I’ve been thinking a lot about heroes lately.
First and foremost, today is Memorial Day, a day to honor those who died while serving in our country’s armed services. They are the heroes who put their lives on the line so you and I can have the freedoms that we are so fortunate to have. We owe them all a debt of gratitude.
I’ve also been thinking about what it means to be a hero and how we all can use this concept to improve our own lives.
But before I discuss how the concept of “hero” can provide useful guidance in our own lives, let’s take a minute to discuss exactly what a hero is.
What is a Hero?
According to Merriam-Webster, a hero is “a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities.” Merriam-Webster also notes how a hero is “the chief male [or female!] character in a story, play, movie, etc.”
Together, these definitions suggest that a hero is someone in a movie or play who engages in great acts.
At this point, some of you might be asking, “So, what does this have to do with me? I’m not in a movie or a play.”
Well, you may not be in a movie or play the same way Jennifer Lawrence or Julia Roberts or Chris Pratt or Will Smith is in a movie or play. But in fact, you are in a story: You are in your own life story.
Regardless of whether you happen to view your life as “movie-like” or not, you are nevertheless the star in a very interesting story—a story that, in fact, no other person in the history of the world has ever lived before.
And if you’re the only person to have ever lived that story, then, almost by definition, your story is interesting.
So if you’re the star of your own interesting life story—or life movie, if you will—it begs the following question:
Are you being a hero?
Are you engaging in great acts? Are you doing the kinds of things and making the kinds of decisions that would qualify you as a hero in your own life movie?
Most of us probably have some vision of how we’d like our lives to turn out: what kinds of things we want to accomplish, how we want to act, what kind of an effect we want to have on others, what type of legacy we want to leave.
Take a second (or a few minutes) and think about it. What kinds of things do you want to accomplish? How do you want to act? What kind of an effect do you want to have on others? What legacy do you want to leave when you’re gone?
If you were writing (or re-writing) your own life story, what would you have you do?
In essence, that’s your hero.
So ask yourself this question: Are you making the kinds of choices that your hero would make? Because, even if there are problems or character flaws at the start of the movie, the hero always turns it around and does the right thing at the end.
Be the Hero of Your Own Movie
I started thinking about this idea several months ago when I came across this great video by Joe Rogan, who used to host the NBC television show Fear Factor, but who is now best known for commentating fights for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and for his highly rated podcast.
Take a look.
I just love the idea of viewing our lives as a movie, one that we have the opportunity to write.
The cool part (as Joe notes) is that it doesn’t matter what’s happened in our lives so far. It doesn’t matter whether our lives have been horrible, great, or somewhere in between. Even if we feel like someone else has written every chapter so far, we nevertheless have the opportunity to “take over authorship.” We can write the next chapter, and we can make it great (hence the tagline on my homepage).
What About My Hero?
Over the last few months, I’ve found myself asking this question when confronted with difficult (and sometimes no-so-difficult) decisions.
I can either eat junk food, which might provide me with some short-term pleasure, or I can eat something that will help me lose weight over the next 6 months: What would the hero of my movie do?
I can either focus and work hard while I’m in my office, or I can log into Facebook and scroll through posts for the next hour: What would the hero of my movie do?
My kids are not listening to me, and I’m about to blow my top: What would the hero of my movie do?
I can spend my time at work trying to please everyone else, or I can work on things that truly matter to me and to my mission, regardless of how this might make some others feel: What would the hero of my movie do?
My boys want me to play baseball with them, but I’m working on a blog post about heroes: What would the hero of my movie do?
(Excuse me, I have to go play baseball with my little dudes. I’ll be back in just a bit.)
Okay, I’m back…
One thing I really like about this idea is that it’s portable: I can apply it anywhere. It doesn’t matter whether I’m teaching, playing with my kids, hanging out with my wife, or buying groceries. The concept still applies. I have a vision of what I want my life to be like, and I can make decisions based on that vision.
So, what would the hero of my own life’s movie do?
Well, here are just a few things…
For one, he would finally lose weight and get really healthy, so that he can be around for his family for a very long time. (Have you ever noticed how movie heroes are almost always in good shape?)
He would stop worrying about whether he’s “good enough” to join a band. Instead, he would get out there and play (because playing music with others is one of the best ways to improve).
He would focus as much of his time as possible on doing things that really matter to him and to his mission.
He’d be more willing to step outside of his comfort zone and take risks, knowing that some of those risks might result in failure but that some of them might also produce amazing, life-changing outcomes.
I also think about how my “hero” would’ve acted when he was back in college.
Would my hero freak out because he got a bad grade on an exam? (Answer: No)
Would my hero spend several semesters in a major he hated? (Answer: No)
Would my hero do the absolute least amount of work needed just to get by? (Answer: No)
Would my hero focus solely on GPA and not really care about whether he actually learned the material? (Answer: No)
Would my hero sit in class and read the school paper [or text or surf the Web] rather than pay attention? (Answer: No)
Would my hero be so worried about failing that he wouldn’t even take a chance? (Answer: No)
Would my hero complain because he had to work hard? (Answer: No)
Would my hero worry so much about what other people thought of him? (Answer: No)
And as I think about how my “student hero” should’ve acted, it also makes we wonder: Are my students, both current and former, being the heroes in their own life movies? (Answer: I certainly hope so, but I’m not so sure…)
Go Forth and Be the Hero
Ultimately, I think the concept of “being the hero” is simple. Of course, simple doesn’t necessarily mean “easy.”
Doing things you know are right is often hard. And just as heroes have to battle obstacles on their way to “victory,” so too will all of us encounter obstacles in our lives. And you know what?
That’s okay. It’s a part of this thing we call LIFE.
In fact, in my opinion, life would be pretty damn boring if everything came easy to us. I mean, let’s admit it: Isn’t it sometimes fun to come up against obstacles, work hard to overcome them, and then reach victory?
I mean, isn’t that what being a hero is all about?
So, as you think about your life, think about what you’d want your hero to be and what you’d want your hero to do. And then think about whether you’re doing those things. If not, fire your current author, take over authorship, and start writing a new chapter.
Go out and be the hero in your own movie.
When you do, I’d be willing to bet that some pretty cool things might start to happen.
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