It’s time to celebrate like you have never celebrated before. This is big; I mean really big. November is national Banana Pudding Lovers Month. Yes, that’s right. Banana pudding for everyone. You get banana pudding, you get banana pudding, and you get banana pudding.

I am not a fan of anything banana flavored…not pie, candy and especially not pudding. In fact, I only like barely under-ripe bananas. I am ok with a little bit of green on the peels but not brown. I know, I am a weirdo.

In addition to the month of November being dedicated to banana pudding, did you know that it is National Inspirational Role Models month and, not surprisingly, National Gratitude Month? I have written multiple times about gratitude, and if you are a regular reader, you know just how important a grateful heart is to me.

Inspirational role models, on the other hand, I have not previously written about. To me, they are every bit as important as gratitude. I have so many role models and have relied on them and their counsel and example over the course of my life. Some are very close to me, like my late father. I mean late in the way that he has passed on, but those who knew him, would remember that he was usually not the most punctual either.

I learned my work ethic and my care for people from him. I also learned what I consider to be my authenticity from him. He was the same in his dental practice as he was at home, church or out and about in Traverse City. I have attempted to mirror that in my life in a “what you see is what you get” kind of way. Sometimes this is a plus, other times not so much. As a consequence, I have attracted people just like that around me. Life is too short for duplicity and playing games.

Other role models were former co-workers or bosses that I have had over the years, but probably not in the way you may be thinking. I value the lessons that I have learned from watching these role models model the opposite of what it is that I value. Maybe you would call them negative role models, but that could lead you to believe that I modeled their negative behavior. What I really modeled was the opposite of their example. As often as possible, I would like to learn from the mistakes of others rather than from making them myself.

Still other role models are people that I have never met before in my life; some are not even living.  I find inspiration often from real people that have somehow overcome adversity to rise above their problems and achieve success in life. I read biographies of people who I admire and have read the life stories of many of the saints. Of course, I never measure up but unless I am reaching higher than my station, I will never grow.

This is why I believe it is so important to have role models. I believe we are gifted a short time on this spinning ball through space and it is incumbent upon us to do two things:  1. Be on a constant path of self-improvement and 2.  Leave the world a better place than before we got here. The only way I know how to accomplish these two important goals is to look to people who have already done it and emulate them. This has been my strategy since I was a young boy.

For example, when I learned how to ski, I took one lesson with a modicum of success. The rest, I taught myself primarily by studying the best skiers on the slope while I was on the chairlift. I usually skied by myself when I was a teen, and I would examine how the best skiers would shift their weight when they would turn and watch how they carved beautiful paths down the slope.  When it was my turn, I would practice what I just learned falling dozens (or hundreds) or times before I could perfect the same turns.

My skiing did nothing to leave the world a better place, but I was fixated on becoming a better skier. My ability to study and learn from others translated into my business practice and professional life as well. I have tried to learn from colleagues and other leaders in the financial profession. Believe it or not there is an abundance of principled professionals from whom I have learned.

I have had no shortage of positive role models in my life, and I hope that in some small way I have been an inspiration or example for someone else.

I am curious. Do you have any role models in your life? If so, and if they are still living perhaps now would be a great time to let them know, since it is National Gratitude Month.