by Spotter Up
The greater the challenge, the greater the man must be to meet it.
If you were at your best what would that mean? What would you look like and what would you do?
Would you serve others or would you solely serve yourself? Would you find yourself solely making money or would you find yourself doing something else? Could you do everything all at once and essentially be at the top of ‘your’ world? And while you’re thinking about that, what’s at the bottom of your world?
The most current Superman movie by Zack Snyder does a very good job of presenting the Superman mythology. The hero comes from another place (another world) and doesn’t fit into our society. Growing up is an entire culture shock for him because he carries inside of him the knowledge that he is different. He is someone that we are not because he is a super-intelligent, all-powerful being. The problem is, he carries the same hopes, fears and doubts that we carry, and is therefore really just a man. This is his conflict.
Who is Superman and where does he belong? He struggles to find his meaning in life. Good ol’ Dr. Victor Frankl would tell him to read his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning.” Frankl wrote, “Our question must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct.”
Our hero, Superman, is at a loss. He travels far from the tall grasses and wheat fields of Kansas and vanishes. The hours, days and years roll on. The sun rises and sets across those Kansas farmlands that end up feeding our nation but our hero, who hails from those magnificent parts, has produced nothing. He is a vagabond.
He is a drifter who can travel across universes, a man who ultimately feels weak because he cannot understand why he is so strong, he feels alone because he doesn’t understand how a world filled with men would want his ‘problem’.
Superman may have the strength of a demigod but he certainly doesn’t know all that there is to know. What’s going to be the date and time of his death, who’s going to be the most influential person in his life, and indeed what is the meaning of this life? All the time, every-time, and without fail hindsight is 20/20. He has the same lack of foresight that we do on some pretty important matters affecting life.
Superman goes away for a very long time…. Within him he carries a sense of loneliness that is larger than the seas he travels over. He is sustained and supported only by his own thoughts, lacks surety in anything, and lives a double existence. His mind is riddled with questions. But once he meets his father, Jor-El, something changes within him. Jor-el is the preserved collective consciousness of the Kryptonian race. His father tells him, “you were sent to earth to bring hope to mankind for better future” (my words). Superman comes roaring back with vigor. He is energized because he understands his purpose in life. He is going to be the guardian of Earth.
Have you ever been at your best? What did that look like? And if you aren’t any longer, can you recall what it looked like, felt like? We can never go backwards in time to correct our mistakes but we can certainly go forwards in order to become the best that we can be. We do this by learning to harness what we have now. That means wiping the excuses off the table and beginning to do the work that needs to be done. It makes taking all the little pieces that make up ‘you’, and stringing them along until what you have fully functions. Your mind is engaged, your body is engaged, your heart is engaged…in something worthwhile. Being a fully functioning person isn’t an impossibility, it’s a reality.
The question is are you willing to do the work to get there or are you an excuse maker? Do you blame others for your failures. Do you take credit for others successes? If you do, then don’t ever count on trying to be super.
The fictional Superman character may have more super-strength than we do, but he shares with us the same human problems we do. And if we know there is a problem, then some kind of solution must be married to it too. What makes Superman ‘super’ is how he is able to take all of his super abilities and turn it into something useful, rather than something self-destructive. Certainly, our hero in this comic story is born this way, but it is my belief that all heroes are just ‘normal’ people who prepare themselves to do heroic tasks.
Superman listens to the voice of his ‘dead’ father; in a sense, Superman is listening to his own conscience which tells him, “be something great.” Rather than squash that voice down because of any doubts, brought on by his insecurities, Superman decides to believe what his father is saying. He doesn’t have time to play “woe is me” because General Zod has come to town. It is time to put what he believes to the test.
Supermen are real. They don’t fit into a certain socioeconomic class, or gender, or race or education level. So, what makes them super? Abraham Maslow would probably call the men who can understand their meaning in life, who can remove those areas of their psyche that block them from succeeding, who become actualized, Supermen. In the end, all the planning and thinking in the world will do little for you to actualize yourself. You have to take action to make things happen. Supermen are able to find their purpose in life. They become self-actualized.
So, what are the qualities of these Supermen?
- They ask questions: First, they are able to ask questions of themselves, and when they don’t like the answer they receive, they are able to correct it. Their goal is to ask what motivates, what drives, and what inspires them in life. Once they know this, they begin to take the steps to pursue it. They are not embarrassed to seek help from others, whether it is in the form of a team-mate, or in the form of a mentor. Some of the best advice they can get is from someone who can dispense wisdom to them; because they’ve already been through it. If they can’t do pull-ups properly, can’t understand dive tables, can’t understand how to manipulate a weapon, can’t understand tactics, they will work to find out a way and fix it. Going even deeper now, they ask they question “What is my meaning in life and how can I get there?” Superman went across the edges of the world to find this out, and when he got his answer, he embraced it rather than ran from it. Protecting others is a huge responsibility.
- They are ready to take on challenges: They work to master their mind, body and emotions. Sometimes they’re going to fail but by taking on challenges they learn something about themselves. If they fail, then they learn what it takes next time to overcome the challenge. If they succeed, then they gain confidence in their ability, and will be able to take on newer challenges. They don’t cave into their fears. Some run from challenges but the superhero is always ready to take them on. He has spent his life preparing for them to come. He doesn’t hold his hands over his ears and scream, “go away Mr. Challenges!” He shouts back to the inner voice, “BRING IT ON!!!”
- They aren’t afraid to fail: They don’t spend time in self-sabotage, or wringing their hands wracked by anxiety, because they are busy setting goals (some small and some large) that will help them navigate through problems. Once they fail, that’s it, they don’t do the failure again. They learn fast.
- They can find humor in some lousy events: Smile and laugh. Laughter is a good coping tool for dealing with lousy events. One other benefit of laughing is it helps to console others who are feeling scared and weak. During training my buddies PJ Indoc team-mate literally took a dump in his shorts. Everyone was laughing so hard. Do you now what he did? He got everyone fired up!!! He screamed like a maniac and tore up a hill and the entire flight was motivated to follow him. He brought their workout to another level and that was the most uplifting work out they ever had that month. Rather than being embarrassed he took it in stride and made something good. Superman knows the odds are against him because he’s outnumbered by Zod’s army, but he doesn’t let the human race know how he feels. Superman is constantly smiling, and this in turn gives the human race confidence that the task of saving the world can actually be accomplished.
- They are reflective/insightful: They have insight because they have taken the time to carefully think about the problem. They might go over in their mind repeatedly and slowly tactical issues on a sand-table, or how to get into the mind of their enemy; who interacts with the target, is the target capable, is the target reckless or does he show restraint? Being reflective will allow you to be discerning because you will have a better gauge on when to speak, when to act, when to question, and when to possibly trust or not trust what someone is saying. Superman learned this ability from his adoptive mother Ma Kent. As a boy Clark reached puberty and his powers were not fully manifested, yet he could hear people’s heartbeats, see their inner organs and he was terrified. He runs from his class room in fear. His mother talks to him through a door and reassured him that all will be fine. She shows him how to tune in on what is important and how to tune out the non essentials. He learns how to consider all things but is able to have focus.
- They don’t waste time: What good is all the knowledge in your head, if you don’t do something about it? Jack London wrote, ““The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.” What good is a fancy gym or state-of-the-art equipment if you don’t use any of it? What good is having the best mentors, team-mates, friends and support systems if you don’t engage with them on how to achieve your goals? Look at the goals you want to achieve, break them down into smaller short-term specific steps, and begin to complete them until you get where you want to. Keep it simple, cut out the nonsense, and achieve.
- They are rarely impulsive: Their impulse control is going to lead to better problem solving. They are able to show composure and a methodical to solving problems. They are able to control their physiological and psychological responses. Rather than jumping to conclusions or taking reckless action that harms everyone on a team, they stay in control. They take action when action is necessary but they don’t ‘steamroll’ into every problem like a “bull in a china shop”.
- They are competitive: They have a good attitude towards winning and losing because they understand the bigger picture and don’t lose focus on their individual goals. One win or one loss is not going to destroy their sense of themselves but they DO play to win. They want to be around people who are better than they are, who bring out the best they have to give. There isn’t a problem for them in failing when they compete, but they can’t accept not even trying. They know by competing, even when losing, that if they put in the work the results will come.
- They serve others: The old saying goes, “If you want to help yourself, help others…” Cicero would have said, “Non nobis solum nati sumus.-Not for ourselves alone are we born. The supermen sacrifice in order to make the world a better place. They are independent thinkers who understand they don’t lose a sense of who they are by working with others to make things better. Service is their highest calling.
- They are human: They understand that no one is born ‘super’ like Superman. They get there by working at it.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.