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Unread 03-30-2009, 04:13 PM
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The Responsibility of Being a Role Model

I kind of had an urge to write this. You may disagree with parts of it, or more likely, not understand parts of it, but I thought I'd share it. Please excuse any poor grammer.

----------------------------------------

Following the Minnesota Regional last year, I thought it would be nice to send out a few congrats. I decided to post a congratulations thread on a team's forum for an award they won. I received a reply saying "Thanks so much! It's an incredible honor to be congratulated by a FIRST celebrity."

I was completely shocked at the comment. Me, a FIRST celebrity? It now occurs to me that the poster most likely mistook me for Andy Baker... which makes a lot more sense. A FIRST celebrity, though, is kind of a concept that is universally recognized but rarely spoken about. Being a celebrity makes you a role model and puts a lot of responsibility on your shoulders.

We may not have any Paris Hiltons around here (though I've heard Paul Copioli is a great kisser), but we do have members who are looked up to as more than just "a mentor from team XXXX".

I was a high schooler when I joined the Chief Delphi forums. You learn who the board regulars are pretty quickly. Eventually, you learn who some of these FIRST celebrities are as well. I remember looking up to certain members as role models and people that I wouldn't mind being like one day. I built a lot of respect for a lot of these people, some of them I had never met or spoken to before (Or still haven't met or spoken to before). This first kind of hit me during my 2007 trip to IRI.

I was running scouting and strategy for my team (269). I remember having a big match to play near the end of the day on Friday. I'm pretty sure we had to play Beatty (71) and Exploding Bacon (1902), who were both Einstein'ers that year. We were with 148. If you'd asked me at the time, our robot was awesome and fully capable of hanging with the best of them if the stars lined up right. If you ask me now, we weren't that great. Average at best.

When meeting with our alliance partners to work out a strategy, this guy from 148 told us that the best strategy was for us to play defense on Beatty and get back in time to deploy our ramps.

I was pissed. I went off on him a little and told him that we were better than he thought we were and that we weren't playing defense. I was insulted by his request and angry that he would relegate us to a job that any bot with wheels could do.

We went back to our pit and the first thing that was said to me was "I can't believe you just did that to JVN." My jaw dropped a little. THAT was JVN? Wait. THE JVN!?. Oh crap. I immediately walked over to 148's pits, found the big guy in the black shirt with the balding head and told him "We'll play defense."

The strategy worked out and we won the match, but that is beside the point. (Other than the one where I learned to always listen to John). My entire opinion changed when I found out who I was talking to. I had heard the name JVN before but had never put the name to the face. If you ask John if he knew me back in 2007, I would assume the answer would be no. But I looked up to him. I couldn't have told you anything about him at the time either. I didn't even know what he looked like. But I knew the name and I knew that he was someone I was suppose to respect. John may not have realized it, but he had someone looking up to him.

The point I'm trying to make is that you may not realize you have this "celebrity" characteristic as well. You may have a lot of friends in the FIRST community but you may not realize how many people look up to you from outside of that group. Or for that matter, look up to you from inside that group.

I used John here because I figured he wouldn't have a problem with it. I think he is decently aware of how many people look up to him and he does an excellent job of presenting himself in a professional manner. Even though I know John a little better now, at least enough to put his name to his face, I still look up to him a lot. I don't mean to make him sound bullying or anything either. It was really just a case of my inflated ego at the time.

You may not realize that as you walk through the pits in the World Congress Center, you have eyes watching you. Those eyes don't stop following you after leaving the competition. You carry your celebrity everywhere there is a FIRSTer. The chat rooms, the forums, the competitions... even your Facebook page. You may not know it, but you are being looked up to. You are a role model.

There have been times in the past when I overheard conversations between some of these people and had my heart sink when I found out the topic being discussed. One discussion I remember vividly was a mentor talking about a party he had been to which involved drinking.

Was it wrong for this person to be at a party? No. He was 21, he can drink if he wants. This person didn't do anything wrong. But to me, this was like listening to Steve Young and Jerry Rice discuss how awesome heroin is. My heart sank to the pit of my stomach. My celebrity was nothing more than a drunk party boy in my eyes. This person could have won a WFA and went on to cure cancer, but I will still put that memory next to it all.

"Drunk party boy" might be a bit harsh, but the thing I want you to take away from this is to always be aware of who could be watching you and listening to you. Being a role-model in this community isn't a choice you really get to make... It just happens. The only choice you get in the matter is whether or not to accept it and take the responsibility to present yourself with an image that others can look up to and aspire to. You may not realize you are a role model at all. To you, you're a screen name that logs on to a forum a couple times a week to answer a question or make a submission for a caption contest. To others though, you are so much more.

Please take your impact on others as a role model into consideration at all times. In the end, this has nothing to do with FIRST, it's more of a life thing.
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Last edited by AndyB : 03-30-2009 at 06:41 PM.
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Unread 03-30-2009, 04:50 PM
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Re: The Responsibility of Being a Role Model

Quote:
There have been times in the past when I overheard conversations between some of these people and had my heart sink when I found out the topic being discussed. One discussion I remember vividly was a mentor talking about a party he had been to which involved drinking.

Was it wrong for this person to be at a party? No. He was 21, he can drink if he wants. This person didn't do anything wrong. But to me, this was like listening to Steve Young and Jerry Rice discuss how awesome heroin is. My heart sank to the pit of my stomach. My celebrity was nothing more than a drunk party boy in my eyes. This person could have won a WFA and went on to cure cancer, but I will still put that memory next to it all.
This is a bit silly. If the person was great when you didn't know they drank in their spare time, they should remain excellent when you do know that information. The opposite lesson to take home from this would be "it is possible to be a helpful, responsible, and inspiring member of the community while drinking every now and then". If you imagine that your mentors (or any human being) are perfect, you are almost certainly going to be let down at some point.

So while the mentors should keep in mind that they are role models, students should keep in mind that mentors and other pillars of the FRC community are just human, and probably do 'bad' things from time to time. They might even make statements or perform actions that could be considered un-GP. Try to take from them the positive, and ignore the negatives.

Last edited by Bongle : 03-30-2009 at 04:58 PM.
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Unread 03-30-2009, 04:58 PM
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Re: The Responsibility of Being a Role Model

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Originally Posted by Bongle View Post
This is a bit silly. If the person was great when you didn't know they drank in their spare time, they should remain excellent when you do know that information. The opposite lesson to take home from this would be "it is possible to be a helpful, responsible, and inspiring member of the community while drinking every now and then". If you imagine that your mentors are perfect, you are almost certainly going to be let down at some point.
I totally agree with you. But I guess the context of the situation was a bit off. It wasn't the right time to be talking about it and it certainly didn't make him look professional. It kind of has to do with first impressions I guess. What I said may have been a bit harsh, but that wasn't really the point of the story.

I agree that nobody is perfect. I also think that "nobody is perfect" is not a great reason for throwing responsibility to the side. I wouldn't approve of two of my old high school teachers talking in the corner of a room full of students about the big party they had the previous night either.
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Last edited by AndyB : 03-30-2009 at 05:04 PM.
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Unread 03-30-2009, 05:16 PM
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Re: The Responsibility of Being a Role Model

This is a great topic that you have introduced, Andy. There is plenty of opportunity here for good discussion regarding role models in FIRST. As with everything, there are going to be many perspectives, viewpoints, and attitudes regarding role models and what that means regarding responsibilities to the 'fans', the younger generation of FIRSTers who admire them.

I weigh in very closely to the thoughts you have expressed. At the same time, I understand that no one is perfect and young adults have to develop and mature as they go - sometimes leaving behind a path strewn with too much public information. That is easy to do these days with social networks, blogs, instant everything. It is for them to learn, sometimes through very hard lessons, to be more careful with what they put out there.

And hopefully, in the role model, celebrity, rock star aspect of things, there are adults that young FIRSTers have access to, that can mentor them in the realities of setting their idols too high up on a pedestal. If that happens, the idol has no where to go but to fall off.

It's a great topic. We have so many wonderful people in FIRST that we can admire and respect.
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Last edited by JaneYoung : 03-31-2009 at 11:50 AM.
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Unread 03-30-2009, 05:28 PM
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Re: The Responsibility of Being a Role Model

One way that I personally remember the responsibility is that I am representing X groups. As a member of those groups, I must not do anything that would drag those groups down or tarnish their image. If I do, then no matter what disclaimers I use, I have hurt the group's image of the eyes of others. Because I choose to always act as though I'm in the spotlight, even when I'm not, I wind up in the spotlight more and more.

I didn't even know I had much of a following here until this year, at the one event I attended. It seemed like half of one particular team wanted a picture with me when they realized who I was. (I had my CD nametag, as I normally do, plus a volunteer nametag, so I was kind of easy to spot if you could see me.) Thinking about it now, I realize that to them, I'm one of their role models, and I need to be extra careful about what I say and do.

And yet, I still have my role models. Some of them I've met, others I haven't. Still others I've probably met without knowing it. I wonder what kind of impression I made on them?

It's kind of scary, being a role model or a leader. There isn't a whole lot of room for errors, and everyone has their own definition of error.
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Unread 03-30-2009, 05:52 PM
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Re: The Responsibility of Being a Role Model

Very nice essay, Andy. A good reality check for some of us.

I don't see myself as one of the celebrities, but in the past few years it seems that others do. Certainly not at the level of Dave, JVN or the 'other' Andy, but still a fish in the sea.

Regardless of how much we idolize these people, they are just people. Smart people, perhaps, but even smart people do dumb things.

There are plenty of things of which I am very proud, but also things of which I am not at all proud - ashamed, in fact. It is those experiences, though, that bring home the point of why I want to do things to be proud of, and to avoid doing things of which I am ashamed. They make me who I am. I am sure that I'm not unique in this.

Most folks get it, eventually. It comes with experience and maturity, and FIRST helps accelerate that learning. Some folks never get it, and that lack is what (arguably) brings on society's ills.

The point is that, while most people try to behave while others are watching (see my post about FIRST kids), the real mark of integrity is doing the right thing even when nobody is watching.

Don
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Unread 03-30-2009, 06:26 PM
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Re: The Responsibility of Being a Role Model

nice post Andy.......

although I dont get to call myself a FIRST celebrity(yet )......

I do get to influence younger members of our team..
I'll share what our mentor Dave said too me not to long ago(talking to him about younger students)..
"After your first year,its your job too"..........

I dident really realize what He meant untill a few weeks later at the regional when I had to explain what "Winning" really was,.....Then I remembered something we have on our website......
"Winning" is being rewarded for excellence in design, demonstrating team spirit, gracious professionalism and maturity, and the ability to overcome obstacles. Scoring the most points is a secondary goal. Winning means building partnerships that last..........

this pretty much changed my(and their) outlook...........

So I think..no matter who you are, YOU are a role model to everyone, wether YOU choose to be a good one or not is YOUR decision to make.........

Just remembering that someone is always learning from what you.........

If any of that makes any sense........................
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Unread 03-30-2009, 07:26 PM
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Re: The Responsibility of Being a Role Model

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Originally Posted by Don Rotolo View Post
I don't see myself as one of the celebrities
Well, you should.

Awesome writing Andy. I look up to a lot of people I haven't met either, such as many others do. But I hope to meet such people as Paul Copioli, JVN, Karthik, EricH, Cory, Andy Baker, and Travis Covington, at the Championship event. It just feels good knowing that there's someone out there that is willing to provide help when others need it regardless of who it is who is asking.

You guys rock.
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Unread 03-30-2009, 07:56 PM
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Re: The Responsibility of Being a Role Model

And this is the reason I don't like meeting my fans.

On a serious note though: I make plenty of mistakes. What makes a person a great role model, is what they project outwardly. You can party all you want in your time, but if you start bringing a beer to the robotics meeting, I might have an issue. I generally come with the "don't try this at home" approach. I'll tell people of my mistakes, but I'll tell them to not make the same ones. For instance, I play sudoku in class somewhat regularly. I think that as long as I get good grades, this is ok. However, don't try that yourself. It's for professionals only.

Honestly though, don't play sudoku in class. It really isn't a good idea, your grades can and probably will suffer. Not to mention annoy your teachers.
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Unread 03-30-2009, 08:03 PM
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Re: The Responsibility of Being a Role Model

Wonderful post.

Andy, even though the poster mistook you as Andy Baker, you are still a role model in the FIRST community. A quick check of your post count shows over 1,000 posts and I know I've read tons of them. I don't post often but I read Chief Delphi a ton. I'm sure there are other people like me who read your posts without your knowledge (hopefully they are as inspired as I am) .

As for the rest of you, every post on Chief Delphi gets read hundreds of time so remember to be gracious and professional and make a difference.
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Unread 03-30-2009, 08:08 PM
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Re: The Responsibility of Being a Role Model

Andy, that was a very well written post.

I've noticed in the last year or so that I've gained a lot of respect from my peers and a lot of underclassmen. I guess some would consider me a role model but sometimes I feel like I've been elevated to this high pedestal where I'm expected to do no wrong. I think a lot of the role models on here are talked about in the same way.

I'm not saying anything directed towards anyone on here but, all of the role models we're talking about are people too. They make mistakes, and really good decisions too...
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Unread 03-30-2009, 08:17 PM
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Re: The Responsibility of Being a Role Model

To some degree, I agree. I don't think you should change yourself because others are watching you or listening to you, but rather because that change will better you as a person or some personal justification. Not because people are watching you, but because it is the right thing to do.

Thus I hate the phrase "gracious professionalism." Because it makes people do what they should have been doing all along. GP isn't what your grandmother told you because I know for a fact my grandmother couldn't even spell gracious professionalism, she told me about "playing nice," and "treating others how you would want to be treated," and "being a good sport."

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Unread 03-30-2009, 08:19 PM
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Re: The Responsibility of Being a Role Model

Andy,

What a lovely post - thank you so much for writing it.

One of my favorite things about FIRST is that many of my role models are younger (some WAY younger) than I am. It makes my impending dotage much easier to face...
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Unread 03-30-2009, 10:32 PM
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Re: The Responsibility of Being a Role Model

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Originally Posted by AndyB View Post
I was pissed. I went off on him a little..

I immediately walked over to 148's pits, found the big guy in the black shirt with the balding head...
So let's summarize...
"The fat bald coach from 148 pissed me off at IRI during a strategy discussion..."

Andy... I don't need any more friends like you.

-John

PS - The list of names that the fat bald guy has pissed off is long, welcome to the club.
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Unread 03-30-2009, 10:40 PM
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Re: The Responsibility of Being a Role Model

JVN, I'm sure he meant it in the nicest way?
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