Heroes, usually in movies and books have superpowers or have some tragic backstory that compels them to do good in the world. They encounter enemies and nemesis all trying to break the hero and bring evil perpetually to that comic book world. They are unapproachable, distant, keep their family and friends at arm’s length, to prevent them from getting hurt by the villains in the story.
But real heroes are not flashy, and they do not have fantastic superpowers, they are your neighbors, friends, co-workers, even strangers. The study of heroism is very new, less than twenty years old. Currently, there is one primary site focusing on heroism as a science, and it is within Richmond University.
Regarding notable experts on heroism, there are very few. The most notable is Dr. Philip Zimbardo, Professor Emeritus of Stanford University. He conducted the Stanford Prison Experiment conducted in 1971. The experiment was the beginning of Dr. Zimbardo’s heroes journey to understand human nature.
In 2007 he wrote, “The Lucifer Effect” where he takes apart the concept of people being exclusively either “evil” or “good” saying that people can be either, depending on the situation and conditions the individual finds themselves in at that moment.
Dr. Zimbardo headed The Heroic Imagination Project, a non-profit dedicated to promoting the concept of heroism in everyday life. He has spent more than 40 years as a psychology professor and researcher in the study of human behavior, and since his retirement has focused on the idea of promoting positive societal actions and practices through his Heroic Imagination Project and other collaborations.
Dr. Zimbardo began mentoring our next hero expert, Matt Langdon of the Hero Construction Company. Matt is from Australia but has spent many years in the USA. He began his heroes journey working at a camp in Michigan. He did this for twelve years, and from this experience, he created “The Hero Workshop” and from there was born “The Hero Roundtable.” The roundtable is a bi-annual event held at various locations around the world.
They bring together speakers from many disciplines, to discuss ways we can be heroic in our daily lives. The roundtable just celebrated its tenth annual event in Howell, Michigan in October 2018. Matt continues to travel around the world holding workshops on how to be a hero, and inspiring others to live like a hero. According to their website, the definition they use when describing a hero is;
“Everyone comes into the Hero Round Table with a slightly (or greatly) different definition of “hero”. We operate on the understanding that the title of hero comes from heroic action. It sounds obvious, but it’s important to understand that we focus on the verb and not the noun. Heroic action has three components:
There has to be an act…on behalf of others…that includes a risk or sacrifice.”
Being a hero is not having superpowers, or wearing a cape, it is doing good when you can, where you are when it is needed. And the old idea that heroes are born is also being changed. Heroes come from all walks of life and decided to do something to help someone when they needed it. People like Dr. Philip Zimbardo and Matt Langdon are working hard to give everyone who wants, the tools to be heroes themselves.