Actor Matthew McConaughey, in his Oscars acceptance speech for Best Actor in Dallas Buyers Club, shared an interesting perspective on heroes:
“When I was 15 years old, I had a very important person in my life come up to me and say, ‘Who’s your hero?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know. I gotta think about that. Give me a couple of weeks.’ I come back two weeks later. This person comes up and says, ‘Who’s your hero?’ I said, ‘I thought about it. You know who it is? It’s me in 10 years.’ So I turned 25. Ten years later, that same person comes to me and goes, ‘So, are you a hero?’ And I was like, ‘Not even close. No, no, no. My hero is me at 35.’ You see, every day, every week, every month and every year of my life, my hero is always ten years away. I’m never gonna be my hero; I’m not gonna attain that. I know I’m not, and that’s just fine with me because that keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing. So, to any of us, whatever those things are, whatever it is we look up to, whatever it is we look forward to, and whoever it is we’re chasing, to that I say, ‘Amen.”
What a fascinating perspective on heroism. In a culture like ours where people are always looking for a hero, someone to look up to, to point the way, and to provide something for us to belong to, a Hollywood actor suggests the hero is right inside you. It’s your future ideal self.
Since the core theme of this blog is personal branding, how does this idea influence the way you develop your brand? I think of three big benefits:
1) It forces you to be brutally honest with yourself. I’ve met lots of people who put others on pedestals — especially people with wealth or influence. Although they don’t use the word, they turn them into heroes — sometimes idols — based, in many cases, on superficial qualities. It seems like a way of deflecting their own insecurities without ever confronting them. But if you set your sights instead on the person you can be if you live up to your potential, you are forced to be brutally honest with your own strengths, as well as your insecurities, which is healthy.
2) It compels you to grow. Every time I hear someone tell me about all the years of experience they have in a certain field or profession, I am tempted to respond, “Do you really have twenty years experience, or do you have one year’s worth of experience repeated twenty times?” Getting clear — really clear — about the person you aspire to be in the future and then chasing that ideal every day will force you to live intentionally. You have no choice but to expand your boundaries, examine your assumptions, stretch your comfort zone, and grow as a person.
3) It commands you to believe in yourself. To be honest, it’s tempting to try to emulate the people we admire — to search out the well-worn paths of other’s success and jump on, hoping it will lead us to our own. But like the man who sacrifices everything in his life in pursuit of a retirement full of wealth and leisure, it almost never satisfies. So instead of idealizing others, what if you idealized yourself — the best version of you at some set point in the future — and went after it? You would have to resist the pressure of impersonation, and believe — really believe — that you are enough.
What is your definition of a hero? Who have you looked up to throughout your life and why? Have your heroes changed as you’ve gotten older? What if you, as Darren Hardy of SUCCESS Magazine puts it, “awakened the slumbering hero that lies dormant inside you?” What would adopting this unique perspective Matthew McConaughey shared mean to your personal brand… and to your life?