Going from zero to hero…

So I have talked about risk, safety, fear and courage. But how do we tie all of this things together and make it work? One simple word, hero. A hero conquers fear by taking risks. By the courageous feats of the hero, a feeling of safety is created. Easy enough to follow, but is still leaves the big question unanswered – how do we get the courage to challenge our fears through risky acts beyond our safety net?

First, a hero must have a purpose; a reason for the brave undertaking he is about to perform. There are a wide variety of motives; however, all reasons will ultimately boil down to one of two things – survival or power. In survival, a person is put again the corner and has no way out – it is either do or die. This in fact is a very strong way of motivating yourself, what I like to call “burning your boats.”

The expression comes from a Roman general that was sailing his army over water to face a much larger enemy force. Morale was low, and the general knew it. So when they landed, the first order was to burn the boats. Now there was no way back home, and no prisoners would survive. It was either fight or die – victory or death. The Romans won.

Why does this work well? Because when you “burn your boats,” you do not have the luxury of options to choose from you. You have one plan of action and have to dedicate yourself fully to it. Picture the following scenario: there are two identical individuals, both well educated and physically capable. Candidate A has a great job with good security and a family with two kids. Candidate B has just been laid off and cannot find work, with no family ties. Both of these individuals are offered a great opportunity – to run and own shares in a new company that has a great possibility of going big with exciting new technology. If the company does well, they would become extremely wealthy. However, they would have to quit their current job, move across the country and there is a possibility that the company could fail.

For B, it is an easy decision. He has nothing to lose and everything to gain. His back is against the wall and his boat has been smoldering for some time now. However, for A it is a hard decision. He has a stable job that provides well for him and his family. His kids are in school, family is close by – he has a lot to lose by taking this risk. His “boat” is still docked, and he cannot bring himself to burn it.This situation is very common in our society. A doesn’t need the opportunity to survive – he already has survival in mind. B does need it – and will do anything to get it. This is the survival mode of heroism at work.

Power heroism is perhaps the most dashing and daring form of heroism. It is the stuff of legends. It is the form of heroism that takes, pardon my french, “cojones” (if you don’t know what that means, check a Spanish dictionary). In seeking power, this person takes a risk when he doesn’t need to in order to survive. In our above situation, if Candidate A went for the opportunity, it would be power based heroism. Why would he do that? Perhaps he wants to have a better life for himself, have a bigger house, spend more time with his family, develop wealth that will guarantee his children’s survival and future. This person is not just content on surviving. He wants to make a difference. By acquiring more power, whether it is financial, political or physical, he enhances his ability to survive and thrive.

That is great when everything works out, but what happens when a hero fails? I will tell you about that tomorrow my friends!


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