02/14/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

What Kind Of Role Model Are You?

A dear friend of mine died this past week from pancreatic cancer. Juan was only 57 years old, and unlike either Patrick Swayze or Steve Jobs, he did not have much time to resist or fight, let alone overcome, the fast-spreading disease in his body that was killing him. Tragically, the period from initial diagnosis to his passing on was only about five weeks!

On Saturday, I attended a celebratory mass held for Juan, which turned out to be a "standing-room" only event. People literally came from around the world to honor his life and share in his memory. Listening to the eulogy for Juan, I must say, was rather surreal for me. I couldn't get out of my mind that I had recently posted a piece, "How Do You Want To Be Remembered?," on this very site (on December 24th, to be exact), in which I introduced a eulogy writing exercise. The intent of my article was to encourage everyone, including yours truly, to do some "soul searching" or self-reflection during the holiday season and, especially, in preparation for the New Year. In particular, regardless of their religious or faith-based orientation, I urged people to consider seriously if they were now living and working in such a way that the last comments about them, i.e., a eulogy, would really be what they wanted to have said?

Against this backdrop, my friend, Juan, would be very proud indeed; for what was said about him last Saturday surely must have reflected his personal, albeit humble, desires! While his life may have been cut short, it is clear to me that his kind and loving "spirit" lives on in the individual and collective minds, hearts, and souls of many others. Knowing Juan like I do, I can testify that he was always mindful of life's many and unique blessings. In other words, he was not someone who lived his life on "auto-pilot" or "cruise control," ignoring the many things, both small and large, that really (should) matter, until it was too late.

No, that is not the Juan that I knew as a friend, colleague, and kindred spirit. On the contrary, his was a life that I believe was focused authentically and responsibly on meaning, not on either the will to power or will to pleasure. And from what I was able to gather at Saturday's mass, the way that Juan lived and worked served--and continues to do so--as an influential and inspirational "role model" for many other people, including his family members, friends, colleagues, and others, who are on a similar quest for the deeper meaning in their lives.

Role model:
In general use, any person who serves as an example,
whose behavior is emulated by others.

Juan, as was eloquently described in a eulogy delivered by his son, Andres, was well known for his valiant efforts to "bridge different worlds" whenever and wherever it was needed or desired. Born in Rome, Italy, to a family that was originally from Nicaragua, it was quite natural for Juan to be able to bridge different worlds from the start, since being a "global citizen," in effect, was genetically coded into his DNA! He was educated in Italy and in the USA, and worked internationally in the financial services sector for most of his professional career. In this regard, he travelled extensively in Europe and Latin America, with extended sojourns in Panama and Guatemala, besides living and working in the States. Fluent in multiple languages, Juan, again, was a "natural" bridge-builder between different cultures. He not only enjoyed and was exceptionally adept at such a role, he thrived on it! Whatever the challenge that needed to be faced, be it personal or work-related, Juan had a gift of helping people reach common ground by going to a higher ground. Now how is that for being a positive and meaningful "role model?!"

Juan, I can also say without hesitation, was a true gentleman in every respect. Most importantly, he was a "gentle" man, who believed in the true value of friendship and was authentically committed to exhibiting friendship in all of his associations and interpersonal relationships, both in his personal life and at work. With consistency and integrity, he demonstrated the following attributes of friendship that, once again, can only be viewed as positive and meaningful "role modeling" behaviors: the tendency to desire what is best for the other person; sympathy and empathy towards others; honesty and truthfulness; unwavering loyalty; a spirit of cooperation and willingness to support those in need; respect for other people and their opinions; and a desire to foster mutual understanding. Indeed, who would not want to have such qualities? And who would not want to be recognized by others as a person who possesses and manifests them in everyday life?

Live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now.--Viktor E. Frankl

Yes, my friend Juan was a role model on many different levels. I will surely miss him. At the same time, he has left behind some visible footprints (perhaps we can even call them "soulprints") that not only comprise an integral part of his life "legacy" but also provide more evidence of his existence, his human-ness, as an inspirational "role model" in the lives of others, including myself. Juan loved and will always be loved. Juan lived and will always live. Juan's commitment to the value of friendship will forever bring warmth to the meaning of life.

So, what kind of "role model" are you today? And what kind of positive and meaningful footprints (soulprints) are you preparing to leave behind? What are you doing today to ensure that these footprints remain visible well after you have gone?


You can find out more about Dr. Alex Pattakos, author of the international bestselling book, Prisoners of Our Thoughts, in his HuffPost Bio and at See also his "Dr. Meaning" Channel on YouTube: You can contact Alex at: