I was on my phone, which I am a lot more lately and my wife was cooking. As she cooked she watched a movie and mentioned how sad it is to see Robin Williams in a movie. He is the only celebrity when I heard of his death I cried like I lost someone close to me. His movies, his work, his personality brought so much more life to my life, without realizing it he wasn’t just an entertainer to me, he was a hero.
That got me thinking. So on Twitter, I asked out loud some question and then spread it around.
Heroes are not mentors. Not that they can’t be but most of the time they symbolize who and what we want to be. We can say to ourselves what would so and so do in this situation. But they are in general are not there to guide us, they are not there to help us through or give us insight to see things differently. They are living out a life we admire or want for ourselves. Heroes don’t have to be larger than life. A boy can have his father be his hero, a soldier his commander, a girl her mother, and a woman anyone she looks up to.
I am going to let you in on a little known fact about me. Around the age of eight, I resolved to have no heroes. I learned they are flawed and will let you down. I learned it from one of my favorite cartoons, Brave Star. So, I refused to look up to people I didn’t look for a hero, a leader, a role model, I knew they were all flawed. But the funny thing is I still had heroes. There were people doing and making things that I would have loved to do. Had I not learned the lesson from Brave Star, I might have said I want to be _____ and pursued that as a dream.
There are remarkable people in every industry. People who are drawn to those industries are also drawn to the heroes in them. We can’t help it; someone wants to be like Albert Einstein, while another person wants to be like Steve Jobs, and another wants to be like Micheal Jordan and another Maya Angelou. There are kids who dream of being astronauts and pastors who want to be the next Billy Grahm. What these heroes do for us is give us an amazing gift with their lives, they show us our dreams are possible. Often they show us our flaws don’t hold us back from going for it, most succeed in spite of them. They give us hope.
There is something more though. What struck me hard last night is the last question, “If you could be your hero would you still have the same dreams and goals?”
Without knowing it we can look at our heroes and get a sense of who we want to be, what we want to do and what kind of work we want to be doing. As an adult, I have many heroes, but I have ignored their lives as a true guiding post as to what I want to be when I grow up; until last night. Last night the question made me stop.
Heroes, real heroes exist in context. They are not separate from their world, they are not separate from our world. They had struggles, maybe rivels, and failures. The hero’s journey is the same for everyone unending, and always presenting another obstacle or chance to climb to greater heights on higher mountain tops. The work we choose to do is our climb and our gift to the world. We all are on a hero’s journey. Even if the only person who might find you a hero is your kid or a close friend who watched the struggle and grit. Sometimes we don’t understand hitting bottom. The harsh rock bottom is the bedrock for our journey. It is the story we begin to tell about our climb up the mountain. The danger we face is are we on the right mountain. The work we pursue can be down the wrong path and that is why we are at the bottom. Our heroes might be on one mountain top and we are looking at them as we climb another. We might be climbing a mountain that we are not equipped to climb. We might be climbing a mountain that we have no desire to see from. We might die on the side of a mountain that brought us no joy along the way. We might have watched our heroes climb a different mountain and imagine the climb is the same for every mountain and that is not true. You cannot climb Steve Jobs’ mountain and want to be like Jim Carrey.
History is full of admirable people, but not all of them will be our heroes. Robin Williams is one of my heroes. His voice and resonated through the work he did, it made me want to be like him. Funny, loving, strong, caring, and making people laugh, touching the heart of others during the hard times. He was smart, quick, outrageous and as far as I can tell; he didn’t care what people thought about him, not enough to stop him from doing what he wanted. As far as I can tell all of my heroes worked in entertainment. All of them had inspired others and brought joy, humor, and creativity into the world. I hope to do the same. At the least inspire others. I am still thinking about this but thought it was worth the share.