1300X300 (10)-1

Anti Role model

In the Chandogya Upanishad, Prajapati tells Indra, “When the self is in deep sleep, it is not able to recognize itself as ‘I am so-and-so,’ as it does when it is awake. Not only that, it does not even recognize beings around it. It is as if the self has been obliterated.”

Imagine that you are sleeping in a room. A friend opens the door and walks into the room. You, while sleeping peacefully, will never know that someone just walked in. This means that the gross can not influence or know the subtle. Or a being in a lower state is incapable of judging or knowing another in a higher state. This means that it is not possible for us to judge another person's capability if that person is superior to us. What we can do is only assume.

In my formative years, I learned about the Guru-Shishya parampara of learning. This set me off on a course to find a guru, a search for a guide. However, when I read the Chandogya Upanishad and derived the meaning of how difficult it is to know whether we have the ability to select a guru or not, I abandoned this search. That is why in the Guru-Shishya parampara, emphasis is placed on devotion towards your guru because the student is incapable of knowing the capability and suitability of the guru or role models.

More often than not, we end up selecting our role models based on our perception. In a room of a dozen people, it is usually the most vocal one that will attract the most attention. In today's age of social media, it is usually the most dramatic one that will attract more 'followers'. However, being vocal, dramatic, or even successful does not qualify someone as a role model.

It is difficult to find positive role models. These are people you can look up to and follow in their footsteps. Lucky are those who find a noble guide and are devoted to following their guidance.

There is an alternative. Anti-Role Model.

After abandoning my search for a Guru, I inverted the question. What is it that I don’t want to do or follow? I found a perfect reverse role model. This person had every single trait that led to failure. He had all the qualities which were to be avoided at all costs. So, I hung his picture, in my mental living room and enacted a mental model. This mental model was simple. Every time I became lethargic, cynical, aimless, I looked at this picture and said, "Do I want to be like this?" The answer was instant and an emphatic no.

An ‘Anti-Role Model’ is better. It starts with elimination. You are left with only a few things that you need to do, and they can be honed with discipline. The chances of doing better improve. This also takes care of the gross can’t influence the subtle’ problem. You are no longer trying to look up or down and putting yourself in a pecking order of existence.

Here is a beautiful quote from Charlie Munger: “Invert, always invert: Turn a situation or problem upside down. Look at it backward. What happens if all our plans go wrong? Where don’t we want to go, and how do you get there? Instead of looking for success, make a list of how to fail instead — through sloth, envy, resentment, self-pity, entitlement, all the mental habits of self-defeat. Avoid these qualities and you will succeed. Tell me where I’m going to die, that is, so I don’t go there.”

An anti-role model is someone who has not achieved what you want to achieve, despite being on the same goal or path. What you want to do is to avoid their mistakes, and adopt those learnings.

Being aware of the psychology of Human Misjudgment can allow one to avoid pitfalls and not become overtly confident in tasks where we have low ability. Our confidence and ability are usually inversely related. Anti-role models can help us avoid dark areas.

This framework may not be one person. It can be a collection of habits and traits you want to avoid. Hang that caricature in your mental living room.

This blog was originally published here.


About the author

Sahil Kapoor - Vice President & Head - Products & Market Strategist at DSP Asset Managers. In his own words, his writing is his "Gurudakshina" - his humble repayment to Mr. Market.


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