Heroes should inspire, not act as measuring sticks

I think we all have heroes. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, so long as we only aspire to be like them, rather than compare ourselves to them.

There is a difference, I should point out. That is, it’s one thing to aspire to be a great programmer, artist or writer. It’s another entirely to compare one’s self to our heroes and feel that we are inferior in some way to them.

I know, for example, that I’m many, many years behind Michael Whelan, one of my absolute favorite artists, and that I will never “catch up” to him. Even if he were no longer in the world, I suspect I still wouldn’t ever be as good as he is, but that doesn’t matter. The point is that if I love creating art— which I do— it shouldn’t matter that I will never be Whelan’s equal. I should only compare myself to myself. If I can be better, after a year of practice, than I was at the beginning of that year, that’s all that matters.

I definitely have a hero in the world of programming— Jonathan Blow. He’s the creator of two indie games— Braid and The Witness. Utterly unsatisfied with the existing languages used to create computer games— and having more than 20 years of experience writing games in other programming languages— he decided, a few years ago, to create his own language just for making games. I am nowhere near the level of programmer that Jonathan is, nor will I probably ever be. The man is, in my opinion, a genius. But the fact that I will probably never be his equal doesn’t matter to me. I am happy with the things I’ve accomplished so far, and hope that I will continue to improve.

Neil Gaiman is my hero in the world of writing. I have never read anything of his— or listened to it in audio book— that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy. There are others— Stephen King, Michael Moorcock, Isaac Asimov and Orson Scott Card, just to name a few— but Neil is my favorite. I only wish I could have discovered him earlier in my life.

I love to draw, write and program. I love science, math, reading, science fiction and fantasy. I love learning in general and honestly don’t identify with those who don’t.

No matter what you believe, or who your heroes are, the biggest thing I would like anyone to take away from this is to please— and take this from someone who has spent his almost 45 years of life not always taking this advice the best— do not be too hard on yourself. Life is hard enough without doing that. Just don’t give up on your life and your dreams.

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