“If you tell me who your heroes are, I’ll tell you how you’re going to turn out. It’s really important in life to have the right heroes. I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve probably had a dozen or so major heroes. And none of them have ever let me down. You want to hang around with people that are better than you are. You will move in the direction of the crowd that you associate with.”

– Warren Buffett

A customized group of mentors and heroes you can consult for advice and inspiration throughout your life. Learning through imitation and emulation is fundamental to many different species, including humans. People can choose the best models (the best mentors) to guide and inspire them to achieve their full potential. Regularly contacting one’s heroes, mentors and even villains (inversion – to understand what not to do), one starts to truly appreciate and understand greatness. People can only hope that some of that greatness is transferred on to them. The concept is, as Sherlock Holmes would say “elementary”: you surround yourself with like-minded individuals for which you have a tremendous amount of respect for, the more you engage with them, the more you start to resemble them.

Giorgio Vasari, in The Lives of the Artist, wrote:

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”#21608D” class=”” size=”15″]”Heaven sometimes sends us beings who represent not humanity alone but divinity itself, so that taking them as our models and imitating them, our minds and the best of our intelligence may approach the highest celestial spheres. Experience shows that those who are led to study and follow the traces of these marvelous geniuses, even if nature gives them little or no help, may at least approach the supernatural works that participate in his divinity.”[/pullquote]

Understand that the counselors you invite into your cabinet are not perfect human beings; indeed, there is no such thing as perfection. Choose specific traits that they possessed, study their habits and lifestyle, their principles and their philosophy of life. Everything you can get your hands on. Emulate the key characteristics and qualities that differentiated them from the common folk. Study their lives and implement changes in yours.

Charles T. Munger, in Poor Charlie’s Almanack, wrote

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”#21608D” class=”” size=”15″]“I think when you’re trying to teach the great concepts that work, it helps to tie them into the lives and personalities of the people who developed them. I think you learn economics better if you make Adam Smith your friend…if you go through life making friends with the eminent dead who had the right ideas, I think you will work better for you in life and work better in education. It’s way better than just giving the basic concepts.”[/pullquote]

Your cabinet is a mixture between regulars and counselors who come and go. Overtime as your lifestyle changes and as the world changes, your cabinet will change. Try to establish a list of regulars who you think about and study regularly. In order to create this list, you must research the lives of many people; it’s an ongoing lifelong process to find your personal heroes. Be patient with this list and keep it short. Each of these people must share some universal qualities that you admire, but each of them should teach you different lessons about life. They should each bring something different to the table, literally.  In this case, less is more. Knowing about one person’s life inside out is much more substantial than learning about the superficialities of many people’s lives. Another thing to do is to study your heroes, heroes. For example, I’m an avid fan of Charlie Munger; his personal hero was Benjamin Franklin. By studying both these people, I was able to identify the common habits and characteristics that both men shared. This reinforces the lessons that you extracted from your invisible counselors.

My List of Regulars 

  1. Charles “Book with Legs” Munger
  2. Benjamin “The First American” Franklin
  3. Abraham “Abe” Lincoln
  4. Walter “Uncle Walt” Disney
  5. Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt
  6. Warren “Sage of Omaha” Buffet

“Great masters merit emulation, not worship.” – Alan Cohen