The Blog

The importance of Precedents - Why Role Models Make Sense

I hadn't appreciated the importance of precedents until recently.

Picture a time you were lost in the countryside.

In a choice of trails, which one did you take? I'm guessing it was the well-trodden path with recent footprints.

We feel more confident to tread where others have gone before. Once we are back on familiar ground, we regain confidence and from there are empowered to carve our own course confidently.

The importance of trailblazers is relevant to our careers, to how we treat others, the goals we dare to set ourselves, our self-belief, as well as our chances of success. Two films I have seen in this year's Banff Mountain Film Festival address this topic of precedents in the form of role models and make for a good watch.

Operation Moffat tells the story of Gwen Moffat, a pioneer of British adventure and the nation's first female mountain guide. Now 91, Gwen is filmed reflecting on her decisions, portfolio of jobs and memories of mountains. Gwen's journey, as so many do, started with people; people who showed her she could think for herself and gave her confidence. Gwen's way of life serves to give modern day women, namely Claire and Jen, confidence too. Exploring what happens operating under the slogan 'what would Gwen do?' they surprise themselves at what they achieve.

Pretty Faces' all female cast shows us that terrifying drops, strong skiing and monumental avalanches are anybody's game. The ski film recounts the story of a group of women who have chosen snow as their career, who work hard and appreciate the good times. It's ok to be scared and team spirit sparkles through. We all need support, times can get rough - an almighty tumble proves that in the movie. The team behind Pretty Faces aims to inspire girls to test their boundaries, follow their passions and go for their dreams - particularly if it's a big mountain ski line.

These two films, authentic in their commentary and approach to challenges, made me question how I had benefited from precedents set by other people. As it turns out - in my career - undoubtedly. In my own self belief - of course.

It's not just any precedent though. Role models are overwhelmingly people you can relate to and respect; a grandmother, father, boss or a person with a physical or character trait similar to yourself.

Pretty Faces reminded me of the importance of role models in my skiing ability. Brought up skiing with my father, brothers and male cousins, whenever I felt doubtful of my ability (basically scared) on a slope, I'd forgive myself and side slip down. I was the girl after all. I compromised rather than advanced.

Lucky for me, two moments squashed whatever was holding me back, and replaced it with a great desire to ski strong to the best of my ability - no more excuses. The first, on one such chicken-out slope, two women carved past, tackling the moguls and confronting the ice. I remember watching and questioning, if they can do it, why can't I?

In time though, memory fades and aspirations mellow. The second re-fresh came on my first ski trip with fellow females - no 'I'm a girl' excuse this time. Taking on snow park jumps I never would have dared before (nothing grand I warn you!), dropping off mini cliffs and enjoying falling over - with friends leading the way, I felt more at ease.

A slogan I have heard several times recently is "you can't be what you can't see." Initially these words didn't sit well with me - surely we can be creative, think outside of the box and come up with our own ideas? The more I think about it though; there is truth to the power of precedents and of role models. Who can you look to?

To explore the value of precedents, #AnnieDares to:

1. Read a biography (Gwen Moffat's Space Beneath my Feet and/or Chrissy Wellington's A Life Without Limits: A World Champion's Journey)

2. Identify a person whose career I would like to know more about. Ask them for direction.

3. Act as a precedent setter for someone - help someone get out and do something for which you can show the way