By December 21, 2009 Read More →

8 Ways to Be Heroic

NoahBlumenthal

Editor’s note: Meet Noah Blumenthal.  His super skill is heroic leadership.  Noah is the author of the nationally bestselling book, Be the Hero: Three Powerful Ways to Overcome Challenges in Work and Life and was named by Leadership Excellence Magazine as one of the world’s “Top 100 Minds in Personal Development.”

I asked Noah for a guest post after reading Be the Hero, because I liked his approach.  Be the Hero is a simple framework for effectiveness.  By telling more effective stories about yourself, the situation, and others, you combine multiple key skills (mastering your stories, empathic listening, changing focus, changing mindsets, reframing, and positivity.)   It’s skilled living in action.  Here’s Noah’s guest post on eight ways to be heroic …

Have you ever dreamed of being a hero – the person who saves the day? Sometimes a hero is someone whose actions are larger than life, but there are also everyday heroes. These are the people who rise to the more normal occasions of their lives. These occasions could be crises or challenges or even opportunities. The everyday hero is someone who is calm and poised and is at their best whenever their best is needed.

I think we all want to be that person, but we often miss the mark. We slip too easily into frustration, anger, bitterness, helplessness, or hopelessness. Then we struggle to return to the person we want to become – the hero we would love to be.

In fact there are tricks to becoming that hero – techniques and methods that help you think and act like the hero you want to be. Here are the 8 best ways I know to be the everyday hero in your life.

  1. See their pain. In victim mode we tend to focus on our own pain, how others have wronged us in some way. This behavior amplifies our frustration, anger, bitterness, or disappointment. These emotions make it impossible to put our best foot forward. Instead, ask yourself what challenge the other person is facing. Even if they just hurt you in some way, think of the worst pain they might be experiencing. This shift in perspective will allow you to feel empathy, think more clearly, and exercise greater control over your response.
  2. Celebrate the best. It is easy to get caught up in desire. I want that house, job, vacation, promotion, spouse, etc. When our desires consume us we lose the energy we need to respond positively, to take heroic actions. Instead, find something to celebrate. What are the best elements in your life? What do you love most about your work? Taking a moment to be thankful can give you the energy you need to be the person you want to be.
  3. Embrace the worst. When the crisis hits it is easy to get thrown off your game. No one would blame you for not being at your best. However, this moment is also your greatest opportunity to be heroic. The next time someone tells you they have bad news or the stuff is about to hit the fan, tell yourself, this is my time. This is my moment to be the hero.
  4. Laugh it off. One mark of an everyday hero is remaining calm and poised in agitating circumstances. This could be when someone cuts you off in traffic, criticizes you, or offers you a big promotion. When your insides go from room temperature to scalding hot in a matter of moments it helps to have techniques at the ready to calm that inner boil. One of my favorites is to laugh it off. Literally, break into a big smile and give a little chuckle. Life is full of surprises. You just encountered one. Remember that the pain, anger, fear, thrill, or excitement won’t last forever. It’s just a momentary surge. Then laugh at it. You’ll feel better right away.
  5. Practice breathing. Sometimes the laugh needs a partner, something to soothe, calm, and enable you to think more clearly. Try taking 10 deep breaths. Even in conversation, most of the time silence works in your favor. While you concentrate on breathing, others will reveal more of their thoughts and views and you will better prepare to voice your own ideas.
  6. Believe in possibility. Former US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said, “Most of the things worth doing in this world had been declared impossible before they were done.” To be the person who does the things worth doing, you must not accept impossible. You must believe relentlessly, against all odds, against the better judgment of friends, family, colleagues, and “experts” that what you envision can be done.
  7. Channel your hero. Even heroes get stuck. What then? I suggest you look to your hero for the answer. Who inspires you? Whose ideas do you respect? Who is the best innovator you know? Next time you feel stuck, ask yourself what that person would do in your situation. Often you will find that when you can’t come up with your own answers, you will find more creative solutions when you think as someone else.
  8. Take one step. Being a hero can be tough. Some tasks are too big to even contemplate. If thinking of the end goal is overwhelming, focus on the starting place. All you really need to do today is take one step to move you forward. Sometimes taking a single step is an incredibly heroic act.

It’s not easy being the hero. Of course, it’s not easy being the victim either, and being the hero comes with a lot more fringe benefits. Next time the world seems stacked against you, think of it as your time to shine. And always remember to be the hero.

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25 Comments on "8 Ways to Be Heroic"

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  1. Great to see Noah on JD’s blog. The sources of insights is getting better and better day by day. No surprise I end up recommending it to my friends all the time.

    This is another good article, I have seen lot many people including me failing at times and ending up being frustrated. The tricks suggested are very simple yet effective – I have used quite a few of them myself.

    Thanks JD for sharing another inspring and useful article with us. Keep up the good work.

    Regards,
    Prashant

  2. Lance says:

    Great to meet you Noah!

    I love your second point – about celebrating the best. I think that the more we do this, the more we also just continue to believe in all that IS possible. And that’s a great direction to be headed in!

  3. Jimmy May says:

    J.D., thanks much for introducing us to Noah.

    Noah, thanks much for the great insights.

    And great insights they are indeed.

    The keys for me are I can use this as a simple checklist for success, something to which I can refer in times of crisis & stress. I have tight deadlines practically every week. People depend on me to be at my best, to be effective. They can’t be bothered with why my myriad other responsibilties are complicating my ability to deliver–they’re paying big bucks & deserve the absolute best Microsoft has to offer.

    I respectfully disagree with one statement: “it’s not easy being the victim”. I know many who wallow in their victimhood. It’s part of their life’s script & it comes so naturally. It’s up to us to not merely to aspire to but to achieve hero status. Your guidelines provide the path. Thank you.

  4. Hilary says:

    Hi JD and Noah .. JD – this sentence and its parenthesis .. really hit home – so well put.

    “By telling more effective stories about yourself, the situation, and others, you combine multiple key skills (mastering your stories, empathic listening, changing focus, changing mindsets, reframing, and positivity.) It’s skilled living in action.”

    Noah .. 8 points well put, some I practise, others I need to start incorporating into my life ..

    So true – one step at a time, but always move forward, be positive and be prepared for all that comes, just adjust and keep moving.

    Thanks – Have good Christmas weeks ..
    Hilary Melton-Butcher
    Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

  5. If this post is anything like your book it must be very useful. It’s these simple concepts that we forget about. We fall back into old habits and let anger take over.

    I like how you said we need to celebrate the best. Too often we celebrate the big moments, but not the little ones. If we can get into the habit of celebrating the little ones, we will go a long way to creating a more resilient attitude. There are so many more little wins in a life than big ones, so we may as well enjoy them.

  6. Patricia says:

    Thank you JD for the introduction to Noah and his Writing. I learned several things here that I think are personally very valuable to me as I map out the solution to my own dilemma – thank you, always good to connect on a closer level.

    I am sharing this post with my partner too…as he works right now on problem-solving a new building – new energy saving/ new concepts/ – and teaches folks how to do new things and resolve new issues for a successful outcome.

    I have put Noah’s book on my book list to read and review – Thank you again for the referral…

    I am really drawn to the suggestion to laugh out the situation…always a great healing tool that I misplace at the times of greatest need.

  7. Jason says:

    These are great tips, some of which I think I already use (I’m good at embracing the worst and laughing :)) and some of which I should focus more energy on. I need to spend more time believing in possibility. I’m good at finding problems, not as good at seeing the seemingly impossible possibilities. Just knowing the possibilities are out there, even if I can’t see them, is a great step!

  8. Kevin Lam says:

    Awesome stuff. People who are suffering from depression should be reading this post — the solution is in YOU not a pill!

    –Kevin

  9. Thank you all for the wonderful responses. A couple of brief responses:

    Prashant and Hilary – Thank you for your positive words.

    Lance and Karl – I agree. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a company, family, or any other group that celebrated too much. I even do this with my kids (ages 5 and 6). Every night we talk about our “Daily Best.” They love it and it constantly reinforces that every day does have something to celebrate. And Karl, yes, my book Be the Hero does explore these concepts in a lot more detail.

    Jimmy – Good observation. Here’s how I differentiate. People easily slip into victim mode. It’s even easy to wallow and stay in victim mode. But living in victim mode is painful and creates more and more challenges. That’s the part of being a victim that I think isn’t easy.

    Patricia – I’m glad you pointed out the laugh tip. One of the places you can really see this in action is in debates, political or otherwise. Watch people’s faces. The ones who smile and even laugh are usually more in control and perceived as more thoughtful and likable.

    Jason – You touch on a really tough challenge. In a lot of ways we are built genetically and culturally to find the problems. We are taught to analyze and pick things apart. This is an unlearning process, but can have extraordinary impact. When you begin with the positive belief, you never know what doors you will open. One thing is certain, someone out there will find a solution. Why not have it be you?

    Savor the Moment,
    Noah

  10. Noah, great to see you on this post. I can correlate a lot of your advice to recommendations of buddhist practitioners too!

  11. Noah,
    If people could only implement one thing from the list, and that’s “see their pain” the world would be a completely different place. I like how you framed it in “victim mode.”
    It actually reminds me Mark Twain’s “Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.”

    Very good stuff. it is practical too – i can see how i take few of these and start using tomorrow right away!

  12. JB King says:

    Noah, was this just a one time contribution or do you plan on making a return post sometime in the future? This is a fantastic post to my mind, with some points merely reinforcing what I have seen and read time and time again. I hope everyone is having a good holiday season this year. To elaborate a bit more on some of them:

    See their pain – This reminds me of the Dale Carnegie book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” where many of the principles are about the other person and empathizing with them. This also reminds me of JD’s previous entry called, “What’s Their Story?” which is a useful tool at times.

    Celebrate the best – This reminds me that all too often in this world, we share the negative instead of the positive. For myself, the reason I hide the positive is that if I share the positive I’m opening myself up to criticism or a one upping that happens where someone else has to think their better by telling some story.

    Laugh it off – Sometimes I think humor is a defense mechanism we have, to handle when things go a little off course and we need to remember some good times in life.

    Embrace the worst, Channel your hero, and Believe in possibility – These speak to power of belief and having faith that this might be that opportunity that one always asks to have but doesn’t see it usually. “Fake it until you make it,” would be another way to express some of this I think.

    Practice breathing and take one step – These remind me not to get too far ahead of myself and that what is here right in front of me may be worth looking at again and seeing if what I think I see is really there or not.

    As you can probably tell I like to analyze things and see different perspectives on things. Some may find it strange or odd, but why should I let that stop me from trying to improve the world? If I had to add in my own suggestion, it would be to save those moments of praise somewhere to pull out when things get rough. We were all heros at one time or another and just need a little reminder of what that felt like to get the ol’ juices flowing again.

  13. Every single word in this article struck a chord with me. Many of these insights are techniques that I’ve adopted in my own life, both personal and professional. It’s refreshing to read advice that promotes empathy and integrity. Thank you :)

  14. Akshay Bogawat says:

    Thanks JD and Noah for these excellent tips. These are incidents from daily life, but its so easy to choose the wrong way. Following at least a few of these would surely make a lot of difference.

  15. Thank you all again for all the wonderful comments. Here are a few brief responses.

    Kevin – I agree that these and other similar techniques can be very helpful in managing emotions and dealing with sadness and even depression. However, clinical depression is a serious illness that requires different treatment for different people. Some respond well to cognitive therapies. Others need medicine to address chemical imbalances.

    Eduardo – I consider these ideas and the ones I address in my book, Be the Hero, (http://www.be-the-hero.com/) to be an amalgam of Buddhism, Cognitive Psychology, Positive Psychology, Neuroplasticity, and Emotional Intelligence. One of my favorite Buddha quotes is, “Our lives are the creation of our mind.”

    Alik – Love the Mark Twain quote. I find it interesting that you emphasize empathy. In my book, Be the Hero, (http://www.be-the-hero.com/) I discuss three stories we all tell ourselves. We tell people stories about those around us and can adjust them to build empathy. We tell situation stories about the quality of our lives and adjust those to build gratitude. And we tell self stories about ourselves and adjust those to build hope. What I find fascinating is that readers tell me all the time that one of the stories is by far the most important. But they all tell me that it is a different one. So for you it was the people story. For others it will be the situation or self story. I also find that the story we need to work on changes according to the challenges we face in our lives.

    JB – JD invited me to guest post. We have not discussed any additional contributions. Though I appreciate the suggestion.

    Re See Their Pain: If you liked JD’s post on “one story” you should check out this brilliant video http://bit.ly/HTIN9 by author Amamanda Adichie. Also, my book, Be the Hero, (http://www.be-the-hero.com/) addresses the stories we tell ourselves with a slightly different frame.

    Re Celebrate: It is an important point that it can be difficult to celebrate with people who are competitive with you. First thing to remember is that celebration can be an internal practice of recognizing the best parts of your life and building a sense of appreciation and gratitude. Second, it can be helpful to identify a group or even just one person who will share your joy. Celebrate with them and leave the competitors to play their one-up game without you.

    Re Embrace the Worst: I was watching the movie Evan Almighty the other day (not the best movie, but cute, and I will watch anything with Morgan Freeman). There is a wonderful line from Morgan Freeman in the role of God. He says, “When people pray for courage, does God give them courage or does he give them a situation in which they can show courage?” Now whether you believe it is God or the universe or random chance, sometimes we are all given big challenges, and we can view these situations as opportunities to rise to the occasion and have hope and faith that we will find a way to overcome. The more we have that positive belief, the more likely we are to find a solution.

    Re Saving Praise: I love this idea. In one of my keynotes I give participants credit card sized Energy Cards. I have them write down 10 things that inspire or energize them and keep these cards with them to draw out that energy when they need it. I’ve had participants from my speeches contact me months or even years later telling me that they still carry their cards with them.

    Melissa and Akshay – I agree. Keep practicing!

    Savor the Moment,
    Noah

  16. Empathy does make you a hero. It makes you a great friend, too.

  17. Jannie Funster says:

    I too like number 2. When I get a little down I get myself quickly to a place of celebration, taking that one step forward, as mentioned further below in the points. And the laughter one, what a simple but super-great tip for any occasion.

    Heroic post!!

  18. Hulbert says:

    Hi, J.D., really cool guest post that you put up here. I really like the tips on becoming a hero. It’s not just about putting on a cape and saving the world; everybody can be a hero in their own way. It takes a deeper understanding of not only helping the problems of ourselves, but helping the problems of other people. I think this can make a great hero in each of us. Thanks J.D. and Noah for making this article happen. :)

  19. What a great post! I love the idea that heroes are everyday superstars, too — it’s not some title reserved for over-the-top personalities or types of people. We’re all heroes if we choose to be, and I think it takes following the steps you outlined on a regular basis to achieve that.
    It reminds me of the spiritual idea that we’re all born perfect and valuable, regardless of what we do. We don’t have to “be” anything other than who we are to be uniquely valuable to this world.
    I also love your suggestion to just take one step. The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
    J.D. — thanks for featuring Noah, who’s awesome (just like you!).

  20. Great post, Noah! Lots of fantastic inspirational tips. My favorite piece is the last one – when things seem insurmountable, focus on one small step at a time. I took a new job recently that is somewhat overwhelming because there is so much to learn. Focusing on small wins early is helping the journey.

    One thing to note is that the term “hero” can have a negative connotation. I have been through a couple of different software projects where there are, for example, nasty bugs at the end or some feature that just needs to get in and the “hero” jumps in and gets it done. Unfortunately, sometimes it is the case that the “hero” caused some of the problems to begin with (e.g. wrote buggy code). The “hero” may also sacrifice a personal relationship to get things done, which is not a heroic act in my book. I’m not sure I have a good replacement word, but “hero” seems to strong, in my opinion, for every day successes.

    I will truly try to “laugh it off” next time someone wrongs me (like on the road) and spark a positive attitude!

    Keep up the great work.

    James.

  21. Hi Noah and J.D.

    Thank you for a wonderful post. I truly enjoy the wisdom in this. I love all 8 points. But mostly I enjoy number 3 “Embrace the worst” best. I think no other time is more important than today, that we need to learn to “Embrace the worst”.
    Thank you for sharing.
    Giovanna Garcia
    Imperfect Action is better than No Action

  22. If you liked this post you will definitely like Noah’s book. I read it some time ago and absolutely loved the simplicity of it and the story-based lessons. Being a hero is attainable – you just have to chose to act.