I didn’t grow up with super heroes. My childhood was a little more serious than that. So now that I’m a grownup, I am captivated by the superhero movies that come out every summer. Naturally, I went to see Wonder Woman in the theater this month. I often leave these movies daydreaming about good versus evil, super powers I’d like to have, and feats of incredible strength. I suppose what I love most about the movie and Wonder Woman is that her type of heroism is the type that promotes love and influences peace. That is more noble and beautiful than lifting cars or blocking lightning with arm shields. Remember at the end of the movie before one of the big finale fight scenes when Wonder Woman stops and says, “It’s not about what you deserve but about what you believe. And I believe in love”? Try saying that quote throughout your day and see how your decision-making changes. Try being a hero, and seeking a hero and see what sort of impact you make and find. Heroism is a lost art; let’s reclaim it.
So You Want to Be a Hero?
In our jobs and lives we do a lot of great things. It can be as small as opening a door for someone. Or it can come down to the line and landing a huge deal, getting someone’s back or helping out in a crisis. As leaders, that’s what we are called to do. Sometimes, no matter how many of these great things we do, it seems as if it all becomes normalized. While there are people who love and admire us, it seems that we fall short of being their “hero”, and maybe we want to be their hero. It seems like the desire to be someone’s hero is perfectly normal, not egocentric or delusional as one may think, rather a genuine desire to do good by others. Being someone’s hero and having your own hero is an idea that’s a little bit lost in our world. Despite all the superhero movies we go to see, we still don’t—especially as adults—seek out heroes or admit to wanting to be a hero to others. Maybe it’s because we seem embarrassed to admit that another adult is a hero to us, or it seems egotistical to admit that we strive to be a hero for others. Our desire for heroism in our own lives is a pretty noble idea, actually. It carries with it some vulnerability, humility and like Wonder Woman, a belief in love. Our need to be somebody’s hero is really about us saying we are built to be in relationship with folks and part of that relationship is to be their role model, and that is to be taken seriously, not taken for granted.
Three Things to Consider in Becoming a Hero
Sometimes when I think about superheroes after I see a movie like Wonder Woman, I imagine all the ways I can save the day. There’s very little heroism in my world, because it often feels too mechanical and practical for all that. It’s like, “I can’t be somebody’s hero because I have to make a sales call.” So my vision of heroism is in an imaginary world where I’m imagining somebody else being a hero because my life is too structured and boring for anybody to be a hero in my world. But the truth is that we have opportunities to be heroes in countless circumstances every day. There are some simple steps that can help us take those opportunities more seriously.
Admit you want it.
Listen to the internal voice that says, “I want to be somebody’s hero someday.” Do you want people you work with, or your kids, to think that you are their hero in some way? I know I do. And I’ve dismissed this desire in the past, because it does sound a little arrogant at first. But lately, I realize it’s a manifestation of my intrinsic desire to be a role model and impact people in a positive way. Listening to it reminds us to lead better.
Find your cause.
To be somebody’s hero, you have to really know the things that are important to you and be an advocate for those things. It’s about not just finding what you’re good at that people can see, but also the things that drive you that are much more noble where you can have even more of an impact. We all have talents that we can monetize, but often times that is just a window into the places where our more noble, hero-like desires exist. Think about if you’re a great salesperson with awesome relational skills, who loves working with young people. That’s a window into your heroism. Why not volunteer to mentor young college graduates?
Prepare to be surprised.
You can’t pick the person you’re going to be a hero to. As you go along you’ll encounter people that you’ll have impact on, and that will come naturally. But it might be unexpected, too. You could go into an encounter fully expecting to save someone’s day, and your efforts may go unnoticed. Alternately, you could do something small without thinking much about it, and make a heroic impact. We can’t predict how others will react to our heroism, but as long as we’re taking our impact seriously, that’s what matters.
I have a superhero in my life. She’s a waitress at a small restaurant in Nashville, where I often schedule breakfast meetings when I’m in town. Whenever I order, she responds, “Thank you, Love.” I can’t tell you how great that makes me feel. Her word choice inevitably calls me to have a great start to my day. She’s not doing that because she’s intent on saving the day. I advocate that leadership is for everyone because it’s about recognizing where you are and still doing heroic things. This waitress chooses to say love, rather than anything else. And in the days I encounter her, she is my hero and makes such a big difference in a small way. Every single person can lead if they believe in the impact of small things that could make a huge difference to the people around them. Wanting to be a hero is a legitimate, human longing. Being a hero is about all the good things. It’s about having an amazing impact, no matter what or where that opportunity lies. It’s about doing something heroic whether you’re a surgeon in a life-or-death situation or a waitress on a rainy Tuesday morning in Nashville. What are some small ways you can be a hero for somebody today?