An aimless journey is a waste of time and other invaluable resources. Selecting a destination and
planning the itinerary are the important steps to be taken before embarking on a journey. Similarly, setting a role model in life makes one aware of the hurdles one might face, the ways to overcome them and the stages one must go through in order to fulfil one’s dreams. Similar to a compass which helps the voyagers to determine the direction in which the ship is sailing, by setting a role model, one can easily determine if one is traversing in the right direction or not, and can also know how far away one is  from reaching the desired destination.

Even before we attain the maturity to decide and plan our career by seeking inspiration from the people who have made their mark in the chosen field, we set our parents or caretakers or even our teachers as our icons and we grow up emulating them. After being exposed to people from various milieus, experiencing certain incidents and discovering some truths in life, we would begin to focus on character building and personality development. At this juncture, it is very crucial to acquire knowledge of the iconic people, their personality, works and ideology. William Lyon Phelps quipped—“How beautiful it is to be able to live inside a mind with attractive and interesting pictures on the walls.” These pictures in the mind are the creative works of our imagination, and these are in turn a result of our thoughts. The seeds of such beautiful thoughts are sown in our minds by learning about the iconic people, as James Martineau has remarked—“We forfeit the chief source of dignity and sweetness in life if we do not seek to converse with greater minds that have left their vestiges on the world”. Like a candle lighting many other candles or a small ray of light driving away the darkness in a room or a flower spreading its sweet aroma in the house or a gem shining bright in the dark, the role models we set to ourselves enlighten our lives by sowing the seeds of thought that are worth pondering over. The real delight and beauty lie in observing these seeds germinate, bear flowers and fruits, which would spread these seeds furthermore, beginning a virtuous circle of wisdom. The discovery of electricity has revolutionised the world, and led to many other discoveries, which enhanced our way of living. Similarly, one thought can lead to many other thoughts that would make the thinker elated, and the people who would receive these thoughts will get equally elated creating a network of beautiful thoughts as though it were a necklace of shiny pearls. A real icon is a good thinker who thinks and makes others also think the most interesting thoughts.

Helen Keller, a renowned author and political activist, had lost her senses of sight and hearing when she was nineteen months old. The impediments faced by either a deaf or a blind person while learning are known to everyone. For a deaf-blind person like Helen Keller, these difficulties get squared, but that did not prevent her from becoming educated. She became the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. Her words,
“I thank God for my handicaps, for through them, I have found myself, my work, and my God”
demonstrate how she accredits her achievements to her handicaps. Neither losing her sense of vision prevented her from becoming a visionary nor her inability to hear any voice made her voice unheard to the others. Her profound message was heard by her contemporaries and many generations that came later on, and will be heard by the generations that are yet to come.Harold Russell, a sergeant paratrooper in World War II, lost his hands in an accident in the training camp and thought that it is the end of his life, but, at that time, little did he know that he was going to become a popular film star and a reputed author. Neither did he nor anyone else had expected that, like a Phoenix, he would rise from the ashes and soar to new heights. His message “It’s not what you have lost, but what you have left that counts” was a constant source of inspiration to many people. Helen Keller and Harold Russell inspired everyone by making them think that “If people with such setbacks can achieve success, why can’t I?”, and, like true icons, showed the way that will lead us to light.

In “Ignited Minds”, one of the bestsellers authored by APJ Abdul Kalam (former President of India), the author remarked—“Role models can help us focus on what is correct for us as individuals, as groups and, of course, as a nation. They can also lead us to great success”, to illustrate the significance of role models in our lives. He also cited—“We seem to have got carried away with the success of a few in the field of information technology. But this is nothing compared to what we can and should achieve.” By the time we measure the length of all the three dimensions of the universe to calculate its volume, its volume would have increased, as the universe is expanding continuously. Similarly, by the time we identify all the extant species in the world, some species would become extinct, and some other new species would take birth. Also, by the time we find a remedy to an illness, new diseases would emerge or an already combated disease would reemerge with the causal pathogen gaining immunity against the antibiotics which were effective previously. There are many such issues, which keep reminding us that we cannot make a halt in the progress, be it in the case of science and technology or any other field. Whatever has been achieved is really nothing compared to what we can and should achieve.

There are notable people in every field, who, like a compass, point towards the right direction. For example, a ship which will not reach the destination unless the helmsman steers it in the right direction, an aspirant will not reach his goal unless he traverses in the right path. As a ship could be redirected to the correct path after going astray, an aspirant can also get back on track after taking a wrong route and learning a lesson. Despite  being set in the right path and having the correct map in the hand, a ship will not reach the actual destination unless it has sufficient fuel in it. Similarly, despite having an icon, an aim and a plan to accomplish it, an aspirant will not reach his goal unless he has a strong urge in him that can fuel him enough to reach it. Thus, icons are the visionaries, who made significant contributions to the field they have chosen and show others the way to succeed in that field. They teach us to believe in ourselves, present us with a new perspective to see ourselves and the world we live in, inspire us to aim high and achieve more, and enlighten us by sowing the seeds of great thoughts in our minds. Thomas Carlyle wisely quoted, “Great men taken up in any way are profitable company.” Reams of paper would also be insufficient to list out the importance of having an icon in our lives.      

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