written by LOU BLASER

A version of this essay first appeared in Midlife Cues, a weekly newsletter about intentional living in our middle years. Get it in your inbox; you're going to love it.


Marcus Aurelius — one of the most respected emperors in Roman history — had heroes.

How do we know?

He opened Meditations with 17 back-to-back entries reflecting upon these influential individuals in his life.

He didn’t stop there, either.

In almost every other page thereafter, he either talked about or referred to one of his heroes. A quote, an anecdote, a point of reflection.

Who are your heroes?

In Meditations, he was always reflecting upon the quality of these great men and women in his life.

Marcus Aurelius explained his practice:

“When you need encouragement, think of the qualities the people around you have: this one’s energy, that one’s modesty, another’s generosity, and so on.”

Arguably, this practice had a huge influence on his life.

Marcus Aurelius is known as the last of the Five Good Emperors of Rome. He is best remembered not for the wars he waged, but for his contemplative nature and his rule driven by reason.

What serves as your reminder?

E. Spencer Schubert is an American artist who has spent over two decades sculpting the human figure. He is known for his busts and monumental sculpture.

When asked why statues matter, Schubert said:

“We all need lodestars, and we all need constant, daily, hourly, and minute-by-minute reminders of how we want to act in the world.”

We all want to be guided by our virtues, but the truth is it’s hard to always stick by them.

That’s why we need reminders.

We need something that nudges, guides, and motivates us to be the person we want to be.

Ryan Holiday, the author of a favorite book, The Obstacle is The Way, has a bust of Marcus Aurelius on his desk.

Your reminder need not be a bust or a monument, though. 😂

It could be a favorite quote that’s prominently displayed at home or in your work area.

For others, it’s a picture of some sort.

Perhaps, your hero has a podcast, as mine does, and you listen to them regularly, as I do.

Or, if you’re lucky and you have real connections with your role model, you can schedule regular touchpoints with them.

Bottom Line

We live in a noisy world with increasingly complex demands.

There are way too many so-called influencers peddling competing and often conflicting ideas.

It’s easy to forget or get swayed.

We all need lodestars.

Who are your heroes?

How do you remind yourself of the reasons they are your role models?


“But a role model in the flesh provides more than inspiration; his or her very existence is confirmation of possibilities one may have every reason to doubt, saying ‘Yes, someone like me can do this.’” — Sonia Sotomayor


True confession.

I used to be in the habit of saying that a certain individual was a role model.

But when I was asked specifically what about this individual I would actually want to emulate in my life, I was hard-pressed to come up with a succinct answer.

I realize then that I may admire someone’s achievements, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they are a role model. (I know! It took me a while to figure that out for myself! 😂)

Best wishes for a joyful and easeful week ahead.

Cool Beans,
Lou Blaser


A former management consultant and IT leader, Lou Blaser is the editor of Midlife Cues and the host of the Second Breaks podcast. She is also the author of Break Free: The Courage to Reinvent Yourself and Your career. Lou’s work is focused on exploring how to navigate, thrive, and turn midlife into the best phase in our life.