Every legend has a beginning and every hero has an origin. Heroes are not born, they are made. What makes someone a hero is not the supernatural talents they were born with, but the path they take.
In ancient and modern legends, some people are born with supernatural powers, but these are not what make them a hero later on in life. It is the way they cultivate these powers and the choices that they make.
In real life, people are born with different gifts based on genetics and circumstances, but these are not what make them succeed later in life. It is the way they cultivate these gifts, the way they work on their strengths, but also their weaknesses, and the choices they make in life.
One of the comments I received on my post on contrarian thinking was from Jose Romero (his blog is here). It was a very powerful description of the path he has taken and the choices he had to make to become the man he is today:
“When I was growing up I did not have the internet and to get information I would have had to go to the Library near me. So I had to learn to change my view by watching a lot Public Television where they used to have very good programs like Front Line, Nova etc.
It did help that my Dad would bring home books for us to read. Since he had a 6th grade education he knew the importance of knowledge and how it can help a person succeed. Me and my brothers all got out of the inner city and made something of ourselves. None of us were thugs, drug dealers etc. We just stayed away and made our own paths.
I could have gone that route like so many of the kids I grew up with, but for what? There is no future at the end of that path, except death and prison. Neither is something I like to do so I stayed away, stayed in school and made the best of my situation while in the NYC public school system.
I learned to survive and made the right choices and so far it has led me here to you and other like minded people. I just wish that more people would realize that life is not hard to live but simple its just that we make it hard.“
This was his origin story.
Every hero has an origin story, a tale of what made them who they are.
People love to hear about origin stories, because they get at the deep down core of a person, their evolution and their drive.
The curiosity of knowing where a hero or a powerful man came from has been ingrained in us since time immemorial. These types of stories were always popular. In the Middle Ages the biggest hero for people of Europe was Jesus and yes even he had his own origin story. One of the most popular stories of that time was the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, which recounted all the misadventures that little kid Jesus got up to.
Today is no different. It seems as if Hollywood keeps coming up with a new Superhero Origin story every few months. These types of stories are popular among fans, since they want to know where their hero came from and how he became the man he is.
Wolverine was an ordinary man, but was transformed and became a Superhero with great powers. The rest is history.
Origin stories have an appeal because they show us the hero at a time when he was still not a hero, when he was weak, afraid and beaten up by others.
That makes the hero much more relatable to the average guy.
Origin stories inspire us and make us aspire to something greater.
These types of stories have a powerful effect on us. We all imagine ourselves rising up from the water one day, possessing new powers, ready to take on the world and conquer it.
Every hero had to overcome adversity, had to rise above himself and make a choice. This choice is what defines a legend, what separates the man who did not take advantage of his gifts from the man who worked hard and succeeded. This choice creates the hero.
In Ancient Greece one of the most famous heroes was Heracles. The man could move mountains, battle the gods and come out on top. He overcame numerous challenges and setbacks to earn his place atop Mt. Olympus as an immortal, from human to god.
Yet early in his life journey, he too was faced with a choice, a choice between a road of pleasure and a road of virtue. The road of pleasure would give him an easy, but unremarkable life, the road of virtue would give him a hard life, full of challenges, but it would be a glorious life. Heracles thougth long and hard, and chose the second option.
We can see a similar crossroads in the life of Jose. He too was faced with a choice: lead a life of a deadbeat, maybe sink into crime and be always complaining, or to rise up above his circumstances, work hard and create a good life for himself. Like Heracles, Jose chose the second option.
The defining moments of someone’s life are the choices they make. Sometimes we find ourselves on a crossroad and we need to decide which direction to take.
These are the make or break junctures in a hero’s life. Dave Robison sees this choice as being probably the most compelling part of a hero’s story:
“One reason the superhero narrative is so compelling is the ability to examine the consequences of a choice. We make choices every day, but it is the choices where the price of virtue or integrity is high that truly define us. The continuity of the superhero’s story is an exploration of the price of virtue, the trails of the high road, and the price paid for doing the right thing.“
These beginnings and subsequent choices are part of a man’s monomyth, his hero’s journey. I am still planning to write about the Hero’s Journey, a post 2 years in the making! 🙂
The Hero’s Journey comes from the analysis of Joseph Campbell, who looked at countless myths, legends and other stories and determined that they all follow the same pattern. I have already written about a similar work done by Vladimir Propp which examined the patterns of folktales and their heroic journeys.
These different scholars described the structures and periods that every hero’s life has. No matter the hero, the structure always has some significant similarities. The good news is that there are thousands of stories with thousands of heroes, all undergoing different journeys in different ways. Different, yet similar.
It is never too late to start your own journey, to create your own origin story.
No matter the age you are, no matter the circumstances you find yourself in, you too can start a hero’s journey.
Ilya Muromets, the hero of Russian and Ukrainian folktales, started his own heroic tale when he was already 33. Before that he just spent his life being a lazy bum. He started late, but that did not stop him from finishing strong.
In real life, Colonel Sanders started KFC when he was 65!
Even better news is that even if you made the wrong choices in the past, it is never too late to turn your life around. Most people we today view as successes, failed on their first try. Some more than once!
So how did you get started?
What choices did you make?
Where are you heading?
In our life we start developing a direction, but usually only after a few trials and tribulations. As we make choices and deal with the consequences, we ultimately find a purpose. It is this purpose that then drives our life and makes it worth living.
To all the heroes out there, the ones who inspired us and keep on inspiring us! And to the fact that you too can be a hero and inspire others! You don’t have to be some Superman or Heracles doing superhuman feats.
All that it is needed is becoming someone like Jose, a small-scale hero who worked hard in his life, pulled himself out of a bad situation and made it somewhere. We need more of these types of heroes, the guys who don’t complain, but instead grit their teeth and work to overcome their obstacles. They can serve as an inspiration for others who are in a similar initial situation. They prove that hope is not lost and it can be done.
What is your origin story?
Lessons from your elders:
The lessons you learn from your grandfathers
How to create a Vision for yourself.