For a long time, people would confirm that they’d rather watch a flawed character, but deep down, they’d like to be Superman. Because his humility, kindness and resilient mental health are a perfect match for his unlimited powers. Unfortunately, as we’ve turned our lives into a reality show, more people seem happier emphasising their mess.*
Many can be the challenges within, even more than those without. The good news is:
‘Everyone has some Superman in them. But it takes emotional labour and hard work to reclaim it.’*
Our superpowers, though, are unlikely to stop buildings collapsing with our bare hands and make it possible to fly. There are, however, amazing powers to be found that, largely, go unnoticed, like patience. Who’d have thought patience might be a superpower:
“And patience has a positive tonic effect on others; because of the presence of the patient person, they revive and go on, as if he were the gyroscope of the ship providing a stable ground.”**
At any, we are both who we are and what we do – we are an incomplete truth. Without these, our different looks like everyone else and being different takes us nowhere that really matters. Youngme Moon describes an assignment from her high school days, ‘to go for twenty-four hours trying to be nonconformist … a chance to reveal a more authentic version of ourselves to each other’.^ Her repost to this challenge was to wear pyjamas and sweatshirt – pretty much the same as the rest of her year. Except for one quiet person, J, who began standing up to answer questions, respectfully as if they mattered to him:
‘What I learned from this assignment was that there are two kinds of difference. There is a kind of difference that says nothing, and there is a kind of difference that speaks volumes. … I chose a kind of difference that said nothing. Not that I was alone in this respect; most of us chose to say nothing that day.’^
True nonconformists ‘change the paradigm of what people believe possible’^^ and we all have different ways of displaying this:
‘But each of is is temperamentally sensitive to a certain range of information that we learn to value more than most other people do, and it is likely that we will consider feedback involving that information to be more relevant than others might.’*^
Another way of seeing this, through the lens of character and personality, is to notice what matters to you and why it matters.
Your MUST is what your life is saying you have to do in response to something that matters in the world.
In the journeys I take with people, I ask them to keep two lists over several weeks: a “loved it” list and a “loathed it” list. These are about noticing energy: the loved it for noticing when we are really energised by something, the loathed it for when we feel energy seeping out of us in a dangerous way. In-between there’s a lot of “white noise.”
What we discover is that we can find our must in the things that comprise our loved it list and sometimes in the contents of our loathed it list – where we identify something we want to change. Sometimes both.
(*From Seth Godin’s blog: A slow motion train wreck.)
(**Paul Goodman, quoted in Eugene Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.)
(^From Youngme Moon’s Different.)
(^^From Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler’s Bold.)
(*^From Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow.)
MORE BLUE READING:
My Journey Into the Heart of Terror by Jurgen Todenhöfer
Nietzsche on Truth, Lies, the Power and Peril of Metaphor by Maria Popova
One for the haters by gaping void
Create Dangerously by Albert Camus
Flâneuse by Lauren Elkin
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