Originally Posted by metamorph
Also, how do you practially benefit from the role model? Do you improve subconsciously (as I did in my high-school days in the OP), or do you try to find out what the role model's mind-set is. Example: I can be pretty charming, yet compared to my Italian friend and colleague, I am probably a dead fish for Mediteranean standards. Hanging out with him does not automatically do it. Neither can he actually put into words what makes him charming. To how do I benefit from him practically?
Roles models are vitally important in our society. You shouldn't have to learn everything in a vacuum, you ought to be able to observe others and be able to take notice of what is working for them.
The challenge of course is who you pick for your role models and what attributes of theirs you choose to model. Celebrities, including politicians and athletes tend to be pretty lousy role models. Having a role model doesn't imply worship, idolatry or mindless imitation. It does include, I think, respect, and possibly even reverence for the person. As long as your eyes are open.
I think you do subconsciously improve just by being around people you want to be like. It is a very common notion that to be successful, it is best to hang around other successful people. I think you can substitute 'happy', 'smart' or whatever in that concept and it still works. This forum is a great example of that. Think of the English phrase "it rubs off on you."
So how do you benefit from your friend in a practical sense? Well, become a scientist. If he can't vocalize what makes him charming, then study him while you are around him, as he interacts with others. I don't mean be obnoxious, but studiously observant. Ask people who seem to be charmed by him for insight. Break down all the characteristics and actions. Look for the subtlety that makes up charm. Try to emulate (NOT imitate!) some of these and see what works. How you become charming might be slightly different than how it works for him.
Role models are just that: models. They really don't come with instruction manuals, you have to figure it out yourself.
Oh, one other thought, if you are involved in the life of children, and especially if you are their parent, you ARE a role model, like it or not.