As a younger man I was posed this important question. Today, I now know the importance of always having an angel on my shoulder. I want to pass the lesson on to you.
In my early years, while still being very impressionable, my father gave me some words of inspiration. They have stuck with me to this day. “Throughout the day,” he said, “you and your sister are always sitting on my shoulder.”
When faced with any important decision, he first thought about what the two of us (his mentors, in a way) would think of his actions. He believed that if my sister and I were there with him, as he reflected on the crux of a certain situation or decision, he would be able to choose the course of action that would be of the most benefit to us. By keeping that frame of reference in mind, he was then able to act in a way that he believed was the most prudent and beneficial.
When I was told this, it reminded me of having a little angel on my shoulder, except in my dad’s case, it was two angels. (I’m only vouching for myself here, not my sister).
It has been my experience, and that of others I have spoken with, that, in the same way, we carry around a personal ‘mentor’ or ‘idol’ whom we consult as we go about our business. Whether it is knowingly or not, we often ask ourselves, “What would Joe think of me?” or “What would So-and-so do in my position?” The most popular example, of course, is “What would Jesus do?” The answer, usually, is not to pound another Four Loko (have another drink), regardless of the situation or who you may ask.
However, no matter whom it is you are asking, the simple act of inwardly consulting with someone you respect or look up to can go a long way. It can center you, help you decide on the right course of action, and provide you with clarity in regards to what you are looking to gain from any given situation. The beauty of this practice is that it need not even be someone you know personally.
Along my own journey, I have often found it helpful to consult people I only know of through books or the internet. These have come to be important ‘pseudo’ mentors to me. Without even having met these individuals, they have become other angels on my shoulder. Many other well-known individuals similarly have ‘virtual mentors’. Often, they are just as important or relevant as a personal acquaintance.
Regardless of an individual’s fame or stature in life, there is someone they look up to in some way or try to benefit or appease with their actions. Bill Gates had Warren Buffett, Oprah had Maya Angelou, and Thoreau had Emerson. Without them to consult or draw inspiration from, either mentally or in real life, their work and the course of their lives might not have been the same. This is the value of having at least one idol.
So I would ask you, much like my own father asked me years ago in one of his most famous inspirational quotes, do you have someone sitting on your shoulder? Make certain that it is an angel and not a devil. Be sure that it is someone whose stature and opinion is truly valuable and esteemed, not someone that you have simply been told to admire. (I'm sure the Kardashians are great people, but I would not suggest you model your life after them.) Then, in your hour of need, you will never be alone.
Making small but crucial decisions, using this new angel on your shoulder, will put the compound effect into play. The power of combining these two principles will propel you along a trajectory of exponential success!
I would love to hear who sits on your shoulder. Feel free to share in the comments below, and let me know why you have chosen them!
—Photo Credit: Flickr/Mario Antonio Pena Zapatería