Something happened to me recently that hasn’t happened in a long time. Far too long.
I just finished reading a fabulous and hilarious guest post on Kevin Duncan’s Be a Better Blogger called Making Your Split Personality Work For You (aka Me, Myself and Them).
Go check it out, and don’t skip the comments section – you’ll see why. I was so inspired that I actually sat down and started writing immediately (well, as soon as I stopped laughing).
Just writing. No planning, no outlining, no keyword research. (Sorry, Google, this one’s not for you.)
You may have noticed things have been a little quieter over here lately and PART of that is because I’m working on super-secret, fun, exciting project that will be announced soon.
But part of it is also because Content Marketing Mandie has been poking her head out and nagging me incessantly about things like Pagerank & SEO. Quite frankly, she’s been sucking all the fun out of this whole blogging thing.
Lately, my passion for writing has been getting buried underneath a lot of junk, like social media marketing (Oh-em-gee, who’s going to invite me to Ello?!), re-designing (More widgets! No, fewer widgets! More calls to action! Bigger buttons! Better opt-ins! Ahhh!), and traffic-building (Give me Top 10 lists or give me death!).
It wasn’t until Jaime Buckley of Wanted Hero inadvertently reminded me of a time when I was just a girl, dreaming of far-off lands and unexplored worlds that I remembered – hey, this is supposed to be fun.
Jaime is a fantasy writer with an array of larger-than-life characters who are guaranteed to speak to you. (Literally. Read the comments section.)
I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this before, but I am a fantasy junkie.
I traveled the world long before I ever stepped into a plane. And not only this world. I’ve traveled through Middle Earth, Narnia, D’Hara and Azeroth. I’ve battled dragons, quested through orc-ravaged lands and defeated Garrosh Hellscream.
(That’s right, kids. World of Warcraft, level 90 resto druid. FOR THE ALLIANCE!)
Chatting with Jaime reminded me of what inspired my wanderlust in the first place.
What made me want to travel? Why did I set off on an great adventure with little more than a backpack and a passport? Why did I choose to jump head-first into the challenge of freelancing full-time without any sort of safety net?
Because I want to be the hero of my own life.
“Build your own dreams, or someone else will hire you to build theirs.” – Farrah Grey
I don’t know about you, but I want to build my own dreams. Live my own adventure. Be my own hero. I have no interest in winning ‘Best Supporting Actress’ for the game of life.
So what have all those years of playing video games and reading fantasy novels taught me?
1. Heroes take action.
When all the townsfolk are gathered in the town hall discussing what to do about the impending werewolf (or zombie, or vampire) attack, the hero is already on the way to meet them. Others dream, but heroes DO.
There’s this really big line of BS we like to tell ourselves that starts out, “Someday, when I’m ready…” I’ve got news for you, folks:
It’s up to you. You can be the person who sits around pinning photos of Mount Kilimanjaro onto a Pinterest board or you can be the person out climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. A dream is worthless if it stays trapped into your head.
2. Heroes don’t let fear stop them.
You’ll notice I didn’t say “heroes don’t have fears.” Heroes get just as scared as the rest of us. They have self-doubts and insecurities. They have moments when they don’t see how they could possibly succeed, but they go ahead anyway.
I was chatting with some girls at a wedding I attended last weekend, and one of them commented on my solo travel adventures. “You’re so brave,” she told me. “I can’t believe you weren’t scared to do that.”
Ummm, what? You guys, I’m scared of everything. I have a social anxiety disorder and being surrounded by a large number of people I don’t know tends to induce near-crippling panic attacks. I’m afraid of rejection. I’m afraid of failing. I’m afraid that just maybe, I’m not as witty and brilliant as I think I am. (Nah…just kidding about that last one.) 😉
Fears are monsters that get bigger the longer you avoid them. When you face them head-on, they tend to shrink.
3. Heroes achieve the impossible.
When Steve Jobs & Steve Wozniak first proposed the idea of a personal computer they were laughed out the door. There’s a now-infamous quote by Ken Olson, the president and founder of Digital Equipment Corp. “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”
Now we carry them around in our pockets.
Almost every single person who wound up in a history book was once mocked for thinking they could achieve the “impossible.” A horse-less carriage? A 4-minute mile? Invisibility?
Wait, what? That’s right, an invisibility cloak, much like the one in Harry Potter, actually exists. Although it’s fairly rudimentary, Dr. Susumu Tachi & his team have created the technology to make someone invisible.
4. Heroes fight for a cause.
You know what the difference is between a hero and a moron waving a sword? A purpose.
“It’s good for the soul to believe in something bigger than yourself.” – It’s possible I made this up.
Most of our favorite superheroes only became so out of necessity. They fight against injustice, oppression, bullies. They don’t just put on the suit to look cool. Well…with the possible exception of Tony Stark. But even he made sacrifices for the greater good when the time called for it. (I know, I’ve watched The Avengers way too many times.)
What’s your cause? Is it to help people find their purpose? To inspire them to travel the world? To create a good life for your kids?
You have to know what you’re fighting for, or you’ll have no reason to keep going when it gets tough.
5. Heroes build other people up.
Do you ever notice how heroes have a way of bringing out the best in the people around them? They’re fiercely loyal to and protective of their friends. They make people feel good about themselves.
Anyone can tear someone down. It takes a much bigger person to build someone else up.
That doesn’t mean always being a merry little ball of sunshine. Sometimes it means giving constructive criticism or doling out some tough love.
6. Heroes play by their own rules
Name one book, movie, or video game hero who just does what they’re told without question all the time. Yeah, they don’t. Breaking the rules is pretty much a defining characteristic of the people who inspire us.
Imagine if Harry had stayed in his dormitory instead of going up to the forbidden third-floor corridor? Or if Katniss hadn’t pulled out those berries? They wouldn’t have been very exciting stories, would they?
“Get good grades, go to college, get a good job, buy a big house, work until you’re 65, and then you get to do what you want.” That’s what we’re supposed to do, right? Even if you haven’t followed this particular formula for happiness, it seems like there are rules everywhere.
Rules on how to run a successful blog. Rules on how to write a popular book. Rules on how to be healthy. (Omg, you’re still eating GLUTEN??!)
Rules were made to be broken. (I may have learned this one a little too well…)
7. Heroes have opposition.
Have you ever pissed anybody off? Had someone troll your blog? Go off on you in a Facebook comment? Good for you! Congratulations, you’ve achieved something.
No hero has ever just had smooth sailing the whole journey. We may not like it, but conflict is what drives a good story. And yes, it actually makes us stronger, better, happier people in the long run.
Most of the time, it’s the so-called ‘negatives’ in our lives that actually shape us and push towards becoming the people we’re meant to be. Without opposition, we get lazy; we get stagnant.
Sometimes when people are TOO encouraging, I sort of feel like I’ve already succeeded. I think, “Well, everyone already thinks I can do this, so why do I even need to?”
But tell me I can’t do something, and, well…just watch.
8. Heroes set their egos aside
(Again, possible exception being Tony Stark.)
Confidence and ego are two very different things. I’ll be honest, this is the one I struggle with the most. I mean, obviously this is because I’m really smart and I’m always right…right? (In case you didn’t pick up on that, it was sarcasm, Internet.)
Ego is a sense of entitlement. Ego is fear-based.
“The ego is the false self-born out of fear and defensiveness.” – John O’Donohue
The truth is, heroes value the outcome a lot more than they value being right. Or getting the credit. Or…well, being the hero. Sometimes the hero is the one making the assist instead of the game-winning three-pointer.
9. Heroes are persistent.
Sometimes annoyingly so. Heroes tend to have one-track minds when they get something into their heads, they don’t quit until they’ve achieved it. They trust their instinct and hold steadfast even when everyone around them is telling them to go a different direction.
Sometimes they need to adjust their path or change strategies but they never lose sight of where they’re going. If they can’t get through the mountain they go over it. Or around it. Or under it. Or they use a fair maiden as bait to attract a dragon, lasso one of the legs and hang on while it flies across…
Sometimes we get off-track. We have setbacks. We hit the gym and then eat half a package of cookie dough on the drive home (Okay, that was ONE TIME!)
The point isn’t that we never hit a road block. It’s that we keep going.
10. Heroes use their gifts
You have a gift. Probably more than one, but at least one thing that you are naturally good at. Are you using your gift? Are you working your ass off to turn that talent into something worthwhile?
It can be scarier to use a talent than to let it lie dormant. That’s because you’re taking something that comes from deep inside you; something sacred, and putting it out there for the whole world to see. It’s less hurtful to be judged on something that doesn’t mean as much to you.
Heroes use their talents, whatever those may be. Some are clever, some are strong, some are genius billionaire playboy philanthropists.
“Everyone has talent. What’s rare is the courage to follow it to the dark places where it leads.” – Erica Jong
11. Heroes practice.
Heroes aren’t born fully formed and ready to save the planet from disaster. They work at it. They study, they learn, they practice. Most of the time, we only see the end results, so we think we can achieve that kind of outcome without putting the work in. Wrong.
My friend Ryan Biddulph over at Blogging from Paradise wrote a fantastic post awhile back about Why You Have no Business Writing Short Blog Posts. He talks about how guys like Seth Godin can write a 2 sentence blog post and have it go viral.
Why? Because Seth Godin has spent tens of thousands of hours practicing his writing, speaking & coaching. Talent is worthless without hard work and practice.
Ryan spends 2, 3, 4 hours a day writing. This is how he churns out eBooks like a fricking writing machine. (In those eBooks, he shares how he does this and his other secrets to success, so you should probably check them out.)
How about you? Do you dream of writing the next great American novel? One that will top the New York Bestseller List for months? You’ll go on book tours and travel the globe. You’ll be interviewed by Oprah and buy a house in the south of France.
Now…how many words have you written today?
12. Heroes have flaws.
Perfect people are boring. Well, at least, they would be if they existed. Would you go watch a movie where the protagonist has no flaws, no shortcomings, no weaknesses? He’d walk around being all perfect, and his life would be all perfect, and yawn. I’d be asleep before I finished my popcorn.
Imperfections are what make us interesting. They are what make us relatable.
They are also the most powerful tools for success we have if we use them properly. I am stubborn, impetuous, and flighty. I drink too much wine.
Or…I am a determined, risk-taking free spirit who practices letting go of inhibitions, depending on how you look at it. 🙂
Imperfections aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Stop wasting your energy trying to look like you’ve got it all together all the time. That’s boring anyway.
13. Heroes keep improving.
Wait, didn’t you just say I shouldn’t try to be perfect?
Yes I did, but that doesn’t mean you just get to rest on your laurels. How many successful, inspiring people do you know who achieved something and then said “Whoopee, I did it! Now I never have to accomplish anything ever again.”? Yeah…not many.
Heroes are constantly growing, learning, evolving. They are open to change, and able to adapt.
You know what sets great bloggers apart from good bloggers? They are continuously looking for ways to improve and educate themselves so that they can share this knowledge with their readers.
If you’re not improving, you’re decaying.
15. Heroes are authentic.
The bad guys may masquerade as heroes for awhile, but intentions always come out in the end.
The heroes may have their alter-egos but the person that they are underneath always shines through.
For a long time I hid this side of myself. This fantasy-loving, nerdy side that isn’t quite convinced fairies don’t really exist. The side that believes in quests, adventures, and fighting for freedom. I worried that people wouldn’t relate to this side of me.
But then I realized something: the more authentic you are, the greater chance you have of connecting with people who relate to the real you.
And then the happier you will be. And they will be. And even if people don’t 100% relate to you, they will respect you for being unabashedly exactly the person that you are.
Look at Dolly Parton. The woman may be 78% plastic but, by God, she owns it.
Some people learn these life lessons through studying the works of great artists. Some learn through yoga and meditation. Me? I learned them from World of Warcraft. 🙂
How about you? What does being a hero mean to you? Are you the hero of your own life or are you just acting like a sidekick?