Hero Worship is Healthy

Photo Credit: Condenast.com

Photo Credit: Condenast.com

I value originality and creativity as some of the most important character traits in people. The essence of these qualities is to be unique, to contribute something authentic and novel to the social landscape. It may seem that the best way to accomplish this is to actively reject conformity, to acknowledge how others act and express the opposite in yourself; but rather than producing uniqueness, non-conformity instead makes you a slave to your peers by arbitrarily binding you to the opposite of their decisions. Non-conformity doesn’t require any sort of value judgment, it simply masks blind obedience in the sensation of rebellion. So how can we develop ourselves to create something truly special? By carefully selecting and adopting the traits and habits we admire most in the individuals around us. Everyone will have a slightly different affinity for certain people and practices and so by recognizing and integrating these elements into the self, we are guaranteed to become a powerful person.

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey is an active television show covering the greatest discoveries in science, modeled after the 1980 original series hosted by Carl Sagan entitled Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. The modern sequel has reaffirmed my admiration for its host, Neil Degrasse Tyson, as a personal hero. Tyson is a champion of science and a model intellectual – he is insatiably curious, bright but humble, and a bit of a renaissance man with his taste for literature competing with a love for science. His passion is contagious, Tyson exhibits a powerful ability to make any topic fascinating and to remain a a lifelong student – qualities that I hope to emulate as a professor. By studying his example, I hope to emulate his best qualities in my own life.

Taylor Marie is another hero of mine for her astounding openness. She embraces vulnerability by sharing the highest ecstasies and the darkest moments of her life with the public. Vulnerability is the language of connection, and her example empowers me to forge deeper connections with the people in my life and improve my writing by showing that it’s not only okay, but imperative, to express yourself boundlessly.

Search for your unique combination of heroes and allow them to fill your soul with a veritable cocktail of consciousness. You already possess the qualities that define you as unique, but developing a personal team of inspirational figures – whether parents, friends, celebrities – constructs the foundation for you to become your ideal self and share your gift with the world.

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The Cult of Leadership

“If you aren’t a leader, you’re a failure,” reads the principle doctrine of the American Leadership Cult. “There are two types of people in this world,” its leaders dictate in their rehashed platitudes, “Leaders and followers.” ‘Leader’ is distorted to include anyone successful, that by nature of being successful one must be a leader.  ‘Followers’, meanwhile, is demoted to represent blind, unquestioning workers who wallow in mediocrity and scavenge like vultures off the kills of the aforementioned master race. Followers are uneducated, unhealthy, and poor, they’re slaves to the consumption of brand names and TV news. It seems a twilight of moderation does not exist between these two poles, it is absolute binarism. Zeroes and Heroes are the constituents of the planet.

In our ferocious desire to create the revolutionaries and Nobel prize laureates of tomorrow, we have forgotten the value of contribution and of presence. We have forgotten that for every employer there are employees, and that there is immense strength in those who choose not to lead but elect to contribute.

Educational institutions and corporations provide countless opportunities to build leadership skills and to take command of a group – here at Bryant University we have Linked through Leadership, Greek Leadership, Orientation Leaders, Bulldog Leaders, C.E.O., and countless other programs all devoted to training self-identified leaders but not one program to teach you how to be part of a team. There are no summer internships designed for the student who raises his hand every class but who doesn’t wish to lead his group project. The resume from the club member who provided invaluable insight every meeting but declined a presidential nomination rarely receives a second look. Why, when we can reliably expect that only a small number of us will become positional leaders, do we devote all of our resources to the coach and none to the players?

Perhaps this mistake is predicated on the idea that the best way to accomplish a goal is to put a hierarchically homogenous group of leaders in a room. Perhaps their stereotypical extroversion will create a culture of conversation, their energy will synergize to create intellectual cold fusion. My fraternity lives by this principle – we recruit the leaders, the talkers, the comedians, and fall victim to this expectation of success. What we have instead is thirty-four alpha males constantly competing for attention at every opportunity. We have recruited so many talkers that no one will listen; there is no teamwork because collaboration means sacrificing your precious idea for another’s. Our enthusiasm may occasionally combine to form the pinnacle of modern energy science, but too often it creates a war for volume and a battle for gesticulation territory. We still manage to create and achieve incredible feats, but it is in spite of our constitution, not because of it.

One day, our society may succeed in its misguided ideals and turn every individual into a leader. Huzzah, an army of leaders to solve the problems of the world! Ten billion people will each have a dream, and not a soul will listen.