Get Inspired! 4 Tips to Drawing Inspiration from Your Favorite Pop Culture Icons

For me, having a great conversation is like scoring a winning lottery ticket that pays out in joy instead of cash. So, you can imagine my excitement when Joe Boyd, CEO of Leadercast, asked me this intriguing question during our recent interview for his podcast:

Who was a mythical / fictional mentor to you growing up?

I was psyched to answer for so many reasons.

When I was a child, there weren’t a lot of strong female role models in pop culture that inspired me. You saw Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton outwit their sexist, devious boss on 9 to 5. On Charlie’s Angels, Kate Jackson played the “smart one” of the intrepid crime fighting trio. Wonder Woman was by far the coolest member of the Justice League cartoon. But none of them deeply resonated with me until I watched Sarah Conner, the female lead in the Terminator movies played by Linda Hamilton.

On the surface, it might not seem like I have a lot in common with Sarah Conner. Sure, we both like to exercise, though mine is usually done in a gym while she’s pumping out push-ups by the hundreds in her room at an asylum for the criminally insane. She is perennially freaked out while trying to save humanity from Skynet, and I’m passionate about finding optimism in a depressing world while helping people get unstuck. Unlike her, I’ve never killed hundreds of cyborgs—not unless you count an arcade game.

However, her character has provided me with a lot of inspiration. Conner became fierce when presented with difficult circumstances that would have destroyed just about anyone else. She stood by her principles when no one else believed her. Conner chose the greater good over her own needs, protecting her son to protect the long-term future of humanity.

For me, Sarah Conner epitomizes selflessness, resilience, and dedication. Yes, the same kind of qualities I aspire to in my professional and personal life—hopefully without the crazy action hero life and death circumstances.

That got me thinking about how we can all gain inspiration from our pop culture icons. So, I created this quick exercise to help you glean some helpful insights from a fictional or real-life mentor that is larger than life:

Step 1: Make a list of all the pop culture icons you most admire.

Think about TV, videos, movies, books, sports and more. Add names that resonate strongly now, or that have been lifelong favorites. Maybe it is Luke Skywalker or Yoda. Oprah Winfrey or Jennifer Lopez. Hannah Montana or the person Miley Cyrus has become as an adult today. Jot them all down, and then cull it down to your top three individuals.

Step 2: Identify their essential qualities.

What common qualities, beliefs or behaviors do these characters at the top of your list possess? The ability to defeat evil or show others what is possible? Maybe they invented something fantastical and awesome, like Willy Wonka or Ironman.

Step 3: Look for the link.

How do you currently embody these qualities? Consider what is possible when you demonstrate the key behaviors of those fictional or real-life mentors. How does it impact the person you are at work? How about at home?

Step 4: Commit to personal evolution.

What kind of changes would you like to make to claim more of what makes your pop culture mentor special? How can you gain more courage, start taking more risks, create personal boundaries or bring an extra dose of that kind of goodness into your life?

If you’d like to hear my full Leadercast interview to learn more about pop culture mentors and how to overcome whatever is holding you back, you can access it here.

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Get Unstuck with Shira Miller on Leadercast podcast

Which real folks or fictional characters provided you with mentorship or an important message when you needed it the most? What impact has that had on your growth and how you show up today?

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