On (not) having heros in life

Having heros is a dangerous habit. If you have a hero, expect to be disappointed and disillusioned when you discover they don’t approve of your interpretation of them. Your world will shatter when the hero that you respected so highly shrugs you and your ways off. You will then be forced to think: “how could my hero reject me, a person who is obviously shaped by the very same hero’s ideas and ways?“.

Suppose I respect Steve Jobs. Suppose he’s my hero; an ideal that I want to be. Obviously, I will try to emulate him and his ways. I will try developing my own point of view based on his thoughts. He likes simplicity, so I like simplicity. He likes good design, so I like good design. He can be ruthless and direct with other people, so I too should do the same. I’m in awe, and he is perfect. Of course, I don’t have to base my complete life on one hero; I can have multiple heros too. But if heros come to represent what I want to be, their ways ultimately dictate my life and choices.


Heros dictating one’s life is not bad by itself. But what is bad is the possibility of discovering that your hero doesn’t approve of your life. If being a Steve Jobs fan, I design a product and with childlike enthusiasm go and meet him to show my product. Now suppose he sends the whole thing away to trash and criticizes me, and laughs at my misunderstanding of his ideas. Wouldn’t this rejection be as shameful as it can get?

Rejection from others can be tolerated since you often rationalize them to be wrong. But accepting rejection from a hero is very painful. All your life you had been interpreting your heros’ lives and ideas, and one day they may scoff at just how mistaken you were! It’s not to say that heros will disregard you, but the mere possibility presents a strong case of not having heros in life. (You cannot obvious control or predict how your heros behave towards you when you go and meet them)

Do you not then set yourself for a (possible) big disappointment if you lift a hero higher than yourself? What would you do if his ideals, his values, and his way of life becomes an ideal, and he himself rejects your life? Why can’t you idolize ideas instead of people?

Also, be ready to be shocked when (and if) you discover even your heros have fallibilities; when you discover they could be wrong too; and that they too are ultimately humans (just like you and me).

Save yourself from such earthy embarrassment. Follow a simple rule in life: don’t have heros larger than yourself. Respect your opinion, values, ideas and ways above anyone else!

As Nietzsche famously said, “become who you are”.


  1. I think you got it backwards here. You are not emulating your hero. *Your* hero is merely an extrapolation of what you want to be. You dont like simple design because you chose your hero to be Steve Jobs. Your hero is Steve Jobs because you like simple design.

    Rejection by any one, including a hero, is difficult to handle. But that does not mean you should not have any human relationships at all. Will you not ever fall in love just because at there is a chance of rejection there?

  2. You make an interesting comment. I did not make it explicit in my post but when we respect a hero, we respect our *interpretation* of their ideas and way and project it to them. It can be likely that our interpretation is vastly different than their actual ideas (as they believe). What you are saying is really what I am saying, so I don’t see a disagreement here.

    Regarding your last comment, I would not (want to) fall in love so deeply and madly that I start valuing the other more than myself. This would let me prepare mentally for a possible rejection.

  3. *I would not (want to) fall in love so deeply and madly that I start valuing the other more than myself. This would let me prepare mentally for a possible rejection.*

    Exactly. At least not until fear of rejection overtakes euphoria of acceptance. Same can be applied to all other human relationships. Only difference wrt to relationship with a hero is, most of the times its unidirectional. And hence neither acceptance nor rejection should hinder its course. Whether that course is growth or eventual break is time dependent.

    I think better thought to ponder over is – what is the emotional need to have a hero at all? Mentor I can understand, but hero I am not entirely sure.

  4. I may be wrong but emotional need for a hero would be to validate one self. That one is not peculiar in his/her likings and wants. This need for validation is what may make rejection so damn painful.

  5. Remedy: Choose dead heroes. They won’t scoff at your interpretation of them.

    On a serious note, fear of rejection, just like fear of failure, applies to almost all human endeavours. That should be the last reason to stop doing something. Trying at all times to avert disappointment is a sureshot way of leading a life of long, languorous disappointment.

    1. I agree completely that fear of rejection should not let one not pursue what he wants. It is an error to generalize my statement regarding heros to all other areas. I merely state that worshipping heros is not something I prefer and that’s because I like ideas more than people who produce them. Disappointment can catch us anytime, we cannot control the world. But what we can control is ourselves, and our value systems. And if that prevents some disappointment without sacrificing any other aspect, why not pursue it?

  6. like i tell most people who try to be steve jobs

    your not him.

    you don’t have his vision.

  7. You can’t. ie Not have heroes in your life. Someone or the other is impacting you in some way or the other. Whether you acknowldege it or not. What you are doing is taking it all and repackaging it through your unique perspective. Heroes will always be heroes. It is your understanding of your hero that has to change. Being scared of rejection and limiting your hero-hood to yourself is shortsighted.

    Rejection is something that scares the crap out of me too. Thankfully none of my heroes, the ones I have approached in my head ever treated me with anything but a welcoming smile. ๐Ÿ™‚ Hopefully reality will not be all that different. But even if it is and my heroes sock it to me in the jaw, I’ll still take it. They’ve taught me more than I can ever say I’ve learnt on my own.

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