Yeah, that‘s me… A young, impressionable kid growing up on Chicago’s north side – Howard Street. There was always something about superheroes that I wanted to encompass. Yes, the super powers they possessed were impressive. But more than that, the way they used them to overcome great odds in helping others was transformative!
Batman is a comic book staple standing in the debate about what defines a superhero. Many agree that physical attributes like the ability to fly or super strength are “super“ clear indicators. Some point to unseen powers such as mental telepathy or x-ray vision as further evidence of superiority. The consistent factor appears to be the presence of some superhuman ability as the key defining criteria. But does Batman possess super powers? Based on his accomplishments throughout comic book lore, I’d have to say yes. If Batman has super powers, where did they come from? And if he somehow obtained these super powers, how do I get them???
Through comic books, television, and blockbuster movies, Batman demonstrates an innate ability to overcome the most incredible of odds. Unlike other superheroes, his feats are achieved through the utilization of a rather significant tool belt, and the engaging of attributes that when presented on a job description under “job skills“ do not seem so super human. They often are not salaried as such either. Within a culture that fails to recognize and reward super powers, we cannot afford to not recognize those characteristics within ourselves. Only in doing so can we activate our greatest.
Across America young people, families, communities are working to overcome incredible odds. The need for everyday people whom have accessed and activated their super powers is real. There is no need to get tested to see if they exist within you. If you breathe and bleed, the capabilities exist somewhere within you. The underlying question – “How do I access and activate my super power?“ Let’s look at that question with a little help from the caped crusader himself, aka Batman!
Similar to actors and actresses looking to add meaning to their scripted lines, everyday, people looking to access and activate their super powers should ask the question, “What’s my motivation?“ The story of Batman begins when a young Bruce Wayne leaves the theater with his parents and is confronted by a stick-up man who ultimately kills both of his parents leaving him orphaned. Batman became determined to avenge his parents murder. The first step of discovery for Batman was born out of an extreme case of motivation.
Perhaps many of you have experienced traumatic life moments that would be your motivating factor. While trauma could serve as your motivation, it does not need to be the case for every individual. For instance, recognizing injustice and inequity for others might motivate an individual to engage their super powers.
I realized a career in youth development work after a number of life events revealed to me the importance of young people having relatable supports that can make authentic connections. From birth through college days, I experienced powerful agents that lifted me when I could have easily fell through the cracks. In most cases these were regular people operating in through the course of their everyday jobs. The difference is they were motivated. And they intentionally anchored their job duties through that motivation.
Jim Hopson served as park supervisor at Kiwanis Park on Chicago’s north side. Mr. Hopson, a decorated US Veteran, went above and beyond to keep his park kids safe. In addition to the variety of activities offered, Mr. Hopson also made sure every young person had access to prominent Chicago politicians and other key figures in the City. He brought them in to jump off one of the cities most competitive outdoor basketball leagues. He transported park kids downtown, in shirts and ties, to attend high profile award ceremonies and banquets. Jim Hopson authentically cared for kids.
Authentic connections lead to trusting relationships that open pathways for caring adults to help young people look beyond their current existence and move into tomorrow with hope. Motivation matters most when it considers the lives of others as well as your own.
Batman combined vast scientific knowledge with Sherlock Holmes like detective skills to reveal villainous plots before they could devastate the citizens of Gotham. These were skills learned through his efforts to avenge his parents murder. For our purposes, “learned“ tells us super powers are not necessarily born to us but can be developed. For those familiar with the Batman story you know that Henri Ducard was a French detective responsible for training Batman. You’ll want to dig-in further on that story to find out what later became of this relationship. But what is most important from this example is the importance of allowing your motivation to inform your education.
Once you discover your motivation, what skills will you need to fulfill your life energies around that area? Formal education pathways provide support for building requisite skills. Sometimes engaging mentors and/or coaches that intimately know and have lived your motivation can help to build out our tool belt. I work to create impactful relationships with young people that meet them where they are. I have chosen to build skills in a number or areas that allow me to access and influence youth development and behavior. From providing after school programming for teenagers, officiating youth and young adult basketball, baseball and softball, baseball instructional coach, behavior management specialist for alternative school populations and other relative areas over a twenty-five year career, each area serves as an instrumental support in building my super power cache.
Okay, so the motivation for Batman “avenging“ his parents murder is no doubt a bit dark. So dark in fact that it helps explain another one of his nicknames, the Dark Knight. In many ways, the emotional strain over a lifetime of being a helpless witness to his parents demise adds to the motivation. Understanding the drain that deep emotional trauma can inflict further exemplifies the motivational influence on yet another super power.
Though Batman does not possess the power to fly, or leap tall building in a single bound, or bend steel with his bare hands, there are many instances where he appears to perform super physical feats. Batman’s historical tale provides an explanation for these abilities. In fact it is not much different than what actual people do to gain speed, improve strength, or increase endurance. Simply put, he works out! Apparently, his peak physical ability allows him to bench press 1,000 pounds. The real-life record for the bench press is somewhere around 740 pounds. So while we can take from this the relatable points, the reality is that this is not a probable goal. In other words, don’t try this at home.
The lesson? If we are to best apply our super powers… it may be a good idea to prepare for the speed, strength and endurance that will be necessary to accomplish our motivational goals. While that certainly should not call for the bench pressing of 1,000 pounds of weight, it could very well require walking or riding long, enduring distances, working longer hours, standing among crowds in hot or cold temperatures, maintaining energy while engaging with young people, and on and on. Comic book super heroes are seldom depicted sleeping, but if you have ever tried to sustain energy after not getting a good night‘s rest you know the importance of getting your winks.
So what do we know? Each of us have the ability to access super powers that when activated can bring meaningful balance to humanity. We must first work to understand our own internal motivation. Personal motivation is the key to accessing and activating our super powers. We cannot / should not assume that we are born with these super powers, but that they are skills to be built upon through education, mentoring, coaching, practicing and exercising. Once you have accessed your super powers the stage is set for you to own and activate them. You then have the power to change the world!
“I wear a mask. And that mask, it’s not to hide who I am, but to create what I am.” – Batman