Anyone with an ultimate goal for success has a role model. As an aspiring entrepreneur, I hold billionaire innovators Sir Richard Branson and Elon Musk in the highest regard; I want to one day own a company like Tesla or the Virgin Group and just go on an innovation spree. As legendary as they are, they also have role models. In his blog on Entrepreneur in 2012, Branson listed Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, and British businessman Lord Alan Sugar, among others, as his role models. Elon Musk explained at last year’s SXSW that his role models include Benjamin Franklin, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, and of course, Nikola Tesla. As you might notice, their role models are some of the greatest technology and business innovators in history, past and recent.
Not all entrepreneurs today pick role models from within their field of business or expertise though. Take Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian for example. Besides the hugely popular site Reddit, which sold to Condé Nast in 2006 for an undisclosed but presumably large amount when Ohanian was just 23, he also founded the travel site Hipmunk and is currently an investor in several major tech startups. Ohanian was interviewed at Yahoo’s Tech Mix at this year’s SXSW on who his role models were and his answer was rather surprising- neither of his role models are in the tech industry. Here’s what he told Yahoo Tech Mix:
“Dude, you know what? I have almost zero role models in tech. Well, I don’t know… The people I look at, and I’m not in comparison to these people, these are the role model types, like, the Warren Buffetts of the world, the Jay Zs of the world… I mean Jay Z is a little bit more extravagant than I am but like, there are people who have come to accomplish so much more, it puts in perspective how little I’ve actually done and how much more I want to do and I’m enough of a pro-sports fan to know what happens when 20 somethings get a lot of money and act stupid. And so, I knew I didn’t want to be one of those headlines. But yeah, I don’t have a lot of tech role models.”
Unlike Branson and Musk, Ohanian’s role models are unconventional. Jay Z is a successful entrepreneur, but he is first and foremost a legend in the rap music industry; billionaire Warren Buffett is perhaps the world’s most successful investor and humble philanthropist, not to mention he’s this year’s fourth richest man in the world according to Forbes. While his choices are unique, choosing role models from outside your sphere of business can actually have benefits you can’t get by choosing other leaders in your field.
In his same blog on role models, Richard Branson made an interesting point in saying, “…as an emerging entrepreneur, don’t think of yourself as the next Bill Gates — or even the next Richard Branson. Be true to yourself and pay attention to your own opinions and values…” It’s the diversity of the values you aspire for that truly make you unique, even if unconventional to everyone else in your industry. Being an entrepreneur with a background in history and commerce while looking up to hip-hop artists and philanthropists creates a unique perspective that comes together for amazing opportunities in innovation and creativity. A computer engineer who idolizes Steve Jobs can come up with great things too, but having a diverse portfolio of role models can also lead to unpredictable creativity which is just as, if not more, exciting. So take a note from Ohanian and Branson and be open to admire successful individuals from all walks of life for any values you respect- you never know how they will inspire your next genius idea.
As a success seeker, how diverse are your role models? Tell us in the comments below!
Watch Ohanian’s full interview with Yahoo Tech Mix here.