Monday, April 29, 2013

Finding Real Life Inspiration from Fictional Heroes

I admit it: I have some geekly fanboy tendencies, with a real passion is for well-done crime and thriller stuff, especially if there is an espionage element involved.

I'm not alone. We spend countless dollars on action films and thriller novels. But here's the question: What do we get out of them besides entertainment?

Personally, I find fictional heroes to be good sources of inspiration. By serving as larger-than-life role models, they help me to focus on what aspects of the characters I like and want to in some way emulate.

Some people may dismiss looking to action heroes for personal inspiration hopelessly pathetic and dorky. These naysayers are all too willing to say "Who do you think you are? You'll never be like [fill-in the blank]." And I will partially concede their point: You never will be just like your favorite fictional character. (Nor should you want to be; you are you!) But how about if you were just a little bit like your favorite fictional character?

Let's say you're a James Bond fan. I certainly am. Face it, you never will be James Bond. But you can be a little bit more Bond-like. Maybe, like me and all the others who Googled "Daniel Craig workout," you watched Casino Royale and got inspired to get into better shape. Perhaps you are impressed with 007's foreign language skills and decide to learn a second language. Or maybe you go back and read Ian Fleming's original novels, learn that Bond trained in Judo, and find a dojo to train at. Getting into shape, learning a new language, and taking up Judo won't turn you into James Bond. But perhaps you'll be about 10 percent Bond, which is better than when you started. Isn't that better than zero percent?

I also think fictional heroes serve as powerful visualization tools. We all know how important it is to use visualization to fuel success. Of course, if you really think about it, visualization is a form of fantasy, just like action movies and thriller novels. I once knew a mixed martial arts coach who told his fighters to imagine themselves as huge samurai, and to visualize cutting their opponents in half with a giant sword. This sort of thing works for all sorts of training, and since there are plenty of fictional heroes just floating around in your brain, why not enlist them to help you? Next time your running sprints, instead of just thinking, "Oh man, sprints are hard!," imagine yourself as James Bond running down a terrorist, or Jason Bourne sprinting along Moroccan rooftops in The Bourne Ultimatum. Going back to martial arts, I wonder how many professional fighters imagine themselves as Bruce Lee before stepping in to the ring.

The only real drawback to finding personal inspiration in fictional heroes are the naysayers I mentioned earlier. Luckily, there's an easy way to deal with them: Keep it to yourself. If someone asks you why you started to train in Keysi, you don't have to answer, "Because that's what Christian Bale used as Batman and I'm a big Batman fan." No, you can just say it looked like it might be fun and leave it at that. And keep in mind that those who would mock you for your source of inspiration might very well have no source of inspiration themselves.

I don't recall who wrote this (I think it was Pavel Tsatsouline), but I once read something along the lines of "Some people watch The Bourne Identity and think 'Kali looks cool... I'm going to find a place that teaches Kali. Others watch The Bourne Identity and think 'Kali looks cool' and grab a cheeseburger and sit down in front of the TV." Which are you?

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