Heather and I recently had a conversation about "who are today's Fred Rogers and Bob Ross"? It seems that there aren't any such prominent role models today that seem to be so wholesome, caring, and just good (both on screen and off). As we probe this further we do find some other examples that perhaps fit the bill (Steve Irwin, Dolly Parton, and Betty White were all suggested). It doesn't take long before we question this person or that person, and we need to define some values on which we're going to determine who deserves to be on the list or not. After further reflection, I decided that this is a good exercise to explore our personal core values. With our company retreat coming up, knowing our personal core values will help us be prepared for updating our company core values.

Fred Rogers and Bob Ross. What comes to mind? Kind. Yes, but it's more than that. They encourage other people to be kind starting by being kind to themselves. That leads to another thing... Teaching. They aren't just kind people, but they are driven to teach others how to be kind. Teaching doesn't even feel like the right word here, because teaching makes me envision a lecturer giving prescriptive instruction. I think a better word is inspiring. Perhaps an underlying value of both of those things is that they truly care about and respect others. Well there's a deep value that we don't see enough of among people today.

So far, I feel like my Ross/Rogers (R&R?) core values look something like this:

  • Caring
    • Respectful
    • Kind
    • Inspiring

I'm finding this process is helpful for me. I like to stay well-informed on what's going on in the world, but it often drags me down emotionally. Most of the news covers problems, and it seems like the answer is the opposite of the problem. In other words, the answer is the negative of the problem. Emotionally, a double-negative definitely does not end up feeling positive. By the time I got to this point, I felt more positive. Doing whatever I can to encourage more kind and respectful mentoring feels like a positive way to help nudge the world in a better direction. My influence is far too small to make any measurable difference on any of those big problems in the news, but if anything I can do will help, then encouraging more of this behavior is likely to be it.

In trying to find some more current examples, one name that came up was RuPaul. Certainly a drag queen is going to be a much more controversial choice in our puritanical culture in the US, however Ru's "if you can't love yourself how in the hell are you going to love someone else" catchphrase is definitely in line with what R&R encouraged. Ru's ability to be out there despite our culture also teaches and is an example of bravery. It takes guts to stand up there and be proud of yourself in a society where breaking from traditional gender norms can expect a response of physical violence. In a much more simple, every day example, it also takes bravery to have crucial conversations with everyone in our lives, but it's necessary to build strong relationships. But the glitz and the satire sometimes used doesn't give me the same warm feeling of Ross/Rogers, so I personally wouldn't consider Ru on quite the same level but the bravery is still important.

R&R**&R** core values:

  • Caring
    • Respectful
    • Kind
    • Inspiring
  • Bravery

Another name that came up was Neil Degrasse Tyson, and now that I think of it his Cosmos predecessor Carl Sagan as well. Both of these men made teaching science to a broad audience their life's work and seemingly from similar values as R&R. I strive to be a man of science: questioning my own assumptions and beliefs, allowing them to change when new evidence proves them wrong. This is easily said and hard to do consistently. It's difficult to admit being wrong in the past, our brains tend towards confirmation bias, and it requires a fair bit of introspection.

  • Caring
    • Respectful
    • Kind
    • Inspiring
  • Bravery
  • Scientific minded
    • Looking for and being open to evidence that contradicts existing beliefs/ideas
    • Introspective
    • Continuing to learn
    • Admitting lack of knowledge

I feel like this is a pretty good start on my personal core values. I certainly don't feel done, but this was a good first step. I'm interested in hearing how this works for other people. Who inspires you? Did you follow a similar process and learn something about yourself?

Thinking about your core values?

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