I’ll never forget the first time I watched the original Star Wars: A New Hope.
To this day, watching Luke walk out of his home on Tatooine with the binary sunset (listening to John Williams’s epic score) still sends chills down my spine. I imagined I was Luke, and it was destined that I would bring peace and balance to the Galaxy.
Advancing a few years, I discovered Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and became enchanted with the walk from the comfy confines of the Shire to the Lonely Mountain and Mordor. I imagined myself hiking up magnificent mountains, through cavernous halls, and living out the life of an adventurous Hobbit.
Then came high school, and lost myself in the world of Neo and the Matrix – this was an easy dream. A guy that spends wayyyy too much time on the computer discovers that he is “The One,” and will soon possess the skills necessary to defeat the machines and free humanity from prison? I’m in.
No matter if you’re young or old, male, female, or droid, you probably had dreams growing up that took you from your suburban life and implanted you into a life of destiny, adventure, and magic.
It’s easy to become infatuated with the path of the Hero, for we can envision that it’s us.
But I am NOT the Hero.
Here’s why that’s amazing.
Why heroes are important
We need hero stories in our lives.
After all, it’s always more fun to believe in magic, the power of prophecies, and the idea that we were in fact destined for greatness and incredible adventure. You know, rather than just being that skinny/fat/shy wallflower in suburbia who struggled to make friends at school, dealt with bullies, and had self-esteem issues.
These stories gave us hope:
- “Luke worked on a farm and then went on to save the Galaxy!”
- “Bilbo was scared of everything, and went on to see dragons, fight orcs, and kill giant spiders!”
- “Neo spent all night on his computer, and it turned out he was THE ONE.”
- “Mulan was an ordinary woman who went on to lead a victory over the invading Huns!”
And we all know how important hope is: “Hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things, for no good thing ever dies.” This was a lesson I learned from one of my favorite stories, The Shawshank Redemption.
Belief in this epic journey gives us the hope we need in order to struggle and persevere through the low points – being overweight or struggling to find success. The low points must happen in order for us to become the Jedi, to become the One.
The death of the hero
Now, believing in these things as children is encouraged by our parents; we’re told it’s good to have an active imagination.
However, as we get older, it becomes easier and easier to accept mediocrity, to accept our place in the world, to accept expanding waistline, to accept heavy breathing after walking up a flight of steps, or to accept a life that leaves us unfulfilled.
After all, that’s just the way things are, right?
If things don’t work out, it’s because life isn’t fair. If we’re overweight, unhappy, and going nowhere, that’s tough luck. We’re told to suck it up and deal with it. Be realistic.
This is a bullshit attitude to have.
You can choose to think life isn’t fair, or you can choose to view each setback as a challenge needing to be dominated.
We are getting knocked down to see if we can get back up. We are being tested. If we’re struggling to lose weight, it’s because it’s not supposed to be easy. If we’re struggling to kick a bad habit or an addiction, it’s because adversity is necessary for growth.
There’s a reason this isn’t easy.
Luke needed to struggle and face his fears on Dagobah. Neo had to spend night after night digging and digging to find out if there was more to his existence (not to mention getting beat up by Morpheus). Bilbo had to get knocked down and ridiculed repeatedly before finding his path to save the day.
This is the journey of the Hero…the path I thought I was on.
After a great conversation with my friend Chase Reeves, I realized that I had it all wrong.
I’m not the Hero.
I’m the guy that gets to help the Hero find his way.
I am Obi Wan. Gandalf. Morpheus.
YOU are the Hero.
And your training starts now.
Hero Training 101: Step One
Believe, but take it one day at a time.
Neo didn’t truly believe he was the One until he started to see zeroes and ones. Bilbo and Frodo never believed they had any part to play in the fate of Middle Earth…until they changed the fate of Middle Earth. Luke dreamed of leaving Tatooine, but never thought it would actually happen…and then it happened.
They knew something better was out there, but never got overwhelmed with that “fate of the world” stuff. Instead, they did the best they could with the situation in front of them. To borrow from Gandalf, all they had to do was decide what to do with the time that was given to them.
So decide what to do with the time that was given to you.
If you are in a crappy situation, struggling with weight loss, or struggling to change your diet, believe that the Hero version of you is waiting to develop. You’re in the ‘challenge’ part of the story right now. Without that, the Hero part will have no meaning.
Who wants to read the story about the awesome guy that got more awesome? Nobody!
“But Steve, I’m no hero, and I’m certainly not going to change the world. I just want to lose weight and feel better about myself.”
Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, my friend. Can you be a hero to your son or daughter? Can you be a hero to your friends? Can you be a hero to yourself?
Step Two: Take the red pill.
You know what I love about these stories? The heroes didn’t wait for greatness to find them, they made that decision to go find it.
- Like Gandalf tells Frodo: “If you’re referring to the incident with the dragon, I was barely involved. All I did was give your uncle [Bilbo] a little nudge out of the door.”
- Or like Morpheus tells Neo: “I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it.”
If Bilbo had stayed home, he never would have gone on to live the life he did, and Middle Earth might have fallen into darkness. Had Neo taken the blue pill instead of the red pill, he never would have discovered his true potential, and spent the rest of his days as a lonely hacker. Sure, the death of Luke’s aunt and uncle forced him to make a decision, but he very easily could have stayed on Tatooine and lived out a rather peaceful existence (until the Empire took over EVERYTHING).
Luckily for all of us watching and reading, these humble people from humble beginnings knew there was something better out there, and then took definitive action to make it happen.
I can write inspiring article after inspiring article, and I can open the door for you…but if you’re not willing to walk through it, to take the red pill and see how deep the rabbit hole goes, you’ll never get anywhere.
You need to be willing to try something new. You need to be okay with uncomfortable, scary, different. You need to expect there to be some crappy days when you don’t feel like doing anything.
But you also need to know that it’s all done for a reason.
Step Three: Struggle with purpose.
Nobody’s path to an inspiring life is nice and easy; it wouldn’t be nearly as awesome without that struggle.
It’s your personal responsibility to grind through the low points to get to the heroic stuff – the more dire your situation now, the more epic your trip to Hero will be.
When you stop doing things because you HAVE to, and instead start doing them because they serve a purpose, the path gets a little less hazy. You stop giving up at the first sign of adversity, and instead power through to success.
Each and every action takes you one step closer to your future life as a hero, and you need to keep that thought at the front of your mind every day. Remind yourself daily why you are doing what you’re doing:
- You stop dreading exercise because it’s a miserable experience, and you start to enjoy it because it makes you stronger.
- You stop worrying about not being able to eat ‘delicious’ junk food and instead realize healthy food fuels your body more efficiently and will allow you to reach your goals a little bit faster.
- You stop worrying about the things you don’t have and the things you can’t do, and instead focus on the things you CAN do or the things you will soon be able to do.
Expect to fail at some stuff – just make sure you are failing differently each time so you are making progress. Failing is not a reflection on your character – giving up after failure is. And that’s not what heroes do.
Last but not least, it’s okay to be afraid: “The hero and the coward both feel the same thing, fear.”…it’s what they do with that fear that separates them.
Step Four: Ask for help.
If you’ve been reading this site for longer than today, you know I’m a big fan of Ramit Sethi. He shared a thought that I found to be absolutely correct: the people who are at the top of their field, who have had the most success, and who made the most positive changes to their lives, weren’t afraid to ask for help.
The same holds true in our heroic stories:
- Luke needed Yoda and Obi Wan to reach his potential.
- Bilbo needed Gandalf to give him that nudge out the door.
- Neo needed Morpheus to discover that he, in fact, was the One.
This is true in the real world as well – Take a look at the best athletes in the world – they all have coaches and trainers guiding them at every step.
When was the last time you sat down with a mentor or somebody you admire and flat out asked them how they became healthy, happy, or successful?
Try this: “I really admire you, and I hope to some day have the success that you’ve achieved. I’d love to buy you a beer/coffee and hear how you did it.”
Who is your Yoda? Who’s your Morpheus?
- If you need to lose three hundred pounds – find somebody that has DONE it and learn from them. They will jump at the chance to help and be flattered that you asked them.
- If you are struggling with food addiction, can you find somebody that has kicked the habit and find out specifically how they did?
- If you want to climb a mountain and you are stuck on the couch, find somebody that went from “couch to mountaintop.”
But Steve, where do I find these people. Ask for help. Join the Nerd Fitness Message Board and ask…you’ll be surprised who is willing to help. But you won’t get help unless you ask for it!
Every padawan has a master. And every master has a master! I turn to many different Yodas depending on the subject: Baker and Derek Halpern for business, Vic Magary for fitness, Jim from BeastSkills and Ryan from GMB for gymnastics training.
Where’s your Gandalf? When was the last time you asked him for help? When did you last ask him for a nudge out the door?
You are the One
When I see somebody who’s overweight and unhappy, I see untapped potential.
I see Luke on the farm.
I see Bilbo in Bag End.
I’m hoping this article is the “nudge out the door” that you need to start realizing your potential; there’s a heroic version of you waiting to explode if you’re willing to work for it. The struggle is worth it. Your friends, family, and children need you to be a hero for them.
The world needs you.
You have a community of heroes who can’t wait to help you out.
The door is open.
Will you walk through?
PS – Today’s Rebel Hero: My sister, Emily, rockin’ the NF hoodie while snowboarding! Thanks to the power of the hoodie, Emily landed a 1260 double mctwist (demonstrated here by Shaun White), and then rescued orphaned puppies from a burning building. Not bad for a Saturday!