My youngest daughter brought something home from school for our family this week -- a virus. Virtually her entire classroom has been infected and now our family has it.
The way viruses behave is that they find a tiny microscopic opening in a host, makes a lot of copies and the cell multiplies to the point where it explodes and spreads attacking the immune system. It then moves on to another host and the process repeats. Viruses are stealth, you really don't know it's happening until it's often too late to do anything about.
Our behaviors are a lot like viruses in that they are infectious and easily copied by others. It's human nature for people to unconsciously copy examples that are modeled for them, good or bad. This is why we need to pay more careful attention to the mentors we surround ourselves with.
A psychologist once told me we have approximately 16,000 thoughts a day and 75 percent of them are negative. When I heard that I said to myself "it's time I start thinking about what I think about and the company I keep." Why? Because mediocrity is self-inflicted. Think about the role models and mentors you have. Are they really setting healthy examples?
As I work with renowned film producer Bob Burris to adapt my book, Seeds of Success, to a screenplay for a feature length film I'm learning alot about Hollywood itself. Here are a couple cautionary tales from Hollywood that demonstrate precisely why you should be more intentional about whom you model yourself after.
Three years ago, Whitney Houston died of a drug overdose in her bath tub. Earlier this year her daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown told the media "I'm my mother's child." Coincidentally (or maybe not so coincidentally) two weeks ago, Bobbi Kristina Brown was found in her bathtub after overdosing. She's now in a medically induced coma; almost exactly three years to the date of her mother's death.
At age 32 martial arts expert and actor Bruce Lee died from a head injury he sustained on the set of a movie he was filming. His son Brandon Lee idolized his dad and wanted to grow up and be just like him. How did Brandon Lee die? Brandon Lee was shot and killed on the set of the movie The Crow which he was filming. He was almost the same age as his father at the time of his death.
Actor/Comedian Chris Farley worshipped John Belushi and used to sit backstage on the set of Saturday Night Live admiring him. He modeled his appearance, deliver and just about every aspect of his comedic style after Belushi. In 1982 John Belushi died at age 33 in a hotel room from a cocaine overdose. 15 years later, after landing a spot on Saturday Night Live himself, Chris Farley died from a cocaine overdose at age 33 in a hotel room.
Your environment and who you model yourself after is critically important as there can be life threatening consequences. Be careful who you observe, what you do, and what you say because what you think about you bring about.
The good news is that thoughts and beliefs are learned which means you can also unlearn counterproductive ones to make room for productive ones. Cultivate healthy relationships with winners. Invest enough time in them and you will see new possibilities for yourself. It's about developing hope for the future while taking productive action in the present.
When it comes to leadership, your example isn't everything; it's the only thing because people are watching from close and afar. Last January, an Iranian teacher Ali Mohammadian shaved his head in solidarity with Mahan Rahimi, an eight year old student in his class who was going bald as a result of problems with his immune system. Just days later, his entire class of 23 students showed up at school with their heads shaved in solidarity as well.
Just like Ali Mohammadian, your leadership by example can be infectious in a positive way and spread to those around you. Evaluate the quality of the company you keep. Are they healthy relationships? Do they add value to your life and are you adding value to others by your example? If not, it's time to make changes before it kills you.