A few days ago, I was presented with the idea of writing about my hero by my friend, Danny Iny. And to be honest, I had no real interest in writing about it mainly because I have never thought about who my hero was!

Sure, I’ve had mentors and people who I’ve looked up to over the years, but a hero? When I think of heroes, I think of people like Mother Teresa, Gandhi And Jesus. And as important as they are all to millions of people, I have never considered any of them my hero.

Furthermore, I think it’s hard to call someone you’ve never met your hero. But that’s only my opinion…

So I thought about it and asked myself several questions:

  • Who is someone who has impacted my life deeply?
  • Who is someone who is where I want to be in my own life?
  • Who is someone who has done the things I want to do in my life?
  • Who is someone who challenges me personally?

Given that I have never really thought this through, it was a challenging exercise. I made a list of as many people as I could think of that I look up to and who have changed the way I view life. And I came up with my answer…

It’s my father.

And when I say he is my hero, it is not because he is exceptionally courageous, brave, or noble. Because he’s not. He hasn’t made great strides to improve humanity nor has he attempted to impact the world.

And that’s fine because that’s not how I define a hero.

This is why I chose him:

  1. He served his country in Vietnam after being drafted into the US Army Infantry. He was sent to the Mekong Delta, where he slept in rivers, flew in hundreds of high risk helicopter missions, and was wounded multiple times and received the Purple Heart.
  2. He has always made it very clear that his two sons are the most important thing in his life. And although he went through a bitter divorce with my mother when I was 6, where she won sole custody, he always made it his #1 priority to let us know how much he wanted us.
  3. He dedicated his life to his passion for science. He worked full time and paid his way through the University of New Hampshire, Michigan State, and UCLA, eventually receiving his PhD in Kinesiology. He knew what he wanted and went after it 100%…How many of us can say the same thing? His others passion is basketball and I’m sure he would have tried to make the NBA if he wasn’t 5’7 and white….
  4. He planned his life, his finances, and his retirement so that his life would not be a struggle. He saved when others spent. He cut coupons when he was making well over six figures, and invested his money wisely. He is now 66 and will never have to worry about paying his bills, being forced into a retirement home, or squeaking by on Social Security.
  5. He has always held honesty as the highest of virtues. Growing up, the worst thing we could have done was tell a lie. Once when I was 5, I broke one of our living room windows and blamed a neighbor. That was the worst reaction I ever saw from him and I never did it again (OK, maybe once..) Because of what he instilled in me when I was young, I value being truthful as one of the most important things we can do.
  6. He has created freedom and autonomy in his life. Being a distinguished researcher of 38 years at UCLA, he plays by his own rules. He sets his own schedule and literally plays basketball for 2+ hours every day of the week. He works hard, plays hard and loves it!
  7. He has a lifelong commitment to his health. How many 66 year olds do you know that get up at 4am, ride a stationary bike for an hour, stretch and do calisthenics for another hour, and then workout with weights in the evening? His health is better than mine and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him live to 100. Actually his mother is 98, so it’s definitely not out of the question.
  8. He is a classic example of someone “doing the work”. He worked tirelessly for many years to reach his goals and set a great example for my brother and I. Coincidentally, my brother followed in his footsteps and went on to get his DVM and is a successful radiologist.
  9. He literally loves his life. I know most of you reading this (and myself included) have probably never felt that way. He wakes up happy and looks forward to his day. He challenges his mind and body each day and is at total peace with where he’s at in his life.

My father is just a regular guy who has made some great decisions to create his desired life and is now reaping the benefits. This is in stark contrast to how I have lived my life up to this point. I’ve spent little time thinking of the consequences of my actions.

I’ve gone deeply into debt without thinking about how a bankruptcy would affect my life. I spent my twenties partying and drinking instead of going to college. Now I am going back and I’ll probably be 50 before I get my degree!

Why Do We Need Heroes?

The reason having a personal hero is important is because it allows us to measure ourselves against a benchmark. We see what’s possible through their actions and can strive to achieve greatness in our own right.

It’s funny because I’ve never thought that I was trying to live up to my father’s unspoken expectations, but I most certainly am. At 40 years old, I still do things that I don’t necessarily want to do but do anyway because they are what he would do.

And maybe you don’t have a hero, mentor, idol, or whatever you want to call it, but maybe you should…At least think about it and ask yourself who the person is that you most admire or aspire to be like.

And I’d love to hear about it!

So tell me:

Who is your hero and why?

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