They are everywhere at the moment. With the explosion of the Marvel movies, Silicon Valley startups and overnight superstars plucked from the internet; origin stories are all around us. All of them, to a certain extent, are made up. The comic book authors crafted those of the super heroes. The others that exist in the real world cannot tell the story of every little thing that happened. So they have to delete and adjust to a narrative that aligns with how they want to be seen by the outside world or by themselves. Since all origin stories are created in one fashion or another, it may be helpful for your daily life to fashion your own. Not pluck it out of thin air but rather weave some real events of your life in with a narrative that propels you forward.
My origin story goes something like this. When I was 12 years old, soccer was definitely my fall sport. However at that time, the term “travel soccer” had not really grabbed hold. In fact, this was the first year in which my town participated in what we referred to as “spring soccer”. My younger brother was going to play for the spring team at his age group and my father was going to help coach. Unfortunately I had either missed the tryouts for my age group or there just weren’t any. Regardless, the first day of practice came along for my brother’s team. They were sharing a field with the team for age group right above mine. I knew most of the players from school. Although the team was already formed, I decided that I was going to get onto that team. At that moment, I did the only thing that I could think of to get the attention of the coach. I RAN! Rather than sitting and watching my brother’s practice, I started running laps around the field where they were practicing. For the entire 90 minute practice, I kept running around the field. When my father and brother were finished, we packed up and went home. Some time around 9pm the phone rang. It was the coach of that older team, they wanted me to play for the team. That was the beginning of who I became. Someone willing to go the distance and use unique solutions to problems.
If you notice as you read that story, it all fits together relatively well. It’s been 30 years since those events and I could not tell you definitively if that story is 100% accurate. All of those events definitely happened. However I’m not sure if there was a player who broke their leg, so they needed someone else. Perhaps the call from the coach came a week later. In the end, those detail DO NOT MATTER. What truly matters is that the story fits my beliefs about who I am and who I want to be. The event was chosen but the story was “created” because I want to see myself in a particular way. I have millions of other events that have happened in my life. I could have easily chosen to create my origin story using a huge failure and rehearsed an excuse around why I could never be a success because of “that thing that happened”. People do it all the time. The question that is most important for me about origin stories is, does it serve you? Is your origin story going to make you or break you?
If it is not going to help, then change it! Your life story is not objective truth. It is a jumble of memories that have been given varying degrees of clarity and importance. So decide on a moment in your life that can act as a catapult for the days that are coming. It doesn’t need to be something from your childhood. It could be this moment right now! “I read this great blogpost about origin stories and I didn’t like mine. So right then and there I decided that I was going to take action. I….” One of the main things about life is how you feel about yourself when you are alone and have a moment to reflect. If you don’t feel good about yourself, then change your story. Even Darth Vader was able to redeem himself, why can’t you?
Marvel and DC have had a long term duopoly on the Super Hero. They’ve got teenagers bitten by radioactive spiders all the way to a billionaire orphan vigilante. These characters have been cultural mainstays for decades with their popularity reaching a crescendo at the moment with big budget movies. These heroes capture the imagination because of their exceptional abilities. Each has their personal foibles but in the end the world depends on them to put things right in extreme situations.
There are two problems with the Super Hero though. First, the world is very rarely in the kind of peril that requires Super Heroes. Second, they’re not real! Even the Super Heroes, with no super powers whatsoever, bend all kinds of rules of reality. So if we don’t have those big problems and these individuals don’t exist, why are we so obsessed?
It is really quite simple. Super Heroes are a distraction. A way for us to be let off of the hook. Since I’m not able to do anything EXTRAordinary, I only need to do the ordinary. Being a hero is just too far out of reach because I don’t have a magical hammer, futuristic body armor or a utility belt. It’s just me! What can I do?
You can be a small time hero! You just need to do a little more than the ordinary person and that by definition makes you EXTRAordinary. Be a little kinder. Be a little more resilient. Be a little more intelligent. Love your family a little more. BUT what difference will that make? Almost none.
UNTIL a few people around you catch on. Then it has the possibility of developing super power. Because small time heroes stacking up their little powers together becomes a force multiplier. It’s not particularly easy! Nor is it blockbuster movie worthy but it really is the only way. Super Heroes are not coming! The people in “power” generally worry about two things: keeping the power they have and leveraging it to their own ends. So it is up to us, the small time heroes to save the world from………us! Go suit up!
Have a great day!
Hollywood is regularly churning out super hero movies and their sequels. At the moment they seem to be almost a sure thing at the box office. Iron Man, Spider Man, Batman and Captain America all seem to capture the imagination of the people as they pay big movie theater prices to see these super humans. It is obvious that “super” is what the people want to see.
What if there was a hero named Mediocrity Man? He had super powers that were inside of him but he was afraid of them. Any time that he saw himself do something out of the ordinary, he would instantly recoil and deny his abilities. Rather than keeping his secret identity from everyone else, he would hide or deny his powers to himself. What if Clark Kent never changed into Superman? Would you watch that movie? Of course not.
If this hero existed, why would he hide his powers? The reasons would be the same that you or I don’t do the things that would produce greatness.
- It’s too hard.
- It will take too long.
- I might not succeed.
- Or worse, I might succeed and the people would expect more out of me.
- I don’t want people to make fun of me.
- No one in my family, town, state or country has ever done it before, who am I to be first?
Imagine the Earth being filled with superheroes. What if people were getting most out of themselves every single day? What would that look like? I’ve been Mediocrity Man. I’ve traded in my cape for a t-shirt on a regular basis. Feeling comfortable in the cape is difficult because I know all of my faults, all of my weaknesses and every way that I have ever screwed up. The hero in the movie never falls for long. He gets his super powers and continues on until the world is safe again. For us regular heroes, it’s not a magic movie moment involving a radioactive spider or the destruction of Krypton that begins our ascent. It’s a consistent decision to be the best form of ourselves.