My cousin and I recently had a brief discussion about the quote above.
A friend of hers had told her that in order to root for a hero, that hero must have flaws and overcome adversity.
This is pretty typical in present day society. Most people seem to like to root for an underdog. Movies portray it, books are written about it and TV shows thrive on it.
I think it’s in our deep seated, workaholic culture to root for those who have to push through some type of struggle to get their reward.
But is it the reward or the struggle that makes the hero?
J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter manuscript was turned down by some dozen publishers before it was finally accepted by Bloomsbury. That doesn’t negate the quality of her work. If it had been immediately accepted, if she had been wealthy when she wrote it, not a struggling single mother, we might see her differently, but her work stood on its own.
This discussion about heroes originated in a exchange between my cousin and her friend regarding Tom Brady.
I wouldn’t consider Brady an “underdog” per se, though he was not immediately recognized in the NFL for the talent that he obviously possesses. He has throngs of fans, and I might be one too except that he was my favorite QB’s rival and more than one of Brady’s trophies is blemished amid allegations of cheating and unethical practices.
So, while Rowling’s personal story might not enhance the value of her literary contribution, neither are Brady’s impressive additions to sports history enough to cover the misdeeds of those involved in helping him achieve his greatness. But likewise, Rowling’s personal struggles make her an inspiration of perseverance, and Brady’s apparent lack of struggle, and even the scandals that have surrounded his team throughout his career, do not diminish his talent.
To me, this just furthers the argument that people really do want to see the “little guy” go the distance and place at least some importance on the details of that journey.
We hear it from a young age: David and Goliath, Jack and the Beanstalk, Robin Hood. Men on a mission who have to push through, and often stand alone, to defeat the naysayers.
I think, overall, as much as we get swept up in the movement of overcoming adversity, many of us simply crave quiet integrity, in others, but also within ourselves.
I love Peyton Manning. He was the reason I fell in love with pro football. He played differently than anyone who came before him. Smart, calculated. A scholar of the game as much as a player. He only has 2 Super Bowl rings, but they are not tarnished. He was an incredible talent, but he also worked and practiced to become the best he could be. He overcame adversity in injury, and in the fact that he struggled at times to go the distance when championships were on the line. I see more of myself in his story because I believe it to be more realistic of what most of us end up achieving. He will not go down as the greatest QB of all time, Brady will likely claim that honor. For a while anyway. But Manning just did the best he could with what he had and won some and lost some. Like we all do. His victories, to me, are in the way he played more than the trophies he won.
While shining examples of success like Rowling and Brady might make our eyes glaze over, and inspire visions of greatness, most of us will only ever achieve what the world would consider mediocrity.
But outside opinions do not diminish the greatness that is possible within us. I doubt that there are many people who haven’t had to overcome something, or many things, to become the hero of their own story.
Part of the problem is that we see heroism as something monumental that only a few can truly acheieve. But what about little victories, the ones nobody appreciates but us?
If I’m lucky, I might have 100 people read this post. My personal heroism is not in the finished work though, it’s in the writing. It’s in the pushing through all of my insecurities about who will read my work, and what they will think, and simply doing it because it is in the doing that I get better and, more importantly, stay true to myself and my talents.
We equate heroism with victory. But victory is often found in the quiet places of the journey, not in the destination.
Somewhere, within us all, is a hero. Because somewhere, within us all, is the underdog fighting for what is important to it.
For some, the victory today might be adding one more day to their record of sobriety. For others, getting out of bed when depression longs to keep them in the dark. Some may win a marathon, and others may be lacing up their running shoes for the very first time.
Wherever you find yourself today, I challenge you: Let your journey be your victory, and let your accomplishments, be they many or be they few, never be the standard by which you measure yourself and whether or not you were the hero of your own story.