You’re built to be heroic, so how do you start? Ask three questions.
Here’s how I see it: If you’re a man, you’re built to be heroic and already have all you need—no matter where you are-- to lead a heroic life. And, once you know the basics of heroism, you decide. Once you decide—and I hope you decide to be heroic—you infuse your entire life, wherever you are, with a higher purpose. The question then becomes, “What do I deserve?” and “What am I willing to do to achieve what I deserve?” Finally, “If I deserve little, what must I do to deserve more?” The problem most of us face today is that it’s become so easy to be comfortable that we don’t realize we can be more than we are.
First, are you happy where you are? If not, good.
If you like where you are, you may not need to increase the level of heroism in your own life. So are you happy? If you say you’re happy where you are, dig a little deeper. Don’t confuse comfort and predictability for a meaningful life.
Second, are your problems bigger than you are? Good.
If you have a big problem, it just means it’s bigger than YOU. Growing to be bigger than that problem is precisely the point.
How does that work? Life is a struggle and life is difficult. Life is filled with sorrow and disappointment. That’s what life is all about. As men, we are called to confront that fact and then shoulder responsibility for our own life. If we are serious about being men, we shoulder responsibility for others. We marry, we father children, we provide and we protect. And, once you accept responsibility for your own life I guarantee you will start to have problems. If you accept responsibility for others, those problems will multiply at an alarming rate. Here’s how it works: if you have a big problem it’s just bigger than you. You are smaller than the problem. The powerful thing about being a man, though, is that you can grow infinitely bigger, better. Nobody knows the upper limits of anyone’s potential because our potential is limitless. That’s good news because as men we are built to grow and confront problems. To cut a big problem down to size, all you have to do is grow to be bigger than the problem you face. That’s another way of saying, “Be heroic.” Grow to be bigger than the problem you face.
Third, is your dream calibrated to its struggle? If not, get it in gear and don’t flinch.
Do you work in a job you used to love, but today, not so much? Did you once have dreams you shared with your wife, and you have lost track of those dreams? Ask yourself what they may have been. One of the reasons a lot of us give up on our dreams is that we don’t know how big they are when we start. We don’t know how to measure them. Then, once we start working on our dreams, we see they require a bigger struggle than we thought and we quit. Well, here’s the thing about dreams. They require a struggle and the struggle both achieves the dream and it prepares us to deserve the victory. If you struggle heroically and learn as you go, the struggle may result in a victory. The victory will be as big as the struggle, the struggle will be as big as the dream. Big dream, big struggle. Big struggle, big victory. Small dream, small struggle. Small struggle, small victory.
The Heroic Journey: Departure, Struggle, Return
Many men smarter than I have studied The Heroic Journey. In its most basic form it unfolds in three phases: The Departure, The Initiation (or what I call The Struggle) and The Return. The Departure is simply the beginning. You look yourself in the mirror, you ask some questions. That’s what I ask you to do today. You may not like what you see. Confront your situation and you may not like what you see. So, you decide to change yourself or your situation. Of course, you know that nothing in your situation will change if you don’t change yourself. So that decision—the decision to change yourself, starts everything else. And don’t think you have to change the world. All you have to do is change yourself, for you are your own kingdom. Changing yourself is the first heroic journey.
What if you don’t listen to the adventurous call to improve yourself? What if you don’t answer? If you refuse the call to become a better man, if you refuse the call to change yourself, it means you are essentially refusing the call to lead a heroic life. If you refuse to lead a heroic life, you will choose comfort over courage. For men, that is toxic, for comfort kills and maybe it’s killing you slowly right now. If, on the other hand, you choose to improve, you will be humbled. If you are humbled, you will seek help. Your search for help will take you many places and you will meet many new friends and brothers. Sometimes, if you are taking on truly significant challenges, you will find yourself strengthening your relationship with God. Once you cross that threshold, though, you will never be the same, because deciding to take responsibility for your life and to improve is indeed a scary thing, and that’s the point; by confronting what scares you, you become bigger. As you grow, you encounter new experiences. They scare you— sometimes a little, sometimes a lot—and you confront them and become even bigger. It’s a cycle and it works. However, once you take that first step, once you cross that threshold, you’re at risk. To mitigate that risk, get aggressive. Aggression mitigates risk. If you exercise even a little courage, you’ll see the danger start to fade once you ramp up the aggression. The key is to take action.
Call to action: Ask yourself if you like where you are in the world. Make decisions based on your answer and be heroic.
Next week: The Struggle, The Return and why they matter.