(picture is of me and my favorite hero at that time: Thor)
I was sure I was a superhero and nobody knew it. I jumped off my bed, I was wearing a towel as a cape. To create the setting, I had “Shimmy Shimmy Ko Ko Bop” playing on my record player.
I broke my toes and couldn’t walk.
Then I had to wear a cast for the first day of first grade. I was that kid, limping around. Nobody would talk to me. Pretty much for the next 12 years.
I spent my childhood reading comics and science fiction, Judy Blume, and pornography.
Every comic I could find: DC/Marvel, Classics Illustrated (up until 12th grade so I could avoid reading the real thing), and even the Amar Chitra Katha comics from India (my neighborhood was all Jews and Indians so I would trade).
The only thing I wanted to be in life was a superhero. I was bitter and disappointed when I realized around the age of ten that they didn’t exist.
Why would people write about them if they weren’t true?
Like, I couldn’t expose myself to radiation in order to get super powers. But I was convinced I was from another planet, or a Greek god whose real parents would one day come down and tell me the truth.
I could picture it. Some angel appearing in my room, telling me I was special. Telling me, “With great power comes great responsibility!”
I was ready!
For awhile I told all of the kids in my neighborhood I was a Greek god and I lived on “that cloud!” and I would point. They would just bicycle away and I could hear them laugh.
As I said, no friends.
The reason the writers would write it is because superheroes are, in fact, true.
We’re a clumsy Clark Kent on the outside. And even the women and men we secretly love don’t know who we are on the inside.
We’re all blind like Matt Murdoch on the outside. But with super-radar and no fear on the inside.
Answer the questions below and you might not be a super hero, but you are on your way. It’s a long and treacherous journey. Many people die on their way to the top of the mountain.
The forces of evil will try and stop you.
These questions are the labyrinth to your powers. And then we can meet in our secret cave or justice league satellite and save the world together.
A) SECRET ORIGIN
Our lives are all stapled to the critical moments that changed who we are. The moments filled with so much pain we can’t forget them.
Some events: 9/11, going broke, getting a divorce, being rejected, failing at something we love, getting sick, and so on.
Every success is wrapped around a failure.
Superman’s planet blew up. Daredevil went blind, Dr. Strange lost the use of his hands, Batman’s parents were killed.
These moments define the heroes. If you think it doesn’t apply to real life I can just look at some real-life heroes.
Kurt Vonnegut was at the bombing of Dresden. Beethoven went deaf. Louis CK has had constant failures of his shows. Both Bobby Fischer and Howard Hughes were orphans who went completely insane. Washington lost every battle he was in before the Revolutionary War.
What moments make up your secret origin?
B) SECRET IDENTITY
We all have two stories. The story of who we are, deep inside.
Then there’s the story we actually tell.
For all of us there is a gap. For the self-help guru there might be the anti-depressants he or she takes.
For the business leader there might be the failure within his family, or the non-stop failures it took to get to where he is now.
I wore a suit and tie and pretended to be an expert when on TV But I felt like a talking buffoon talking with the other buffoons on CNBC.
People were in pain. They were stuck. They were losing everything. I was losing everything and lying about it.
People didn’t want guru advice. They didn’t want snake oil advice. They didn’t want talking head advice.
They wanted to hear from someone who struggled every day and this is what he did to climb back up, even a little.
I’ve made so many friends by just being able to relate to people instead of continuing to wear the masks I had worn all my life because I thought people would not like me otherwise.
Running from unhappiness while wearing the clothes of ambition, beliefs, reputation, status.
And yet…we’re never fully revealed. We’re never fully unclothed.
What is the identity underneath everything you’ve revealed? Who is the real you that nobody knows?
Some people think there is nothing they are good at. Who cares?
The key is not being good at something. Having a goal is the fastest path to misery.
The key is growing at something.
There’s no rush. The only thing that matters is growth, not getting there. What are you growing at today?
Or…who did I help today? Because helping = growth.
I think I’m good at communicating (writing and speaking). And I’m good at business. And I’m good at making my wife laugh. That’s my super power.
There’s other things I’m not so good at (my kryptonite). I’ve been tempted by the kryptonite and it’s killed me.
What are you getting better at today? Who did you help today? This is your power.
D) BLUR BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL
There are laws. There are commandments. There’s the Constitution. There are ethics. There’s what our parents told us. There’s what our schools told us.
And then there’s reality.
Batman won’t kill. Or will he? Spiderman is a hero. Or is he a guy dressed in tight latex clothes who likes to beat people up?
Daredevil is a man without fear. Or is he just a vigilante who beats people with a stick?
“Evil” is defined by our schools, our governments, our parents, our cultures, our spouses, our friends.
But sometimes we have to define it for ourselves for the greater good.
I’m a fan of Hugh Macleod’s book, “Evil Plans”. We do our job, but deep down, secretly, there’s a blur…there’s a disconnect between what society wants and what we’re already up to.
Are you an artist? Do you have a business going on the side? Do you secretly want to do X, Y, and Z? Will you help the weak kid on the playground even if the cool kids make fun of you?
What’s your evil plan?
E) OUR SUPER TEAM
Even the Hulk, the total loner, had The Avengers. And Batman, also a loner, had the Justice League. Dr. Strange had The Defenders.
Hugh Jackman, who plays Wolverine, used to share a deck with mine, before I blew up and lost everything, including my home. 15 years ago he would play hide and seek with my 2 year old.
Wolverine is the ultimate loner in Marvel Comics and even he had the X-Men.
I have my super-friends. I have the people I work with who provide me support in every way.
Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Ted Leonsis, and a dozen others came out of the Home Brew Club in 1977 to start or co-found multi-billion dollar companies.
Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and a dozen others brought each other up to create the Pop Art Scene.
Who is in your scene? Who is your super team?
“With Great Power comes Great Responsibility” – Spiderman
Each superhero has their set of values of what they do and will not do. How they will make their decisions.
I like the values expressed in “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz as a starting point.
- Be Impeccable with My Word
- Don’t Take Anything Personally
- Don’t Make Assumptions
- Always Do Your Best
In my recently started company, “Choose Yourself Media”, I have one rule above anything else:
Message Before Money.
The message is so much more important than picking up a dime in the street.
What are your values?
G) A NEMESIS
Is it someone at work? Is it the demon in your head that tells you “you’re not good enough?”
It is your parents? Or a boss? Or an internet troll?
Every Superman has a Lex Luthor. Every Batman has a Joker. Every Professor X has a Magneto.
But the nemesis isn’t really outside. It’s how you deal with it inside. You choose to be angry.
They can’t make you angry, or scared.
When someone makes you angry, part of you blocks. It stops the energy that keeps us alive and creative.
Learning how to let that energy pass through you, is the way to have more power than everyone else who is bogged down by their angers and frustrations and past hates.
How many people do we know who, even in old age, are bogged down by angers and betrayals that happened decades ago.
I call it “the list”. When I talk to these people they start shouting the list from years ago. But historical equals hysterical.
It’s these blocks INSIDE of us that prevent us from being the hero we can become.
You unleash the block by realizing everyone is dealing with their own internal issues.
You only have to worry about your blocks. Not their blocks.
Who is your nemesis?
H) A CAVE
Here’s a fact: If you are working on writing or art or whatever and you are interrupted, it takes your brain 20 minutes at least to get back into “flow”.
Superman had his Fortress of Solitude. Batman has the bat cave. The Justice League of America has a Satellite (built by Elon Musk probably) in SPACE.
The Fantastic Four had their own skyscraper.
Dr. Doom had his own castle. The X-Men have a school in Westchester!
Where is your cave?
I) A TEACHER
I love the story of “Stick”. In fact, we don’t really know his story.
Matt Murdoch is an orphan made blind by radioactive chemicals falling on his eyes when he pushes an old man out of the way of a truck.
The radioactivity gives him super heightened senses but he’s going crazy from all the super senses. He meets an old, blind pool player. Stick. Stick somehow has the same powers and knows how to use them.
Gradually Stick teaches him to use his powers. Just like Professor X teaches mutants to use their powers and Yoda teaches Luke and Batman teaches Robin.
Who are your teachers? They don’t have to be real. They can be virtual from the books you read and absorb. They can be the heroes you try and emulate.
J) A COSTUME
Every visionary has to stand out.
And I don’t mean Steve Jobs standard black sweater or Tom Wolfe’s white suit or Malcolm Gladwell’s hair.
How do you express your vision so it rises above the shouting hordes of people who would love to shut you up.
It can’t be just a book or a blog. It can’t be just a TV show. It has to be a combination of many things melded together.
It has to be a vision that permeates everything you do. Something you stand for that brings society a tiny step forward.
You don’t have to have it today. You just have to grow towards it.
The greatest ideas in the world come while someone is taking a walk. You know why? Because the world is made out of pieces of art put together for our viewing pleasure.
Art is not an answer. It’s a question. It asks, “why am I beautiful to you?”
Constantly looking for an answer, gets you closer to your vision.
What is your costume?
Of course….superheroes keep their secrets. Their secret loves. Their powers. Their real identities.
They pretend to be clumsy. Or incompetent. Or ditzy. Or ordinary.
They don’t need to show off because they know the hero is about what is inside and not what is outside.
One of these days I will try to jump again. I’ll put a cape on. I’ll take my glasses off. I’ll have a “J” tattooed across my chest.
I’ll throw myself into the air without any net or any reason to believe. And maybe this time I’ll fly.Share This Post