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What We Can Learn from Superheroes about Success

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Martin Rami
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Published on May 6, 2015

As we draw closer to the summer movie season, you can see that there’s a lot of superheroes out your front door.

With the debut of “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” it’s all the talk on the Internet. It’s more than just a trending fad — it’s a living movement. A mere 25 cent comic book spawned (pun intended) a multibillion dollar industry that spans across movies, television, toys, clothing, gaming and dozens of marketing product placement ploys. What used to be cheap children’s entertainment is now an indicator of our economic stability. It’s ironic to think that Marvel Entertainment was just on the cusp of bankruptcy in the 1990s and had to sell off film rights to valuable properties to become the multimedia powerhouse it is today.

There’s a lot to learn from superheroes. They teach us valuable lessons about morality, civility and common duty. Just as importantly, they tell stories of success. Here’s how they can influence our own careers:

Iron Man

Much like a juxtaposition to the current superhero overhaul, Iron Man was a game changer in the beginning. Debuting in the early 1960s, Iron Man represented corporate supremacy, industrial ingenuity and military innovation. This era sparked a lot of controversy, yet Marvel’s Iron Man secured an audience amid an era when we couldn’t have been more divided.

How was this done? Through careful characterization of Tony Stark. Stark, the playboy, billionaire, philanthropist, had a work ethic we could all admire and a playful attitude we all wanted. He understood the significance of the work hard, play hard mentality. We sometimes forget why we endure the work/study masochism, and in doing so, we forget the joys of life. Tony made sure he wasn’t going to squander his talent and his life, and you shouldn’t either. By all means, get to work or school on time and without a weeknight hangover if possible, but enjoy yourself a bit.

Spiderman

Spiderman was, for a large portion of his life, the most popular comic hero outselling all his superhuman brethren until Batman surpassed him with much thanks to the Nolan franchise. Spiderman’s popularity, however, is not dependent on a dark and edgy thematic focus, but the classic superhero feel-good atmosphere that defines the genre. Much like Iron Man, Spiderman was gifted with intellect, but unlike Iron Man, ol’ Web Head’s unwavering work ethic didn’t leave a window for him to enjoy life as much.

Spiderman was able to carry the weight of the role along with school and a full-time job because of that very work ethic. A valuable life lesson I learned doing maintenance for so many years is that you cannot teach work ethic; you either have it or you don’t. It’s inspired, encouraged and motivated. In fact, Spidey’s relentless will was inspired by Uncle Ben’s famous proverb, “With great power comes great responsibility.” We, as the next generation of students, workers and future leaders, are empowered with great responsibility. While we can’t have his radioactive induced super powers, we can adopt his unbreakable positive can-do attitude.

Like Spiderman, we can love what we do, and do it as long as life allows it.

Captain America

While you can argue that much of the success surrounding Captain America is owed to World War II propaganda or even glamorized steroid undertones (I have to include cynicism to pacify rebellious hipsters.), he’s remained popular throughout the decades because of what he defines.

It’s easy to create a character draped in the American flag and call him a hero, but to keep him alive and relevant, even as America’s foreign policy divided much of the masses, requires a character we can all relate to. Beneath the suit and serum, Steve Rogers was a kid from Brooklyn who never forgot who he was. He was a soldier, a citizen and a Good Samaritan. The mission may change, but the objective was always the same: to defend and protect. Much like our paths, jobs will change. So long as we remember who we are and what we want from each role, success is a part of the journey.

It’s strange that in our transition to adulthood, we can still learn from our childhood stories (even as I near 30-years-old). The simple overarching lesson that can draw us closer to success is best told by our superheroes: live life, love life and never forget who you are.

Martin Rami

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