Two half-drunk guys are in a bar at the top of a skyscraper. The first guy says, “You know, I believe that if I had just one more beer, I could fly.”
The other guy says, “That’s impossible!”
“No, really,” says the first guy. He orders another beer and drinks it down, walks over to the balcony—and jumps off. He starts falling, falling, falling . . . but just before he hits the ground, he stops in midair and flies gracefully back to the top of the building.
“Wow!” says the second guy. “You know, if I had another beer, I bet I could do that too.” He downs his beer runs over to the balcony takes a flying leap . . . and hits the sidewalk with a splat.
The bartender turns to the first guy and says, “You know, Superman, you can be a real jerk when you drink.”
We all have heroes—people who represent our highest personal ambitions and values. We tend to idealize them, but remember—they’re just people. They can be jerks, just like anyone. They make mistakes, just like anyone. And if you expect too much of them, they’ll let you down—just like anyone.
Love your heroes for the things they’ve accomplished. But don’t ascribe traits to them that they don’t have. Hero worship isn’t healthy for you . . . or for them.
BEYOND THE PUNCH LINE
Three ways to keep heroes in perspective:
- Think about who your heroes are, and why. Remind yourself what it is about the hero that attracted you in the first place. What does he or she embody that’s meaningful to you? How do your heroes inspire you and how can you make these ideals part of your life?
- Be realistic about them. A hero’s personal weaknesses could make them even more admirable because they’ve managed to accomplish remarkable things—despite their flaws. On the other hand, they may have done things too repugnant to tolerate. If that’s the case, admit it to yourself and move on.
- Focus on yourself. Understand the difference between heroes and role models. We don’t expect to become heroes, but we do aspire to be like our role models. We admire heroes for their extraordinary achievements; we admire role models because they deal with the challenges of everyday life in ways that make them better people. Heroes perform on a global stage. Role models live in our neighborhood. They’re teachers, mentors, parents—people who care about us and are part of our lives. So . . . perhaps more of our role models should be our heroes as well.