Motivational speaker and business growth expert Steven S. Little points out that we choose our heroes based not on their wealth accumulation or accolades but on something else. We remember our heroes for their effort, their values, and their ideas. We don’t remember how much money they made, but we recall the steps they took to get there, the process they followed, their trials and tribulations, and their reaction to these challenges. Furthermore, this is why some of the sports speakers that lead motivational talks are so inspiring. The sports industry is incredibly competitive and therefore we can learn useful lessons about tenacity and perseverance from sporting sensations. All this had me think of some of my heroes.
Before I even understood why I had heroes; I was utlizing them to motivate and inspire me. To give me hope for myself and to remind me of the deepest heart of humanity. Heroes infuse our world with meaning and serve as models for what we value.
Looking at who your heroes are and understanding what they truly represent or symbolize, is a way to understand your own deeper values. It’s a way to learn more about who it is that you really are.
I am going to share a couple of my heroes (although I have many.) I would love it if you would share some of yours, who they are, and what they represent to you. What it is they do for you…
I learned about Maya Angelou, many years ago when I first read her autobiographical book, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” At the time, I was completely blown away by her raw honesty in how she shared her life experiences and challenges. She exposed herself in a vulnerable way as I had never seen before. She taught me that if you were strong and brave you had nothing to hide. She tenaciously pushed herself beyond survival and into the life of her dreams. She was unafraid of being herself or if she was afraid, she stood tall and expressed who she was anyway…giving permission to anyone who was ever marginalized to boldly give their gift to the world. She published her first novel at 42 years of age, which deeply inspired the sense that it is never to late to begin a new dream. Today she has over 30 best-selling published works, and at last count, 30 honorary doctorate degrees. She is a true elder and lioness in our world community.
Zora Neale Hurston is a writer I was introduced to many years ago when I read her book Their Eyes Were Watching God. When you begin her book it can be challenging, because she was the first author to write in an African American dialect found in the south in the early 20th century. It can take a chapter or so to adjust to this different way with words, but suddenly you are in middle of an adventure of redemption and growth.
It was the first time I had ever read a “Hero’s Journey” with a woman as the protagonist. A “hero’s journey” is essentially a story of a character’s search for something incredibly important, they travel far from home to find this necessary thing, and while on the adventure they are transformed to their core by the challenges they face…and while we read a hero’s journey, it inspires us on our own paths of change and growth. It reminds us that we too can triumph against the odds.
Yet it wasn’t just this novel or her profoundly gifted and descriptive writing that I admired. It was also Hurston’s own story, because although she was a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance, a novelist and anthropologist who wrote 50 published short stories, plays, and essays, although she was a central figure in the preservation of African American folklore, and considered one of the most influential African American writers, regardless of all of this, because of the timeframe in which she lived, she also struggled with intense poverty, sexism, and racism. In 1960, when Hurston died, it was in destitution, and she was buried in an unmarked grave. In 1975, Alice Walker helped to revive an interest in Hurston’s work. Walker also found Hurston’s unmarked grave and erected a small monument to honor Zora Neale Hurston the woman and her significant contribution.
When I look over my heroes I see that they fight the odds, they stand up for themselves, their art, their passions, their beliefs. They are adventurers and pioneers. They are leaders. They are symbols of transformation. Most of all they are smart, tough, and dazzlingly alive.
Share your heroes with me. If you have forgotten who your heroes are maybe it’s time you discovered some. Then you can allow them to inspire and motivate some of your own greatest dreams.