Finding a mentor to guide you through life has become outdated. We no longer give much importance to the concept of apprenticeship nor do we feel as if having a single person to lend a guiding hand is a necessity. I feel that this is a somewhat novel phenomenon. Our fathers and their fathers more often than not had to work closely with a single person they called their mentor — a person who would show them the ropes and guide them toward mastery.
It was about getting your hands on the necessary information in order for you to create a successful career for yourself. Our generation instead relies on the Internet for its information. We feel that we can get all that we need from surfing the web. Of course, it’s not all about the information, but about knowing when you make a mistake and how to correct it most efficiently. Unfortunately, finding a mentor these days is difficult.
The best option for Gen-Y is to focus on and learn about the lives of the people we respect and find to be inspirational. We should all have a list of people whose lives and accomplishments we admire. Here are 10 of my personal favorites, in no particular order (I apologize that there aren’t many women on the list…not on purpose):
1. Peter Singer
Singer is a moral philosopher from Australia. Currently a professor at Princeton University, he specializes applied ethics and is a big advocate of utilitarianism. His belief is that it is ethically wrong to be spending money and living comfortably when the remainder of the world is suffering.
He has created an applied ethical standard in which we can calculate if each of our actions is right or wrong, all depending on whether the overall utility of the world is increasing or decreasing. His work is rather complex and in-depth, but to paint you a general picture, consider the following. Peter Singer believes that each person was created an equal and that their happiness is just as important as everyone else’s.
For this reason, he believes all acts that cause pain or that allow for pain to continue are morally wrong. He believes that we ought to do — that we are morally obligated — to improve the lives of the rest of the world even if it means lowering our own standard of living and risking some of our own happiness. Singer believes that we should lower our standard of living while simultaneously raising that of the rest of the world until we are all on a level playing field.
What I find inspirational about Singer is that not only does he have an impartial way of attacking the ethics of morality; he lives by the words that he preaches. Personally he donates 25% of his paycheck to Oxfam and UNICEF. He lives modestly and does his best to minimize unnecessary expenses. He helps those less fortunate than himself whenever he possibly can. Singer takes philanthropy to a whole other level.
2. Mahatma Gandhi
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, most commonly known as Mahatma Gandhi, was the leader of Indian Nationalism in British ruled India. His methods of peaceful protest and non-violent civil disobedience allowed India to get its independence from Britain as well as inspired movements for civil rights, freedom and non-violence across the globe.
He was imprisoned for numerous offenses over the years while practicing and preaching non-violence and emphasizing the importance of truth in all situations. He would fast for weeks at a time, often threatening suicide unless his requirements were met. What’s most fascinating about Gandhi is the amount of influence he had over the people of India and how much they loved him. He refused to hurt others but instead gave himself up as a sacrifice each time that he fasted.
The people of India — his peers — respected and cared about him so much that they made sure their cries were heard. He moved an entire nation and removed a global power from his country by not acting, by inaction. It is one thing to be able to dictate and rule; it’s another to have the respect of a nation and to be able to win battles without ever having to fight them.
3. J.K. Rowling
"I was set free because my greatest fear had been realized and I still had a daughter that I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
I always admired those who literally started with nothing, used their mind and their creativity, and created something special — something that millions of people love and something that influenced them in a positive way. J.K. Rowling was able to do just that and made a pretty penny in the process.
Not too long after her daughter Jessica was born she had divorced from her first husband, Portuguese journalist Jorge Arantes. She had to go on welfare to support her and her daughter. This is when Rowling decided to do something most people would not have the courage to do: she didn’t give up on her dreams of becoming a published writer. She could have found herself a job somewhere making minimum wage just to get by until her daughter was of age to work herself, but she didn’t.
She risked it all to make her dreams come true and to make her daughter’s dreams a possible reality. Her first four “Harry Potter” books brought in almost half a billion dollars in just three years — over 35 million copies were printed in 35 languages. Her sixth book, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” sold 6.9 million copies in 24 hours, becoming the largest opening in publishing history. She is now happily married and has two daughters and a son.
4. Sean Diddy Combs
His father being shot and killed at the age of 33 for his association with convicted drug dealer Frank Lucas, Sean John Combs, a.k.a. Diddy, a.k.a. Puff Daddy, quickly learned to become man of the house. He dropped out of college and landed himself a job as talent director at Uptown Records.
After being fired when a stampede killed nine at an AIDS fundraiser he was running, he decided to open his own label in 1993, Bad Boy Records. He knew talent when he came across it and took with him the newcomer to the hip-hop game, the Notorious B.I.G. He accumulated a good amount of wealth from his record label; however, what impresses me most is his ability to branch out to other markets.
Diddy is a lot of things; he is a producer, manager, actor, rapper and above all else an entrepreneur.He owns two restaurants, a movie production company and the Sean John clothing line for which he has won a Council of Fashion Designers of America award. Forbes has recently estimated that he is worth about $550 million, making him the wealthiest person in the hip-hop industry.
5. Justin Timberlake
Another man with many masks is Justin Timberlake. Out of all the pop stars that have ever lived, I respect him the most. He has been around since the beginning and yet somehow still manages to stay relevant. He is an incredibly talented singer/musician, but also is not afraid to branch out into other genres.
From 2007 to 2012, he decided to put his music on the backburner to focus on acting. Whether or not you find him to be the next George Clooney or Christian Bale is not important. The fact is that he was able to give up what he knows he can successfully do in order to pursue something that he wants to do. It takes courage to make such a leap — others have tried to do so before and failed miserably. JT has earned himself six Grammy Awards and four Emmy awards thus far — and he’s only just hit his 30s!
6. Ryan Blair
Here’s a figure that is less prominent than the ones that I have mentioned before. Ryan Blair is a self-made multimillionaire who grew up on the streets of LA. He grew up wielding AK-47s, leading a crew of hooligans. Now he is a successful entrepreneur and most recently a best-selling author.
I read his book “Nothing To Lose, Everything To Gain” and I have to say that it is a very good read with a lot of practical pointers we can incorporate into our lives and our way of thinking. In his book, Blair explains the mindset that he had to adapt in order to make it out of the gutter and to where he is now.
His turning point was when he realized the strength of the belief that one truly has nothing to lose by acting. Understanding that you can only profit from action and that you don’t have anything to lose by doing, by trying or by asking changed his life and could potentially change yours. He is definitely someone to keep track of as the only direction he is going in is up.
7. Paulo Coelho
Paulo Coelho is my favorite writer — he is one of the most widely read authors today. More than a writer, he is someone who many have adopted as a spiritual leader. His works have touched the lives of millions. His most famous piece is “The Alchemist,” a journey a person takes searching for their life’s treasure, which has sold over 65 million copies.
His writing style is simple and easy to read (although to be fair it is translated from Portuguese). His story-telling skills are unparalleled and his messages are deep and profound. Growing up, he told his parents that he wished to be a writer, but they did their best to thwart such thoughts. At 16, they had him committed to a mental institution for being too introverted and for refusing to follow a traditional path in life — he escaped three times before being released at the age of 20.
He understood that his parents just wanted to help him and eventually agreed to follow their wishes and enrolled in law school. He only lasted one year before dropping out and living the life of a hippie, traveling all over the world. He eventually embarked on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela and wrote a book about his adventure entitled “The Pilgrimage.”
The story is filled with his spiritual experiences that may very likely seem completely unbelievable. It’s definitely a great read and very helpful with getting oneself get back in touch with nature and the present moment. What’s even more interesting is that he claims that all the supernatural events and all the mystical rituals in the story are true; he claims the entire book to be non-fiction. Personally speaking, he has made me question what I take to be reality.
8. Tyler Perry
Tyler Perry has a great rags-to-riches story. He grew up in New Orleans with an abusive father and a traumatic childhood. He moved to Atlanta and pursued writing, creating a play about forgiveness and redemption (he eventually forgave his father) “I Know I’ve Been Changed.” Unfortunately, the play was a flop and by the age of 28 he was broke and homeless. He had found himself in an awful position, but refused to give up his dreams.
Eventually his first play turned into a “sleeper hit that launched his career.” Perry is now Hollywood’s most successful young filmmaker and has amassed a fortune of roughly $400 million. Not only does we write, but he acts, produces and directs. How many people are there that would have the strength to continue pursuing their dreams after a flop threw them out onto the streets?
Socrates is one of my favorite philosophers and also one of, if not the most, prestigious philosophers in history. He was known for living on the bare minimum, more often than not found strolling around barefoot. He had a profound interest in the world, the way it works and the people within it. He had a curiosity unparalleled throughout history and spent the entirety of his life contemplating over the workings of the universe and the truth.
He was brutally honest and incredibly intelligent. His philosophizing has influenced all those to follow and have opened the eyes of humanity to a different sort of reality. Most importantly, he was unwavering in his beliefs. He breathed and lived his philosophy, refusing to waver from what he believed to be universal truths. He went so far as to die for his beliefs, refusing to apologize for unveiling the illogical thinking of the most powerful people in Athens. He would rather have died an honest man then lived a liar.
10. Leonardo Da Vinci
One of the greatest thinkers the world has ever seen, Leonardo Da Vinci spent his life creating, inventing and improving. He dedicated his life to his work — luckily his work covered a large expanse. From astronomy, engineering, science, mathematicians to art, Da Vinci did it all and did it better than his contemporaries.
He was born an illegitimate child of a Florentine noble and a peasant woman. He was clearly exceptionally gifted from an early age, but what is impressive is how he was able to develop his skills and how he focused his energy and time on the world around him. He had a love for nature that allowed him to make observations that others did not take the time to consider. His keen eye translated into his artwork and allowed him to create some of the most beautiful and spiritually touching works of art ever created as well as allowing him to make inventions decades ahead of his time.
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