Role models and George Bailey

English: Screenshot of Jimmy Stewart and Donna...

I’m 34 years old. I look older. I’ve reached the point in life where the good days are gone in a flash and the less good days seem to drag like they never did before.

The way time itself works in changing – seasons just seem to drift into each other and my daughter is growing and changing two steps faster than I could ever keep up. I feel old before my time – or this may be my time and I can’t quite comprehend that yet.

I went for a walk this morning. During a very English downpour I attempted to remember all of the role models – or people that I’ve wanted to grow up to be – that I’ve had at different times in my life. I think they have changed as I have.

In broad chronological order I can remember the following

  • Elliott from ET
  • Spiderman
  • Han Solo
  • He Man
  • Dogtanian (a Muskahound)
  • Atticus Finch
  • Robert Howley/Robert Jones (Welsh rugby players)
  • Maverick in Top Gun
  • Jack Russell (English wicketkeeper)
  • My Uncle Mike
  • Alexander the Great
  • Demetrius the Besieger
  • Friedrich Nietzsche
  • Chief Brody (from Jaws)
  • John Nash
  • Stephen Levitt (of Freakonomics fame)
  • Jefferson Smith
  • Malcolm Gladwell
  • George Bailey
  • Real people that I’ve met

George Bailey is the main character in It’s a Wonderful Life. If you haven’t watched it then stop reading this blog and watch it. If you don’t enjoy black and white films then watch it anyway.

George Bailey is the odd one out in my list for a few key reasons

i) George Bailey has held a special place in this list for almost 15 years

ii) he has no superpowers

iii) he has no fame, he has little recognition, he has no access to untold cash reserves.

He is just a man who does the right thing when faced with difficult choices – willing to compromise his own ambitions to help others and focused on family and community. George Bailey, above all things, wants to be worthwhile and as the years have passed by and my dreams have been replaced by principles, I’d be quite happy to have people say that about me when I’m gone.

I’m interested in making organisations better, primarily because I’m interested in helping people. This may not sound very businesslike, but that is simply because there is a tension between business commercials and compassion that has always existed.

If you want to hear someone speak passionately about that tension then don’t hire a motivational speaker, just listen to George Bailey. Some lessons endure.

9 thoughts on “Role models and George Bailey

  1. Poignant blog post. Doing the right thing and doing what’s right for business will always be at odds. I’m off to get a copy of IAWL to remind me why doing the right thing *is* the right thing to do 🙂


  2. There is a tension between commercial and compassion but I think there’s a real power in what Jim Collins talked about as ‘the genius of the and’ which accepts the tension and maintains both. Some people, yourself included, have the ability to value both.

    Great blog post. Loved it!

    And, you get extra brownie points for mentioning Dogtanian.


    1. That is far too flattering. I’m just happy to occasionally share the same space with the great people in this community.

      And to settle down once a year with my family to watch my role model recognise the value of his place in the world.


  3. Great post. I’ve always loved this film too. I think I remember it topping a top 100 films list. Its also nice to think about my own role models. This is before your time…but Hong-Kong Phooey and Top Cat would be on my list!!
    …and as if by luck. I searched you tube, and the first clip of Top Cat that I found is using another of my role models as background music!! …Sade’s Smooth Operator. The sad thing is…doing the right thing, noble though it may be…often puts good people in bad situations 😦


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