The Incredible Power of Our Actions . . . Role Models are Vital!

   Years ago an elementary school teacher chose to make a special video to share with her first-grade class. The video was shot in a school playroom filled with toys young kids absolutely love. One of the toys was an inflated Bobo the Clown doll, a long-time favorite with the children, which stood almost as tall as the first graders themselves. Next to Bobo was a large plastic baseball bat.

   During one of her lunch hours, the teacher filmed one particular little boy in the playroom who was having fun with Bobo. In fact, she made it a point to encourage the little boy to use the plastic bat to inflict some serious damage to the unsuspecting (and innocent, I might add) plastic clown. So the little boy gladly obliged and began whacking Mr. Bobo like it was a professional baseball homerun derby.

   Bobo proceeded to have a bad day. The little boy had a great time. And the teacher got it all on film.

   Now here’s where things get really interesting.

   The teacher took her newly recorded video to one of her other first-grade classes the next day and played it for the children before they went to the playroom for a little recreation. It showed lots of kids playing with a host of toys, but it also featured the young boy providing a pounding to a defenseless Mr. Bobo. The teacher never said a word; she just showed the film and then escorted the kids into the recreation room so they could play.

   So what do you think happened next?

   The kids, boys and girls alike, made a beeline for the bat and began giving the inflated clown a series of relentless beatings. Applying what they’d seen on the tape, it turned out to be another bad day for Mr. Bobo.

   And again, the teacher caught it all on film.
   This study, though humorous, proved something we already innately know. Modeling is one of the most powerful ways we can influence others, for good or bad.

   I have to admit that every time I think about this story of Bobo, I can’t help but smile. The mental visual of these young, innocent, and even (seemingly) angelic children pummeling a defenseless inflated clown reminds me of when I was in elementary school. You see, as a kid I also got a lot of practice swinging that plastic bat, as I too was once a Bobo beater. I modeled the same behaviors I saw my classroom pals routinely put into practice.

   Today, many years later, the important part of this story has nothing to do with Bobo. It simply but effectively illustrates just how much attention we pay to what other people are doing. And although from an early age we are taught that a role model is someone whose behavior is routinely imitated by others, few people understand there’s more to role modeling than first meets the eye.

(This post is derived from my forthcoming book, Mediocre Me: How Saying No to the Status Quo Will Propel You from Ordinary to Extraordinary, and is currently available at all major online booksellers and will arrive in bookstores March 12, 2013).

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John Michel
experienced leader, humanitarian, visioneer, and renown status quo buster,
is the author of the ground breaking book:
Mediocre Me: How Saying No to the Status Quo will Propel you from Ordinary to Extraordinary
Check out his blog at or drop him a note at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.