Heroic Moment

Heroic Moment: It's Nothing Personal, It's Just Business


I've been somewhat frustrated with the "hero business." My frustration has nothing to do with heroism itself, but rather the "business" part of the "hero business."

For more than nine years, my full-time work was in the "fraternity/sorority business." In that time, I saw that it was possible for those groups  to be strong on the "business" side (recruiting members, holding  events and meetings, etc.), even if they were struggling with being values-driven organizations. They may have had lots of members, but were they striving to actualize their missions?

"It's nothing personal, it's just business."

In the "hero business," Heroism, Inc. creates a brand of heroism and claims that other ideas are distracting from "true" heroism, marginalizing those who are not part of Heroism, Inc.

This is a great strategy if your product is a smartphone, but what if your product is a call to change the world or an invitation to live a set of values?

All of us are invited to be heroes, as long as we buy Heroism, Inc.'s brand of heroism. Could you say the same about your organization and its competition?

Are we advancing a call to action and a movement? Or are we advancing the bottom line?

As values-driven organizations, are we supporting a common movement, or only our organization's bottom line?

Most importantly, are we trying to win? Or are we just trying to make somebody else lose?

Whether it is in your community, your organization, or in your personal life, you will have many opportunities to advance yourself at the expense of others.

Will you make a business decision? Or will you make a decision that reflects the person you are and the person you aspire to be?

Will you make a personal decision?

If the choice was easy, it wouldn't be heroic. And if it wasn't personal, it would just be business.

Take it personal.

Heroic Moment: Leadership "in Sight"

Super Mario Bros Wii nsmbw

I haven't had very much, if any, original content for you in some time. Over the last few weeks, I've been busy at work, my spouse began a new job, my boys headed off to a new daycare, and my oldest son had his fifth birthday and first day of kindergarten. But, most of all, I've spent a lot of time playing Super Mario Bros. Wii. Seriously.

The experience, however, has provided a valuable leadership lesson that I would like to share with you.

Leadership "in sight"

As somebody who first played Super Mario on the original Nintendo console, it is easy to fall into old patterns of racing through each level, even in the relatively unfamiliar world of Super Mario Bros. Wii, which my oldest son received for his birthday last month. However, when playing with multiple players, it is important to remain "in frame," or else the lagging partners are terminated. Of course, to remain in sight requires heroes to expose themselves to fire chomps, goombas, koopa troopa, and other threats.

The lesson here is that, as heroes, we must remain "in sight" for our partners and communities. If not, it's probable that our partners will fall, and that our efforts to lead others to the next level will fail. That is, it is important to lead our groups, our organizations, and our communities from within their frames, meeting them at their point of view, in order to lead them through the challenge.

We may have the knowledge and power to win on our own, but we must guide them through each step of the journey in order to achieve our shared goals and to become our best together.

Heroic Moment: Who Will Know... ?


Who will know...

Who will know if you bike on the sidewalk, jaywalk, or push through a red light?

Who will know if you don't cite a couple of paragraphs for your research paper?

Who will know if you play Words With Friends, instead of being fully present?

Who will know if you see your friend leave the party alone, but don't offer to see her safely home?

Who will know if you watch a friend pass out on the couch, but decide it isn't your job to babysit?

Who will know if you cheat on your girlfriend or boyfriend?

Who will know if you glance at a friend's exam, just for one answer?

Who will know if you don't tell anybody what really happened last night?

Who will know if you let a friend have a couple more drinks, even though you know he is losing control?

Who will know if you see a friend make an abusive or mean-spirited comment on somebody else's Facebook wall, but decide to let it go?

Who will know if you watch the Things People Say videos on YouTube, because you think it doesn't really hurt anyone?

Who will know if you had the opportunity to do more with your life, with your skills, with your time?

Who will know you had the chance to act on your values, but chose not to be inconvenienced, to be interrupted, to go out of your way, to speak up, or to stand out?

Who will know you had the opportunity to live an extraordinary life, but chose to be ordinary, to fit in, to go along with the crowd?

In our world, it is easier to focus on what we can get away with, rather than who or what we can give ourselves for.

So, who will know?

You will.

Heroic Moment: The Extraordinary Power of Ritual & Stories


A long time ago, a group of people who were not much different from you had an idea. The idea was different, and dangerous. Ordinary people looked at the idea with skepticism, at best, and with suspicion and hostility, at worst.

If the idea was successful, it would create a long-lasting movement that would clothe the poor, feed the hungry, and provide comfort and medicine to the sick, not to mention providing life-changing experiences to the people within the movement.

If the idea failed, it would cause agonizing mental and physical injuries, or even death, to people inside and outside the movement.

But the idea itself was powerful, and these people were among the top one percent in the world.

Despite the risks, they did not begin with guidelines, policies, and procedures, but with a story. The story captured the direction and the power of the idea, so that others could grasp onto it and see it through.

They were the founders of fraternities and sororities, purpose and values-based organizations that I am proud to support.

Managers create guidelines, policies, and procedures to meet expectations, or ordinary outcomes. Heroes, on the other hand, create change. They get people to move. Heroes create movements.

People are drawn to movements; they want to do more than the status quo.

Some people may refer to this as "leadership," which can be an overused term, often confused with people in particular positions. Heroism, too, is about positions; it is about the positions you take when you stand for something meaningful. Something you value.

The choices we make every day are those positions that we stand for. They are our values.

Heroic Moment: Who Doesn't Want to be a Hero?


My colleague and friend Matt Langdon wrote a blog post where he concludes, "Who doesn't want to be a hero? Seriously." And yet, I see people who choose not to be heroes. Given what awaits them if they choose to be heroes-in-training, I can only assume that an ordinary life has more to offer.


  • Contentment. Everything is just fine the way it is.
  • The Crowd. Nobody else is doing anything.
  • Low expectations. If nobody expects anything from you, you don't have to do anything.
  • Mediocrity. Heroism requires practice, preparation, and study. Why do any more than the next person?
  • Permission. Nobody asked you to do anything.
  • Self-preservation. If you don't look out for yourself, who will?
  • Sit down. If you stand up, you'll stand out. You'd rather be a nameless face in the crowd.
  • Status quo. Change is scary. You don't need adventure, excitement, or new experiences.
  • Waves. Making waves rocks the boat. You don’t want to make others uncomfortable, do you?
  • Why you? You're no better than anybody else.

So, for those of you who are content with mediocrity, who have low expectations for yourself, or who are otherwise afraid to be anything more than ordinary, I hope I have given voice to your cause.

As for everybody else,... those of you who realize that failures are merely speed bumps on the super highway to success, who yearn for adventure and meaningful experiences, and who understand that there is no growth in the comfort zone, and no comfort in the growth zone ... I would be happy and honored to be a part of your heroic journey. You can find me @BuildingHeroes