Updated: Aug 6, 2019
by John W. Anderson Jr.
Professor at Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana
Recently, I met with a young man who is at a fork in the road. He is unsure as to how to proceed with his career and personal life. As we talked, I recognized that he was knowledgeable of the tools, templates and strategies commonly used in personal development work. He described with great pride, an icon poster that he developed some years back. This poster had the likes of Michael Jordan and Denzel Washington on it. I asked him why those two people, to which he couldn’t really answer with any clarity.
This concerned me! We run the risk of giving our power away when we admire individuals and don’t know why we are drawn to them.
I challenged this young man to spend time thinking about why he admired these two individuals and to get clear about the specific attributes that they embody, that he admires. Whether he knows it or not, the very things that he is drawn to in each of those individuals, he already possesses. Being clear about the specific attributes they embody, will allow him to engage those icons mentally, as equals. So long as this young man admires Michael and Denzel without any clarity, he places them outside and above himself, which makes him less powerful.
I also challenged him to take down the prized poster he created of the two of them, when he knows why and what specific characteristics he connects with.
Personal development work should be a process where we as individuals discover our power, not give it away in the form of hero worship. When we lack clarity as to what draws us to people moving in a direction that we see ourselves going, we open ourselves to possibilities of manipulation, vicarious achievement, and ultimately deep disappointment.
When you know what & why, “Take’em down”!
The tools used in personal development are meant to be terminal. Tools left in place after they have served their purpose become distractions or worse, roadblocks. Consistent growth in personal development work is tied to our ability to move on past any tool, template or strategy that we use to bring into a growth reality that we want for ourselves. This is the idea that I was attempting to share with this young man. I recognized that he was missing the fact that he was already half-way ‘there’ and not celebrating this about himself. In the end, it is not about the two individuals that he admires on his icon poster that matters, it’s him (it’s you).
John Anderson is an educator, mentor, and thought-leader with over 25 years of experience and impact, working with people from all walks of life. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, John was afforded the opportunity to begin blazing trails at the early age of 15. As an 8th grade basketball coach for the Daly City Parks & Recreation department, John publicly began his leadership journey leading youth at 15 years old. From there, he has had several career roles in human services, currently teaching in higher education for the last 10 years. John's educational journey in higher education has meant that he has studied at every level and has completed 5 programs of study. He holds a Master's degree in Sociology and is currently completing an Ed.D in Adult, Higher & Community Education at Ball State University.
John's spiritual journey began as a boy raised in a classical Pentecostal denomination. He attended a Catholic high school in San Francisco, which exposed him to the tradition and practices. At the age of 21, John began an intentional spiritual walk. After 13 years in the Christian (Pentecostal) church, where he was regarded as elder in the faith at most of the local assemblies he belonged to, he left. In his quest for a more authentic spirituality, John has learned that the Holy Spirit is not bound to religious systems. As a spiritual director, he actively stewards his journey to foster growth in his own life, the spiritual development of his family, and several others who invite him into their journey as a spiritual director.