As a career professional, I’m ambivalent about hero stories, super or otherwise. Although their feats may be inspiring, they are simply unrealistic role models that are unrelatable to most people. Even when mere mortals (Bruce Wayne) and real people (Gandhi) achieve greatness, they often possess uncommon strengths, resources, and opportunities.
In fact, this was a challenge for me growing up. Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Lincoln, and Nelson Mandela were all heros to me during my formative years, and I was ready to make the same kind of impact on the world. Oh youth! The “you can be anything” myth that is so pervasive in American culture has a dark side. When I wasn’t able to solve world poverty by the age of 20, I wondered what was wrong with me. There were years of intense soul searching while I jumped from job to job, trying to make my peace with my new reality but missing the sense of purpose I had before.
Eventually, I took the journey that I now guide my clients on. I spent time exploring and owning my traits, preferences, interests, values, and strengths. I envisioned the life I wanted to live by thinking through my ideal day, my life balance, and my potential futures, and designed a career that compels me to this day. I have never felt this content, fulfilled, or centered and I look forward to my future as an always-waiting adventure.
This is not to say that say that I don’t have challenges, frustrations, or obstacles. I have many of them, and most are of my own making. Fear and lethargy keep me from doing work that I know would be fruitful (although not exciting). I battle with myself on a daily basis to do tasks that I really, really don’t want to do and most of my strategies have led to sadly temporary truces.
But I focus on using my strengths and appealing to my interests, just like I encourage my clients to do. For example, one assessment that I use often is an interest inventory, where I scored pretty high in the Artist category. A lot of my clients do too and are puzzled. “Does this mean that I should be an artist?” they ask with visions of poverty and the prospects of telling their parents about their new life trajectory. Instead of buying paintbrushes and canvases, we dig a little deeper to understand which acts of creativity, beauty, or artistry they enjoy and how they can incorporate that into their lives, if not their careers.
For me, I enjoy acting. I love the process of becoming someone different, taking on new perspectives, and learning new skills that embody the character (I can still speak the two lines of German that I learned in the play Cabaret in college. If there ever is a young lady to see Mr. Isherwood, I will know what to say!). I don’t want to be a professional actor (and Hollywood isn’t exactly beating down my door), but a little community theater now and then gives me a lot of joy.
Then I saw Wonder Woman. It was fun and I enjoyed myself and when I got back home, I did what I always do with movies I like: I jumped on the internet. I read articles and “the making of” YouTube videos and Late Night talk show interviews and just generally imagined what it would be like to act in a movie like that one.
Suddenly, I started imagining my future as a role. I didn’t need to learn sword-fighting or complicated camera-work, but I asked myself what would I have to know and what would I have to do to be the person I want to be, guiding thousand of people towards their dreams, living a balanced and peaceful life, having a prosperous business that could sustain my family and contribute to my community? What if managing my finances was something I did to get into character, rather than a chore I procrastinated? As soon as I thought of that, something shifted in me. My love of acting could support my work, not distract me from it. Just the thought of it made me want to throw on some bullet-deflecting bracelets and fight some bad guys (metaphorically, of course!).
We all find our inspiration in interesting ways. What traits do you have to help you reach your goal? What animates you when you’re struggling?
And if you’ve ever wondered what happens when people actually try to be superheros, according to This American Life, it’s not what you would expect.
If you’re figuring out what career path you want to travel, I’ll help you explore your options. If you need help with resume writing or interviewing, I’ll work with you on those skills. Become the designer of your own career with Be the Change Career Consulting. Contact me today for a complimentary 30-minute consultation.