Two of my heroes let me down this week by being very human.

There’s this one guy I have followed for the last two years or so on LinkedIn. 

I even bought his course and subscribe to his weekly email.

You could say that a lot of what I’ve done in the last year was inspired by what he does, because he does it so well.

Every so often, I will comment on his LinkedIn posts and he will even respond to the comment. I’m not too proud to admit that when he does, I get a real buzz from it. 

After all, he gets thousands of likes and hundreds of comments on every post. And he has 470,000 followers.

He’s a hero to me, because he is living the dream I want to live. And we have a very similar set of goals in life. I love the way he communicates. He is very authentic and genuine.

But when two comments I left him were responded to by an automated response bot recently, that warmth I felt towards him immediately chilled.

Why do we hold other people to a higher standard than ourselves?

This idea of heroes isn’t new. It’s been around, as far as we can tell, since the first whispers of civilisation. The Sumerians had heroes like Nimrod who appeared in writings like the Epic of Gilgamesh. And that civilisation started around 6000 years ago.

Since then we’ve seen the rise of heroes through religious writings from the Talmud to the Qu’ran to even Dianetics and the Book of Mormon.

Each paints certain men and women of God as moral giants with unshakeable drive, determination and vision.

Fast forward to 2023, and we’ve got a new generation of heroes.

Like Mr Beast. The most followed YouTuber on the planet. Hundreds of millions of followers. And a failed burger business plus an awful chocolate range.

After the automated comment incident from my first hero, you’d think I’d chill out and realise that I had placed really big expectations on my heroes online.

But then along came yet another of my heroes on LinkedIn who fell from the dizzying heights of my high moral ground.

She’s a self-made, hustling, grinding, awesome woman of drive, ambition and an incredibly strong sense of who she is. She constantly gets attacked from people who think she is too brash, too sassy and too tattooed to be as successful as she is. And those are all the reasons I love her.

And then she posted something this week that she probably thought was funny and cute, but it highlighted something really troubling to me.

Every single one of her staff was hot.

And young.

And white. 

Now these days, in a western society that is incredibly diverse, you’d have to be deliberately hiring a very certain kind of person to end up with the remarkable coincidence of having eight staff who are that hot, that young and that white.

I mean, there’s nothing wrong with white people. I am one.

But when you talk about smashing stereotypes, breaking down conservative strongholds and beating rotten corporate culture, you might want to look at your “awesome talented team” and notice that something is a little not-quite-right there.

Which is also a process that I need to do.

Who are you trying to be when everyone is watching?

The trouble with sitting on high ground of morals, judgement and superiority while we watch these people that we both worship and become disappointed by, is that we’re really only seeing what we’re being shown.

I’ve talked before about values, and how, when we choose what they are, we need to make sure we can live up to them. Because someone is always watching.

I originally entered into this newsletter to lament the lack of integrity in our heroes these days.

But if I take this topic and run it along my own values, things look a bit different.

Honesty: Do I live up to all the things I write, say and train people in all the time?

Authenticity: Do I really express myself as who I am every time I speak publicly?

Vulnerability: When I write updates like this, just how much of myself am I not telling you about while pretending to let you into my true self?

Effectiveness: Am I even effective myself in the things that I am teaching others to be effective in?

Approachability: Do my 50 unanswered emails and 11 unanswered direct messages really show me as approachable at all?

While I’m so quick to judge these two incidents, I’m perhaps not so quick to judge those times when I might not be quite as honest, authentic, vulnerable, effective or approachable as I’d like to think I am.

Heroes are just humans who are memorable.

Does the fact that Justin experimented with an automated comment bot on LinkedIn to cope with the thousands of comments he gets every week wipe out all the amazing value and inspiration he’s been giving me for free every week for the last two years?

Does all the inspiration and entertainment that Lea provides in my feed each week become moot because she has what might be problematic hiring practices?

This will come down to what is most important to me.

And how I can take these lessons into my own life.

After all, the same lens of scrutiny that I’m placing on them could just as well turn back on me when I don’t always live up to my own high standards.

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