Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson spoke to Business Insider about why he believes role models, as conventionally understood, are overrated.
“When I was growing up,” Tyson said, “I knew enough not to have role models in the traditional way we think of them.”
“What is a role model?” he asked. “It’s someone who kind of looks like you, and grew up the same way you did, and then made a profession of where you want to land.”
“If you need a role model to become who you want to be, that precludes you from doing something nobody’s ever done before. For that reason alone, I think role models are overrated.”
“What I did,” Tyson continued, “is assemble my role models a la carte. I said, ‘Well, here’s a person who became a scientist — what books did they read? What path did they choose?’ I don’t want to be them, I just wanted to have a command of science the way that they do.”
“I didn’t want to be them, I just wanted that talent that they were expressing. So I stapled together, Frankenstein-style, this ‘role model.'”
“So the way that people get worried,” he concluded, “when their favorite sports figure is busted for cocaine, and they’re like, ‘What will this do to the children looking up to them?’ Well, they shouldn’t have been looking up to them at all!”
Watch the entire interview below.