, “and ask her to write down the names of three people who need your product as much as she does.”

What I’ve discovered in my research on creating distinction – and from just good old practical experience – is that the referrals you attract are infinitely superior to those that you request.

In other words, becoming so damn good at what you do that customers share your excellence with others who trust their judgement is the referral that really, truly matters.

Point #2: Your number of referrals will expand in direct proportion to how distinctively you sell and serve your customers.

Why would I tell Larry, Joe, Randy, and Mark about something that they will only find ordinary? It’s only worth my time – and theirs – to enlighten them on the extraordinary.

On the other hand, we’ve talked with each other about everything from restaurants to realtors that have knocked us out with the way they conduct their business in hyper-competitive marketplaces.

Therefore, if you sell your products – or serve your customers – just like everybody else, you won’t become a part of our conversation. (Or that of the millions of other friends just like us.)

Here’s the most important question: If one of my friends did business with you today…would it have been such a distinctive experience that they couldn’t wait to tell me?

Privacy Policy