Friday, December 21, 2007

Living the Hero's Life

Many of us admire heroes from a distance; yet, we often fail to make the choice to live the hero’s life. There is no modesty in failing to take on the personal mantel of being a hero in your world. The challenge for most of us is that we simply fail to grasp the simple concept that choosing to "be a hero" is the way to change the world. The individual who grasps this concept can live the life of a hero, starting today!

I’m convinced that each human being, even the very simple, wants to live a life that matters. I would argue herein lies the truth regarding all human beings’ cravings for the feeling of importance. Individual heroes are our minds projection of our own personal desire for living a life we love. It is for this reason we should cultivate in our own minds a respect for our own heroes, even heroes of many different kinds.

Most of us fail to realize that we can cultivate the life of a hero in our own daily choices. Through our own observation and study of those in the world who have gone before us in time and/or accomplishment, we are able to get in touch with a personal and valuable portion of our own consciousness. Or to say it more simply, by choosing heroes for ourselves -- men and women we deliberately choose to admire and whose lives and accomplishments we purposefully reflect upon -- we find ourselves able to recognize the power of a hero inside ourselves.

The realization in the mind of a man or woman that he or she can actually be a hero to themselves, to their loved ones, and to those around them - is a realization that gives the mind and heart a source of courage, a reservoir of faith and hope, and an example of how to face the challenges of life.

“Ye Are Gods”

The Lord says he created man to act for himself rather than to be acted upon. To me this means the difference between living life as a hero and living life as a victim. More poignantly, it is the difference between living life as a god and living life as a devil. When the Savior was accused of blasphemy for proclaiming himself the Son of God, he responded:

Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God? If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. (King James Version, John 10: 34-37)

All men are the children of God; yet, the devil would like all men to be miserable, to forget their royal heritage and to live life as a thing acted upon rather than as one that with courage and deliberateness makes the world a better place. Do we do the works of God? Do we choose liberty and life, or captivity and death?

An Example: 5 Minutes that Changed My Life Forever

There is a difference between one who acts and one who is acted upon. This difference begins with perception. A few years ago I was in a business meeting with three of my top executives. We were having an unplanned meeting to “deal with” some of the pressing business issues of the day. It dawned on me that none of us had spent any time deliberately preparing for our discussion.

I noticed that we were being acted upon by the pressure of expectations outside ourselves, a pattern to which we had become habitually addicted. This is how a person assents to perpetual victimhood.

Then, as I pondered our situation, an idea came to my mind and I said to each of my associates there in that meeting: “I’d like to take exactly five minutes to focus in complete silence on this one very specific issue.”

I asked each executive to write down any ideas that came to mind while we pondered that one simple matter -- very deliberately, together and in silence. The challenge I issued to them was to think of a solution, or more than one if possible, to this very specific problem our company was facing. I asked them: “If this challenge was left entirely up to you, what would you do?”

I asked them to consider all possibilities, no matter how bold. Once I confirmed that each understood, I looked at the clock and said: “Okay, five minutes; please don’t make a sound.”

The seconds began ticking by. I’m not sure much happened in the first minute or two, other than three grown men looking occasionally at each other -- acknowledging the oddity of the moment. After about two or three minutes, one of the men began to jot down an idea. A few seconds later another started to write. By the time there was only thirty seconds left, we were all writing quickly. At the end of five minutes, we all had a bright look on each of our faces. The feeling in the room was much different than the pressure felt just five minutes earlier. I asked each man to share his ideas. One at a time they began to do so.

By the time each of us had finished sharing our ideas, the power of deliberateness was evident. The amazing reality was that in just five minutes of deliberateness we did more thinking, more planning and more effective “acting” in our stewardships than we had done in months of discussion on that one issue. That simple five minute experiment has changed my life forever.

An Example: Walking Down the Middle of a Busy Street

On another occasion I learned more about the power of deliberateness, and of choosing the hero’s life, by walking down the double yellow line the in the center of a busy downtown street.

I had been given the difficult church assignment to work with two single women within our congregation. They were both single mothers who didn’t regularly attend meetings, lived in very poor conditions and didn’t like the idea of receiving assistance from anyone in the church.

For months I struggled with my assignment. It was difficult to even obtain their phone numbers. I prayed about my assignment and made token efforts semi-regularly to reach out to them. Whenever I reached out my efforts were easily and quickly dismissed. It had been nearly six months into the assignment when I realized very clearly that I was failing to make any difference in the lives of these two women whatsoever.

I felt bad about the situation. I did not know what to do. I attempted to justify myself by remembering each of the times I had “tried” to reach out but had been rebuffed; however, nothing seemed to quench the gnawing within me. I didn't realize then that there was an external force inviting me to get out of my own victim story and write a new chapter - the hero’s life.

One day as I sat in my office, a very strange thing happened. Unannounced and out of the blue, both women came into my office at the same time asking to see me. My secretary came in to interrupt my schedule and asked, assuming I would say no, if I would see these two young women.

I was a bit surprised to see them, to say the least. As each of them sat across from my desk, the idea struck me how odd it was to have both sisters, who I had been so concerned over but had felt so helpless to affect, now sitting directly in front of me together.

They proceeded to explain that due to some unforeseen circumstances they were both facing a situation where they would soon be homeless. As a matter of fact, one of them was required to be out of her house that very day. They had successfully secured a new apartment together, but it was in a complete mess. The new apartment needed cleaning and required some minor repairs. In addition, they had no help for the move. They had no pickups, no friends to assist and no plans for making the move happen. They were now here in my office asking for my help.

I agreed to help but explained that since it was the middle of the work day and I had many responsibilities to resolve it would be several hours before I could arrive. I envisioned myself showing up, helping load boxes etc., but really nothing more. They both quietly expressed understanding that I was busy. They expressed appreciation that I would take the time to come by and help. They smiled briefly and then politely left my office.

After they were gone, I sat pondering the situation. Certainly, I thought to myself, I want to help them, but I have a huge workload today. No one would expect me to drop everything.

I thought it silly for these two women to expect to move so quickly with so little planning. They explained it wasn’t their fault; it was unanticipated, but I had heard such excuses many times before. I’m sure the thought “an emergency in your life doesn’t require an emergency in mine” might have gone through my mind.

As I sat justifying to myself that there was nothing else I could do, a feeling deep inside again started to gnaw at my core. The feeling was so direct and poignant that I could not deny it. I knew for certain that all my rationalizations meant nothing. I knew I had been praying for months for a way to reach out to each of these women; and for months the only thing preventing me from “making the world a better place” for them and myself was my own lame pattern of excuses.

I acknowledged to myself that I was not acting like a hero, and I knew it. I also knew that I was of no matter in this situation to these women or to the Lord; I had not chosen to be a significant source for good in the situation. The more powerfully I went over this acknowledgment in my mind the more powerfully I felt inspired to do something about it.

I suppose it had been fifteen minutes since I had escorted the young women from my office. I sat by myself in silence, tortured by the idea that I had failed; that there was no excuse for the poor choice I had made.

I began asking myself what I could do. I started to ask very specific questions about the possibilities rather than focusing on rationalizations for the impossible. I pondered and then got on my knees and prayed. I knew I must do something. The idea then came to my mind that I must act very deliberately. I felt certain my failure to deliberately chart a course forward was the same as deliberately charting a course to nowhere; therefore, I started asking myself what I could deliberately do to rectify this situation. I committed to myself to do something right then, without delay.

I had no way to reach either woman. This was a time before cell phones were common. They had errands to run and were planning to meet me back at the home where the move was to take place at 5:30 p.m. that evening. At that point in time, it was only noon. I knew there was no way that I could wait five hours to do something. Or better stated, I knew I could make a difference and that I would not wait to do it.

As I sat pondering, a very strange idea came to my mind. It was as if a voice said to me, “Okay, if you want to act deliberately, go walk down the middle of the street.” I’m not kidding. That is the idea that came into my mind very directly. At first I chuckled. I wondered if the source hadn’t been my own frustration and as an expression of that frustration I was now telling myself to go “play in the middle of the highway.” However, I knew the source of the idea and knew that I could not deny it. I knew that I was prepared to act and was going to act; so, I got up from my office chair immediately and headed out the door.

On my way out of the office my secretary, surprised to see me heading out of the office so directly, asked me where I was going. Not thinking how strange it would sound I simply replied: “I’m going to go walk down the middle of the street.” This I’m sure sounded alarming.

My secretary got up and started following me out the building. As I made my way quickly down the stairs and outside to the sidewalk, he again asked what I was doing. I looked out at the double yellow center line in the center of road. I remember thinking to myself that this was a bit crazy and wondering what I hoped to accomplish. I turned to my secretary and explained that I was going to help the two women that I had mistakenly dismissed earlier. I told him the only way I could change what I did was to take deliberate action. I’m not sure how convincing I sounded, but I took off for the center of the road.

When I reached the double yellow line, I decided to start walking west. My secretary walked with me (staying on the sidewalk, paralleling my course). I stopped responding to his questions and just kept walking down the center of the road paying close attention and keeping my feet, one step after the other on the double yellow line. I soon approached a busy intersection controlled by a traffic light. I paused, wondering to myself how much danger I was really willing to put myself in, in order to keep "walking the line.”

As I stood there a bit concerned, wondering how this action was going to make a difference, a car came turning the corner and about ran me over. Of course I couldn’t complain since I was the one standing in the middle of the road. The car swerved to avoid hitting me. Noticing who I was, the driver pulled over to the side of the road. To my great astonishment, inside the car were the two women I was looking for.

The woman in the passenger side rolled down her window and with a somewhat astonished look on her face asked what I was doing walking down the middle of the road. I responded by telling them that I had been inspired to do so; that it was the only way I was going to be able to reach them; that I had made a mistake earlier, and I wanted to take charge of getting them moved, starting that very minute. The entire story is too long to tell; but suffice it to say, the mood between the three of us changed dramatically. We all recognized in that moment, that something was much different than only a short time before.

I went to work. I called over 25 men in the middle of the day without any warning. I simply requested in a rather forceful way that they all meet me with boxes, trucks, hand-trucks, dollies, etc. I only reached a few of the men at home; for the rest I left messages. On each of their answering machines I left a very deliberate and determined message. I had no idea how many would show up. For some reason I had no doubt that I could orchestrate and accomplish this task; but to tell the truth, I had no idea what I was about to witness.

I arrived at the house to help with the move (ironically my soon to be wife was with me that day, but that is another story). At first we were the only ones there; not even the two women who needed the help were present to witness the miracle that was about to take place. After a few short minutes, men and women began to arrive from all directions.

Almost everyone that I had called came to help, in addition to many others who had received word of the project. In what must have been less than 30 minutes, we had so much help I couldn’t count everyone. We had trucks, boxes and lots of hands. Literally, in just a few hours, we had the entire home packed and moved as well as having cleaned and made the needed repairs to the new apartment.

I had spent almost the entire time simply directing traffic so to speak. I had never before witnessed such an effective and heartfelt response to any similar situation. The people who showed up to help had a unique spirit about them, and the work was accomplished almost as a byproduct. When the two women finally arrived to help get the move started they were astonished, to say the least, to discover all the work had already been completed. They were moved, and everything was already accomplished.

I remember a brief moment, while standing in the middle of the living room in the center of traffic watching all the work being done under my basic direction throughout the house. At that moment the feelings I had were the feelings of a hero. Not a hero in the sense of being recognized by others as such, but a hero in my own mind. I knew that I had finally stepped up to the plate and had accomplished something worthwhile.

Heroes: The Power of Being Deliberate

There is a power that comes with deliberateness. In both of my stories, which were actual occurrences in my life, small but significant moments, I learned something amazingly powerful. I learned something of the difference between acting and being acted upon. I felt the difference between being a victim of circumstance and a hero who had chosen to act deliberately. In those minutes, a brief glance through the mundane in life, I knew that I had chosen to be an agent, a hero and even a god.

Life is about finding importance and making a difference. The answer to our search is unique for each of us, as unique as the individual situations and challenges we face each day. I have learned through my own experience something of the sacred and amazing possibilities that lay at the core of why each of us is here on the earth. Through many small moments, like the two experiences I’ve shared, I have come to know that what I accomplish as a result of being very deliberate in my efforts has enabled me to tap into the power of a hero, which is literally the power to change the world.

I am convinced that within the immediate grasp of anyone reading this essay, is the possible choice of living the hero’s life, the choice of being gods -- even the children of God. But it is a choice, and we must each individually decide if we are seriously willing to live lives we love. The individual who grasps this concept can live the life of a hero, starting today!

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