We tend to think of heroes as people who begin their journey as heroes with certain values already in place, set goals and belief systems which guide them on a journey towards a noble outcome. However, in the origin story of "Doctor Strange", we experience a hero whose moral character is mostly eroded before he gains supernatural abilities. Characters like Captain America were shining examples of society before they got that one 'secret ingredient' that made them, well, super. In Cap's case, it was the Super Soldier Serum, but in the case of the famously gifted and super arrogant Doctor Stephen Strange...it's unclear. On the surface level, you might watch the movie and say "well, before he learned magic, Strange wasn’t the type of guy I’d want with any kind of special abilities...after all, look at how he acted with his natural talents! That magic must have changed him.”
To a certain point, you’re correct. The magic did change him; it granted him the knowledge and expertise he needed to be a hero at the end of the day. But realistically, the thing that started his metamorphosis from being exceptional to becoming unlimited was the trauma, disappointment, and pain of his car crash. Think about it: he never would’ve been in those mountains in Tibet if he wouldn’t have lost his ability to perform surgery in the crash. And more importantly, he never would’ve been open to receiving more than the status of his happy, selfish equilibrium if he hadn’t lost it all. Losing it all gave him the opportunity to rebuild, reframe, and exceed his former life, even if that former life was that of a world-renowned neurosurgeon.
This is where I find the deepest and most impactful message in the film. Many times in life, we view setbacks, disappointments, and quite frankly huge losses as death sentences, but we often ignore the fact that the only death sentence comes when you take your final breath. Until we die, there is still so much more we can do. Take the case of another extremely intelligent and successful Stephen, the impressive Mr. Hawking: diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease at a time in his life when he was just beginning to make breakthroughs in his field, he refused to let his circumstances define him. In fact, he kept a positive attitude when those around him, his own loved ones, struggled to do the same. He defined his future by changing the way he looked at his past and more importantly his present. We have to start thinking like these Stephens! Wake up everyday and take hold of the fact that you can change your life starting right now. No matter what has happened to you, if you devote yourself and promote positivity and faith, you can push past that and have great things happen through you. And the best part about it: there’s no magic required!
The Dark Knight has been heralded as one of the best movies of all time for a reason: not only does it have an amazing plot, it has deep character development and complexity that makes the world of one of the most popular superheroes of all time seem incredibly realistic. One of the most impactful scenes in the movie starts off light-hearted: a boisterous Bruce Wayne puts tables together at a restaurant he owns, joining the two parties of himself and his date (a beautiful Russian ballerina) and the dynamic district attorney, Harvey Dent, and Rachel Dawes (also one of Bruce’s exes). They begin to discuss city politics and eventually Batman, and they get into the topic of whether or not the Batman is welcome, or even needed. Bruce, forever shrouded in mystery, seems to put down the notion of a hero in a city that needs law and order, but Dent sticks up for the Batman who he doesn’t know is sitting right in front of him, saying that the Batman is simply performing a service that the city clearly needs. Rachel points out that the Batman might overstay his welcome if he continues to have as much power as he has without anyone to check him, to which Dent replies,
“...ok fine, you either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”
This is one of the most important lines in the film, for more reasons than I care to get into right now, but for one reason in particular. It holds so much philosophical significance because it speaks to the nature of humanity, and of great men and women, as a whole. The quote basically means that no matter how good one’s intentions are, given enough time and power, their legacy will eventually become one that turns love and adoration into hate and scorn. We see this concept acted out in the real world more often than we realize: Steve Jobs created Apple and led a computing revolution which created effects that we still feel today, but at one point he was ousted from his own company for the same strong, innovative nature that turned the company into what it is. Even Jesus, a perfect human, had fate take a turn for the worst, spending his entire life caring for and ministering to others only to have those same people turn against him in his final hour and heap false accusations upon him which led to his death. No matter how good we are, time makes fools of us all. But the truth is that this is just the circle of life, and for us to have new role models, we must expose the holes in our old ones. To build, we must tear down. And most importantly, we shouldn’t fear this transition, but we should do everything in our power to make sure that when it is our time to be the heroes, we make our actions and our characters worthy of that title.
Goodfellas is a classic mob movie, but it’s unorthodox in a very signature way because the main characters aren’t made men, or in other words, they’re not members of any crime family. They’re simply career criminals with connections. However, the way they move and operate is very mob-like: it creates a feel to the film that reels us in with the traditional character roles and plot points but endears us to the characters because, besides the fact that they rob and steal for a living, they’re regular civilians, learning and operating in ways that we can all relate to. It’s made even better by the fact that the film is based on the true story of Henry Hill, the main character, and his experience with and around the Lucchese crime family. One of the lessons learned in the film is about loyalty, and Hill learns this lesson quickly, as he’s only 11 years old when he’s picked up by the cops for selling cigarettes illegally. Even though he was selling them under the command of a more powerful boss, and with another young boy, he doesn’t ‘squeal’ at all and he’s out of jail in no time. Upon being freed by the judge, he’s pulled aside by his mentor of sorts, Jimmy Conway, and given some very serious (and now famous) admonishment:
“Never rat on your friends, and always keep your mouth shut."
It’s a thing that’s been said many different times in many different ways, but this one has a certain ring to it, a catchy feel. Maybe because it’s essentially saying the same thing twice: it reveals an uneducated person’s attempt to instill values that are ultimately unwise. By the end of the movie, it seems that the lesson has been completely forgotten, as Henry Hill ends up giving up all his friends and going into the Witness Protection Program as a way to escape the life which was destroying him and his family. Ultimately, it’s a lesson within a lesson, teaching that no matter how much we hear something, or how many times other people try to force us to believe in an idea, it’s never going to be enough if we don’t personally subscribe to it. After all, if you can tell someone to do one thing for decades and they still do the opposite, what’s the point of it all? The message of the movie becomes clear in this light: we have to choose what we care about and believe in and that’s what will ultimately determine our destiny.
I was 21 years old and in love. I had recently met a beautiful young woman at an INROADS leadership conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan and I was a year away from graduating with a finance degree and no student loans. She asked me a question that changed my life. "What is your credit score?" I thought, what is a credit score?
Little did I know, that there were 2 unpaid bills in my name that I didn't sign up for, and 3 unpaid hospitable bills due to an insurance lapse I didn't know about. Here's what I did to fix my credit score. (Spoiler Alert: that young lady is now my wife of 12 years!)
1. Contacted All the Companies I Owed
I owed the hospital, a doctor's office, the cable company, and the electric company. Why do I say I owed them even though I didn't sign up for the services and I thought insurance covered the hospital visit? Because I was responsible for my own credit. The electric company said I needed to file a police report if there was identity theft. I did not do that because I didn't want to hurt a family member. So I asked if they would accept a lower amount if I paid it that day. They said yes! I did the same thing with the hospital and created a two-part payment plan.
2. Signed up for a Secured Credit Card
At the time U.S. Bank offered a secured credit card, where you put money in a savings account equal to the amount of the credit card limit. If you don't pay off the credit card then the money from the savings account covers it. With my credit score this was the only way I could build credit. I started with $250 and after 2 years my credit score improved 200+ points (it was pretty low). After 3 years I was able to increase the limit and receive a check for my savings balance.
3. Moved in With Family
After I graduated from BGSU, engaged and ready for life, I had to move in with my aunt and uncle to save money and focus on rebuilding my credit score. This was beneficial to me for more reasons than one. I also learned from their 30+ year marriage. While I lived there I paid rent, read several books, and began planning my financial future.
As as a result of these decisions, my wife and I were able to buy our first home at 24 and I was finally able to buy a car in my name at 28. Today my credit score is 400 points higher than it was nearly 15 years ago.
- Vontoba Terry
Resources: AnnualCreditReport.com (free)
There are plenty of factors that play into you becoming the best employee or employer or entrepreneur you can be, and if you’re smart, you’ll never be finished trying to improve in this aspect. For many people, one of the biggest challenges to be faced is gaining confidence in the workplace, whether it be in presenting work to colleagues, having conversations with a higher-up, or just being able to calmly put your best foot forward as an important piece of an organization. It’s not easy being able to look and feel like your best self if you feel like even your best self pales in comparison to the great minds of the organization you’re a part of. Maybe you’re stuck in a toxic corporate culture that fails to recognize your value, working with colleagues who have a perception of you that you think you can’t escape. In any case, it’s important that you’re able to gradually expand your repertoire as a businessperson and exude the confidence that not only draws people to you and your ideas, but also allows you to unlock a new level of greatness and fulfillment in whatever position you’re in. Speaking from personal experience, it takes some time and a lot of hard work, but the payoff is absolutely worth it.
When I started off, one of my biggest challenges was distractions. Things pop out throughout the day and you’re forced to deal with them, and more often than not it’s not the way you planned for things to go. It can throw you off your game and change your attitude about your work; when you feel like you’re not in control, confidence wanes because confidence is all about being in control of yourself and how people see you. As I moved forward in my career though, other things proved to be unique obstacles, such as budget limitations. Not having enough money can keep you from being self-assured about the quality of your work, and if this is work you’ll have to share with others (which you most likely will), you may panic about all the things that could’ve gone better. Once again, you have to realize that the only things you should worry about are things you can control. With your portion of time and resources, are you giving your best effort to contribute to the goals and progress of your organization? If so, you have to step into the spotlight as confidently as you can and let it be.
What are your biggest challenges in building confidence? Let me know in the comments below or tweet them to me with #ConfidenceCrashCourse!
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