There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story. You never quite know where they'll take you. -- Beatrix Potter
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How to Be Your Own Hero (So You Can Finally Live Up to Your Potential)

Movies, romance novels, comic books, video games. They are all filled with heroes who save the day, who save us from the horrible dangers that lurk out there in the scary world.

While there are indeed real dangers lurking throughout the known universe, hero stories resonate, in part, because they are metaphors for our internal emotional journeys. We long to be transported to a place where desires are fulfilled and burdens are lifted.

Do you have a dream? Perhaps your dream is to become a successful writer?

So, what's holding you back?

Are you waiting for someone to show you the way?

Are you waiting for someone to encourage you so that you'll have the self-belief to push forward?

Are you waiting for greatness to emerge by itself?

If so, I'm afraid all of this waiting could leave you disappointed.

The Cobbler and the General

Mark Twain once told a story about a man searching for the world's greatest general. The man searched his whole life until one day he died and met St. Peter at the Pearly Gates. The man told St. Peter he was looking for the world's greatest general. Fortunately, St. Peter said he could help. He led the man to another inhabitant of heaven and introduced him as the world's greatest general. The man who had been searching replied, "That's not the world's greatest general. That man was a cobbler on Main street in my hometown!" St. Peter responded, "But had he been a general, he would have been the greatest general ever."

I can't help but think that the cobbler spent his life waiting for a hero, or for someone to believe in him or for his greatness to emerge by itself. Unfortunately, the cobbler never became the general he could have been.

Like the cobbler, you also have greatness in you. One of the most important things people can do with their lives is live up to their sustainable potential. I had to throw the word sustainable in there because I think many people are capable of many things for a short period, but that's not what I'm talking about. A flicker of something usually has no real impact. Rather, it's the ongoing process of living up to and growing your potential that changes your life in some way--and the world.

You Are Your Own Hero

In order to do this, though, you're going to have to be your own hero. Not because people won't help you, they will. Not because people won't believe in you, they will. And not because things won't sometimes happen by themselves, they do sometimes. But because none of these things will happen until people see something in you: a desire, a belief, an action. It all starts with you.

Why might a great writer mentor you? If you wrote a novel, she might, even if it was a bad one. Why would someone encourage you if you never expressed a desire to be something? Why would people help you if they thought their effort would be wasted because you weren't willing to use what they offered you?

You don't have to wait for something outside of you to change your life. In fact, it's better if you don't. Here's what you can do now to become your own hero and finally live up to your potential.

  1. Understand that no one is coming to save you. Many people want to help you, but they can't help you until you are ready to help yourself.

  2. Associate with kind people who encourage the greatness in you, but who also tell you the truth. Encouragement is good, yet many kind, well-meaning people can do you a terrible disservice by telling you you're great before you really are. There's a difference between believing and pretending.

  3. Take action, however small. Your greatness is not going to appear by itself. It takes courage to take action. Why? Because you could fail and nobody likes that. I have some bad news. You will fail. A lot. I guarantee it. Why? Because the path to success is paved with bricks of trial and error. Failure is a stepping stone. The more you understand this, the faster you will progress.

You could be a great general; you needn't settle for being a cobbler.

If you're looking for a hero to change your life, you just found one — the one staring back at you in the mirror.

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