The Heroes Among Us

The Heroes Among Us

Consider for a moment the people you’ve admired over the years. Maybe it’s a celebrity athlete—a consistently high-scoring member of your favorite cricket team. Maybe it’s a political leader or tech visionary. Maybe it’s someone that made an important medical discovery and then shared the fruits of that discovery with impoverished people around the world. If you have long admired these folks, what have you done to connect lately? What’s stopping you? Your heroes continue to have interesting ideas, dreams and plans. But at the most fundamental—ordinary, day-to-day, human level—we’re all alike. Due to a weird mix of circumstances, grit, financial support and perhaps luck, they became famous. But not much separates us and the stuff that makes a hero. In fact, I’ll bet that once you rub the stars out of your eyes, you’ll find a hero next door and maybe even down the hall.

To Catch a Hero

Famous and accomplished people may seem untouchable and unapproachable, but this is part of the myth we’re all responsible for fabricating. Your heroes may have something you don’t have at this specific point in time—more experience, more connections, more press—but the stuff that made them who they are is still bubbling up, poised to connect with someone who understands and is driven by the same spark.

As a college student, I idealized a certain tech guru, famous for achieving early whiz-kid fame and then moving on to starting a successful business venture. I truthfully didn’t really expect any kind of an answer when I tracked him down one day (back before such a platform as LinkedIn existed) and shared a fascinating (to me, anyway) article on a topic that I figured was right down his alley. Of course, I was surprised when I got a reply. Even stranger, we started to correspond regularly. Nothing special here—just one tech head reaching out to another, sharing stuff that would be totally boring to most people. But we connected on a fundamental level and were equals in terms of the topics that we found interesting; the fact that he was more famous than I due to the unique trajectory of his particular life was completely secondary. I learned something from him—and he learned something from me.

Biologically speaking, as humans we are genetically programmed to seek out connections. These connections enrich our lives in multiple ways. We’re all in this big, beautiful boat called “life” together. So, let’s talk.

The Heroes Down the Hall

But even though I spent a good portion of this article discussing it, this post is not just about reaching out to famous people and connecting. It’s about realizing that there’s not much that is different between someone that struck it “big” and you. Take this thought one step further and you see that the makings of modern-day heroes are just down the hall, around the corner, or in the next cube. We all have something unique to say and contribute and we all have opportunities to learn. Yes, all of us.

The owner of a small corner grocery near where I grew up always kindly gave my friends and I a free ice cream cone every Saturday afternoon. He was a generous person and progressive thinker and quickly made his mark in the local neighborhood, after which he ran for political office and made an impact on a much larger scale, improving the lives of countless people. How is he different from the famous, seemingly unapproachable figures I alluded to in the beginning of this article? In fact, he is no different at all.

Reach out to your heroes, whether they are players on an international scale or active closer to home. Connections bring about a greater sense of community and connections bring about the global sharing of ideas and initiatives, which is a good thing.

We all have something of value to share. Look around you. Who are the heroes in your office? I’ll bet there’s one down the hall.