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We’ve lost Stan Lee this week. At 95 years old, he lived a life of creation. He used his imagination and developed worlds filled with incredible creatures. He took us on a journey of fantasy with Captain America, Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor and many others. The Marvel universe is known because of Stan.
You see Stan was able to use his extraordinary power to allow us to see who superheroes really are. They have incredible strength but flawed characters. They receive throngs of praise but struggle with the demons at their heels. They believe in what might be but don’t see how they fit into the big picture. Stan held a mirror up to us but wrapped it in yellow spandex or muscle-bound green skin.
As business and human resources professionals, we resemble these superheroes. We are the ones who champion a cause and lead the initiative. We are the ones who compose the message. We are consistent, reliable persons who show up when called. We rescue. And yet, we stumble, we doubt and we don’t always follow through well. We’re superheroes like any other.
Part of the appeal of X-Men or the Avengers is not just that their powers come together to fight “bad guys,” but rather, to listen in to their dialogue and relational development. We watch them save the world, but they don’t know how to speak to one another. We observe their heroics in action, but we, also, see them struggle to save the relationships that matter most. Can’t we identify in some ways with these truths?
Think about how many hours you’re spending at work. Is it fruitful? Does it accomplish something great? It certainly can, but do you spend time thinking about those efforts to ensure they do? It’s unwise to think that your heroics will mean rescue or solution just because you’re present. The plan of attack matters as much as the attack. Being deliberate with the resources you have in an effective manner is the stuff of superheroes, and you are one.
And you can teach others around you how to better use their powers, too. Allow for some trial and error. Give people a chance to flex various muscles. And talk them through it. Let them know it’s not just the end performance that matters, but the path to get there, too.
In Peter Parker, we see just such a person. A man seeking justice. A man broken by the death of his father figure. A man given extraordinary power. A man hiding who he fully is so he can be “normal.” He was a good kid. He did what was expected of him. He cared for his aunt. He was a good student. He was ready to help. What he didn’t know how to do was to use his gifts well, to trust those worthy of his trust and to account for alternative options. He needed to cultivate his critical thinking skills. We all have Peter Parker traits.
Thank you, Stan Lee, for creating universes that cause us all to consider who we are and why we’re behaving as we are. Excelsior!