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I have more than a few friends who many consider to be heroes.

There are a few friends that have built and sold companies for billions of dollars.

I have more than a few friends with Emmys, Oscars, Grammys, Olympic medals, or Clios. There is at least one with a bunch of awards from the Cannes Film Festival.

I have friends who’ve reached the summit of Everest and friends who’ve reached the summit of celebrity.

As it turns out, I also have friends that many would consider to be zeroes.

I know more than a couple who have been incarcerated in federal prison.

More than a few who have battled addiction – alcohol, heroin and various other doses of destruction.

I have at least one friend who was a prostitute and another who was publicly fired for repeated sexual harassment.

Do you want to know the difference between the heroes and the zeroes?


Heroes On The Inside

All my friends breathe and move and communicate. They’ve all seen highs and they’ve had their lows.

Every single one of them struggles with their own personal demons.

Some of the wealthiest and famous of my friends are some of the least interesting and the least friendly to be around.

On the other hand, most of those who’ve been on the bottom, those who’ve struggled with addiction or imprisonment or devastating loss… they are some of the best, most authentic people you can ever hope to meet.

leadership hero

Not That Kind of Hero

I used to want to be a world-renowned hero.

When I was younger, I wanted to be a rock star or someone famous. I wanted people to always remember meeting me. I wanted strangers to suffer an emotional freak out when they see me at the coffee shop.

I felt I was destined for greatness. I could feel it in my bones. Greatness, I believed, was notoriety. And notoriety would fill my holes and I’d live a life I love of ease and reward.

I’d be a hero.

There was only one problem: I’m not that kind of hero.

leadership hero

The Ordinary

When I was growing up, I feared being ordinary. I needed to be special. I had an internal drive to be better than everybody else in everything I did. I can explain why if you have 50 minutes and a couch for me to lie on.

Later on, I started my own businesses with the intention of changing the world.

But I didn’t change the world.

Sure, maybe I slightly altered my little corner of it, but when you’re shooting for the moon, standing atop the Empire State Building feels like a disappointment.

I came to realize that there was one major thing I lacked. I lacked the humility to accept my weaknesses.

The Hero Inside

I don’t want to be famous anymore. That desire is long gone.

I’ve seen what it’s like to have fame. It sucks. The bigger your fame, the smaller your world. It’s a prison you can rarely or barely escape. The adulation is not for who you are, but for who they want you to be. And you can never be the person they want you to be.

I let go of being a hero.

I let go of needing to change the world.

But once I let go of my desire to be a hero, I woke to a surprising reality.

I learned that there was already a hero inside of me. It’s just not the same hero I thought I was.

leadership hero

The Real Heroes

We, with a capital W, tend to idolize the superstars. We look at people with money or celebrity and we elevate them to heroic status.

But in that process, we only focus our heroic idolization on their accomplishments and we ignore their humanity. We choose to believe only in the good.

But that’s not reality. And that’s not heroism.

The real heroes to me are not the ones who soar to the top because of the genetic lottery or luck, heredity or heartlessness.

The ones who inspire me are those that tackle the day, one day after another, pushing themselves one step further than yesterday in order to move one step closer to something that the media doesn’t give a spit about because it’s not flashy and famous.

I’m not inspired by the ones who finish the race in the front, but the ones who are slogging it out at the back; the ones whose crying joys of achievement echo through the long relinquished rows of barren bleachers.

The heroes are the everyday people doing everyday things.

The heroes are you.

I don’t care how much money you have, how many followers you’ve accumulated or who you consider your friends.

What I’ve learned is that the people who wear their heroism like a medal, are usually wearing a cape not to flaunt their strength but to hide their humanity.

It’s the ones who go about their day with little to no fanfare where the real heroism shines.

leadership hero

The Hero Inside of You

There is a hero inside of you. I guarantee it.

It may not be as a rockstar or celebrity or athletic powerhouse. Your hero may not wear a cape or crusade for those in need.

Your hero may even be cowering in the corner of your consciousness. But there is a hero inside of you. I know that for sure.

My hero has been hiding deep inside of me, but he’s starting to see his power.

My hero is helping others be the best they can be, in leadership and life. As a business consultant, I help transform and grow companies into powerful entities.

As a leadership coach, I empower executives to transform who they are and breakthrough new levels of leadership.

It took me a long time to find that hero because heroism isn’t on the outside. Don’t confuse heroism with adulation.

So tell me, who is the hero inside you?

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    A Somewhat Relevant Quote

    There’s a hero if you look inside your heart. You don’t have to be afraid of what you are.

    Mariah Carey,, singer, songwriter, able to sing across 5 octaves

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    1. Will July 24, 2023 at 6:51 pm

      This was spot on 4 me…heroism isn’t in the spectacular…it’s in the mundane and everyday struggle…thanknu

      • jeffmatlow July 24, 2023 at 9:01 pm

        Awesome to hear Will.
        Yes, heroism is in the mundane and everyday struggle. I should’ve used that wording in the article! Thank you!

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