Without role models to emulate, it’s difficult to develop as individuals. At our core, humans are social animals, and social animals need other social animals to interact with and learn from. As babies, we naturally empathize with other babies and toddlers, which lets us develop basic social skills during play. As we grow up, we tend to draw inspiration from those older and more experienced than us. You and I NEED these interactions to figure out what kind of people we want to be. And when we find the ones we really want to follow or model after, we call them our heroes.
Who are your heroes?
Finding your way in life as an adolescent and even a young adult is a hazy misadventure at best. Lately, the world has become deeply interconnected in its flawed system of modeling. With celebrities and governments often acting more like children at the 5th grade lunch table than the people they’re supposedly leading, it’s difficult to find solid role models amidst all the fast-talk and wacky antics of the rich and famous. As a child of the internet age, in a world filled to with loud, colorful and wild people, I turned to the one who preferred the company of the real kings and queens of the Animal Kingdom.
When I was eight, I came home from school one day and turned on the TV (as I always did.) On my way to Cartoon Network, I nearly passed right by the most extraordinary thing I’d ever witnessed. A charismatic Australian man, with dirty blonde hair and khaki shorts, wrestling a 12-foot crocodile through the middle of a muddy marsh. And winning. The croc was utterly enormous; easily twice the man’s size, and when I saw them locked in combat, I was captivated. Mainly because he was explaining everything he was doing to protect himself AND the 1-ton Salt-Water Crocodile, as he was pinning it down, still with a beaming smile on his face. It was at that moment that Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, became my first hero.
I had always been fascinated by animals, and did whatever I could to capture every frog, salamander, snake and lizard I came across. But somehow, I only became really fearless after watching Steve wrestle that behemoth into submission that afternoon. It was his eyes; the way they lit up when he talked about the beauty of the terrifyingly powerful, dangerous, living fossils he would help care for and humanely relocate as part of his mission to promote wildlife conservation. Practically overnight, every aspect of my life became patterned after Steve’s own approach to nature. My clothes all had animals on them. I painted my room a bright, emerald green to feel more connected with nature. I would meticulously study every reptile and amphibian book I could find. I’d make a point to try and top-jaw-rope (Steve’s preferred humane method of snaring the crocodiles he’d relocate) my dog whenever he and I would wrestle in the living room. Every weekend, I’d ask my parents to go salamander hunting in leu of the crocodiles or similar beasts in the bedroom communities of suburban New York. In effect, I became a junior crocodile hunter.
For my entire youth, Zoology was at the heart of my passion. I would do everything I could to somehow gear my participation in school subjects –science,art, gym, crafts, politics, etc.– closer to animals in their limitless forms and attributes. Likewise, I learned to form more accurate opinions of my peers and elders considering how connected or not they were to nature: did they care about the planet? Was spending time outdoors–either alone or with loved ones– really important to them? Unsurprisingly, when most people (especially people from densely populated urban areas) are introduced to a challenging to live in, but delicately balanced ecosystem, without a large human presence, they feel weird. There’s no drive-thru. Why can’t we have wifi? Why should I sleep in a sleeping bag on the ground when my bed is waiting at home? Sure enough, most prefer to return to the comfort of the couch.
This love I have of nature didn’t just spring up from me at birth. I didn’t start singing one day at the age of two and suddenly all the creatures of the forest came running (though that’d be pretty awesome), I had many people, like Steve, my parents, my Boy Scout leaders, and others introduce me to the spectacular benefits of getting to know the great outdoors. All were my mentors, but Steve was cut from a different cloth. He was an Eco-Warrior, through and through. And I want to honor his memory for that reason.
Now, whenever I embark on a new project, I still think about the passion Steve would bring to each mission he had around the world. Preserving the biodiversity of Earth was his life’s mission, and I watched him live, fight, and eventually die to broadcast his message to everyone who’d listen. He would speak directly from the heart; never once wavering in his commitment to the environment or helping to save each and every animal until it was either successfully relocated, or he was absolutely certain there was nothing left to be done to save it. When I think of helping people change their bodies, minds, and lifestyles to unlock their hidden potential, I make sure that I can speak with that same passion and conviction. Having my memories of watching Steve continuously reinvigorate me to work harder to further my own mission to help change people’s lives for the better.
But the question remains: who are YOUR heroes? Who in your life–parents, grandparents, teachers, mentors, celebrities– gives you a feeling of internal power that lifts you when you’re feeling down? If by chance you’ve never thought about who these people are, take some time and consider them now.
What did they do that was so meaningful to you? What Spoke to you?
How did they achieve their goals? What action did they take?
How did they express gratitude to their community? Their fans? The world?
Once you’ve given it some thought, tell us who 1,2, or even 3 of your mentors are in the comments, and how they inspired you. Your words and role models may help other find their own #junglestrength
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