The role of the hero is very glamorous. It’s glorified in our movie stars, our sports figures, and even in our families. However, when it comes to saving an orphanage of children to crushing a walk-off homerun, is there more to what we are witnessing? What prepared the hero for the day they rose to the occasion? Did the hero have the innate ability to get the job done or were they taught how to be prepared for moments when they would be called?
One of the biggest debates going on in sports right now is the debate over who is the greatest basketball player in the history of the NBA. There are many contenders being touted on message boards and social media posts but the two that draw the most ire are Michael Jordan and Lebron James. The interesting thing to me, seeing as I grew up watching Jordan, is how mythical he has become with many in my generation. They seem to believe the notion that he carried teams to victory and that the Bulls would be a perennial lottery team if it were not for Jordan. However, my recollection of the Jordan era is a bit different. I remember Jordan always having great 3pt shooters, very dependable rebounding, a serviceable point guard, and a Hall Of Fame coach. Also, I seem to remember Jordan being teammates with one of the greatest players to play in the NBA in Scottie Pippen. My point is that true enough we all remember the heroics of “His Airness,” but his team helped get him there. His team put him in a position, by taking care of everything else, to focus on what he was good at to close out games and win championships. So the next time you take a bow because you saved the day, take some time to reflect on who may have put you in a position to receive those accolades.
When you grow up and decide to have a family, there will be many heroics you will have to pull out of your..err…pocket. For your spouse, it may be getting that impossible dinner reservation at an exclusive restaurant. If you have kids then you may be called upon to be on patrol for those pesky monsters that live underneath the bed. You know as an adult that life happens and when the curveballs come your mettle will be tested. Who prepares you for stuff like that? I remember once when I was as a teenager that my dad woke me up super early because he needed help outside. He had recently started the morning shift at his job as a corrections officer. He was accustomed to hard work and doing whatever it took to provide for his family. When I got outside I notice that the car looked a bit lopsided. My dad needed me to hold the flashlight as he investigated what had happened. It appeared that the axle broke. I panicked. I wondered how dad was going to get to work. With a steely resolve, he took one breath and said, ”Alright, let's go back inside. It’s cold.” When he got inside, he called my uncle to give him a ride to work. As he waited for my uncle, he called the car manufacturer to tell them what happened. He was calm and thorough as he spoke; never raising his voice or getting mad.
”Dad, is everything going be ok? ” I asked.
“We will be just fine. It’s a minor inconvenience, but we will be just fine” he said.
He went on to explain that the car was under warranty, it would be fixed in a few days, and that we would have a loaner car in the meantime. He went on to explain something much deeper. He told me that the reason that he did not panic is that had he panicked, I would have panicked more. In that hysteria it might have been forgotten to call his brother for a ride or the car is under warranty. More importantly, he explained that in life when bad things happen the time you spend worrying or complaining about things is usually equal to the time you need to figure out your next move.
I took that lesson into my adult life. It proved vital when we started our company, had financial difficulty, and when my wife and I lost our son. It was lessons like that and many more that created the hero gene in my DNA. Sometimes mentors (or amazing fathers) do more by displaying heroics when they spring into action than lecturing about them to you.
Though the mentor gives the advice, the teacher offers the tangible tools you’ll put in your toolkit that put your heroism on full display. Navy SEALS go through rigorous training in order to be one of the best fighting forces in the history of mankind. In order for that to happen, their instructors must not only be knowledgeable but also personable enough for the information to be received by their trainees.
Honestly, teachers are the ultimate hero makers. A few years back there was a political slogan that proclaimed “I built that.” It spoke to the notion that business owners built their companies from the ground up without any help. This statement, which does speak to the idea of self-sufficiency, is completely untrue. Doctors, zoologist, and everything in between has been taught by someone. In order to be proficient in your craft there was a teacher who had to give you the skills needed to be successful. Contrary to the role in a traditional classroom sense, teachers can come in many forms: a supervisor at work, the top salesman in your industry, and even someone who is down on their luck. Simply put, not only do teachers produce the most heroes, they produce the most heroes who flourish.
What’s The Bottom Line?
Does the lone wolf hero exist? The answer is a resounding no. The idea that anyone would think otherwise is absurd. There is usually a team around you that not only takes the pressure off but encourages you when you doubt yourself. The mentor gives you the proof of concept that the hero you want to be is possible and allows you to backward plan to create a path for how to get there. Serena Williams may go down as the greatest tennis player who ever lived in that single person sport but it was her father who poured into her and gave her the tools to dominate the sport. The same could be said for Tiger Woods and his father. Just remember that for every hero we idolize, there is a handful of people who got them there!