Don’t confuse a mentor with a role model. I have several mentors in the communications profession whom I’ve worked with over the years. They’ve taught me well and acted as phenomenal counsellors, and I still talk with most today. But do you have a role model and what’s the difference?
While a mentor is someone you know and talk with to help guide you through difficult career choices, a role model is someone whom you emulate and sets an example for your behaviour. Here’s where my choice of an economist comes into play.
Tyler Cowen was featured this past May in BusinessWeek and blogs at Marginal Revolution. I’ve been reading his blog from almost its near beginning so his writing and thoughts are not new to me. I don’t always agree with his points of view, but he’s been an excellent role model for reasons I think as fellow communicators you’ll agree:
- He’s a dedicated writer. He writes a blog post nearly every day, he publishes working papers for his profession, and he’s a book author several times over. He’s constantly pushing himself and I admire his dedication to writing.
- His appetite for reading and consuming information is great. In fact, all you need to know about his reading sytle is from this excerpt in the BusinessWeek story:
- He handles each book as he ticks it off his list. “This I discarded. It appeared to get a good review, but there’s no framework, just scattered vignettes. I looked at 20, 30 pages.” Sarah Vowell’s Unfamiliar Fishes, thud. Cowen’s first rule of reading is as follows: You need not finish. He takes up books with great hope and no mercy, and when he is done—sometimes after five minutes—he abandons them in public, an act he calls a “liberation.”
- He’s passionate about his ideas. If you haven’t read The Great Stagnation it’s worth the $3.99/Kindle or $4.24 hard copy. In the book, he writes about innovation and how growth has stalled due to several factors, including the low hanging fruit of available resources. But he also takes the time to write about our loss of passion for science and math and why we need to refocus on these careers. His look at innovation and what we can do in the future is worth the 15,000 words he pulls together. Ezra Klein from the Washington Post put together this review. What I like about this essay from Cowen is that while it’s about economics you don’t feel as if you are reading about economic theories — you’re reading about history, science and productivity. He does that in all of his books, including Discover Your Inner Economist.
- He’s shown his ability to be right- and left-brain thinking. Read his book Create Your Own Economy for some thought-provoking ideas about social media and entrepreneurship. I was fortunate enough to email with Cowen when the book first came out and received an additional forward.
- He asks the right questions. I’ve written about the importance of asking questions here before. Above all else, if you look at his writings and the way he thinks Cowen is curious. When he writes, he’s really trying to answer a question. Why are great economies stagnating? How can people create their own economy when ours is slowing down? How can we enrich our lives? These are big questions, but if you read his blog he’s doing the same thing on a smaller scale. I like his constant questioning of process and results.
Mentors are important and I would advise anyone to find a good mentor. But I would also argue not to overlook find a good role model outside of our profession. The rewards and insight from someone in a different field can be just as rewarding for you personally and professionally.
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