Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Who is your hero?

At the end of a long and busy day yesterday, Notting Hill was the perfect antidote. The film required little or no concentration, brought a surprising number of smiles to the face, and could be switched off part way through because the story is older than most hills round my way.

The film is all about Julia Roberts (aren’t all Julia Roberts’ films?). She plays a Julia-Roberts-type actress called Anna Scott who falls for ordinary Notting Hill bookshop owner William Thackeray. Will’s little sister loses no time in telling the famous Anna Scott just how much she loves her films, and how they have just “got to be best friends”. It’s as silly as the rest of the film but this no-holds-barred star worshipping made me think about few heroes we have these days.

I’ve been rereading David Ogilvy. He was a real advertising and direct marketing hero, described as a genius by many. Yet his genius followed a careful study of other great men’s work. Raymond Rubicam (also of advertising fame), Dr George Gallup (for whom he had worked) and Claude Hopkins were all credited by Ogilvy as major influences on him.

The world’s most successful investor, Warren Buffet, was a great student of Benjamin Graham’s work. He apparently has read his book many, many times over.

Whatever our field or specialisation, we all need heroes. We all need to look up to someone who has excelled and contributed lasting value.
"If we can see further it is because we stand on the rungs of a ladder built by those who came before us."


  1. This is a lovely thread but maybe we need to admire what heroes have done rather than heroes themselves or else one is in danger of analogising the celeb culture. To take Julia Roberts, for example. I know nothing about her or her lifestyle but I admired her action in publicly attending an even with unshaven armpits - so counter-cultural and therefore so brave. I admire the actions of Ellen MacArthur in sailing round the world and then trying to encourage people to believe that, if they strive, they can achieve. http://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/about

    I think this distinction is often very important. For example I adore what Richard Wagner achieved in the field of opera but he seems to have been a pretty vile person. One can pin one's rosette on individuals who may not be worthy of it even if their actions are wholly admirable.


  2. You make a very good point. I suppose the thing about heroes is that we don't really know who they are. We have more opportunity to read about Julia Roberts' life than, for example, David Ogilvy's, but their achievements are why we remember them.

    As communication becomes faster and easier, and more aspects of people's lives are exposed for examination, heroes become a thing of the past. We simply know too much of their faults. Maybe that's a good thing; to see people more as they really are.

    And I had totally forgotten about Julia Roberts' armpits!