Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Heroes are just your Ordinary Weirdos

Were you called weird growing up? Did the kids on the playground pick on you? Do others think you might be a bit off? Do you sometimes feel like you might stick out like a sore thumb?

If you find yourself repeatedly saying yes, THANK GOD! It's up to you then to solve a lot of problems.

Inspired by the Vecci's blogpost last week and Philip Zimbardo's brilliant TED talk regarding the birthplace of both heroes and monsters, I thought I would reflect a little bit on heroes and the act of embracing the inner weirdo.

Apparently, there's even a Perceived Weirdness Index where people's optimal effectiveness falls anywhere between being "absorbed" and being "rejected." Maybe there are too many congressmen right now who have not yet embraced their inner weirdness: potentially explaining a lack of effective legislating lately.

To effectively change the status quo, agents for change must be weird, know they're weird, and get other people on board with their weirdness. They take risks by allowing their weirdness to show.  They risk rejection for the sake of their principles and cause, but eventually, their weirdness rubs off.  People are intrigued and pay attention.

I've written before about how everyone has an inner change agent within them, and I find the same to be true for heroes. Maybe the difference between the two is that an effective change agent eventually, after an upward battle, gets people on his or her side, whereas heroic action is mostly against the grain.  The change agents who work for the most drastic and positive change usually start with heroic action.  Choosing the action that everyone can do but in fact doesn't is what differentiates the hero.  When people start to piggy-back on that heroic action, and the heroic action becomes the new status quo, the hero is dubbed a powerful change agent.

Unfortunately, the United States tends to celebrate those who are not really heroes with money and fame, and I am a little nervous we are starting to get the wrong idea about what a hero is.
I worry as I see many people afraid to embrace their inner weirdness, brilliance, change agent, and  hero.  In our culture, we tend to be afraid of rejection and we embrace a facade of perfection.   Maybe rather than being afraid of rejection, we are actually afraid of how brilliant we are. It is true, embracing the weird is scary.  People give you funny stares.  But, you will be accepting your brilliance, and pardon the corny analogy, but sometimes stars that shine really really bright just takes a little getting used to.

There is risk involved when you decide to listen to that inner truth we all carry.  However, it is this truth and brilliance we carry that connects us as human beings.  We are ALL capable of it.  We can all choose courage to take ordinary risks.  That's what Victor did, and what is SO cool about what Victor did is that his courage has been contagious.  He inspired me and about 200 others to take risks this year.

With risk, there is a possibility of failure.  Now generally speaking, medical students and physicians don't really like to sign up for things they might fail at because generally speaking, you get sued for that.  But, choosing courage over the facade of perfection and taking risks is necessary for the world to move forward.  We must risk our weirdness being seen because when we do so, it ripples into others allowing their weirdness to be seen, and change inevitably happens.

Contrary to popular belief, heroes are not chosen.  As much as I LOVE Harry Potter, that's just not the way becoming a hero works.  Think about your heroes.  Do they have a lightening bolt across their forehead?  I'm betting no, because they were not chosen.  Rather, they were true to  their convictions and chose to be a hero themselves.

The most effective agents for change are weirdos.  They let their thoughts wonder into dreams too big to fathom.  And more importantly, they act upon them, and they inspire my inner hero.

We need to ask  kids these days who they believe their heroes to be.  I become nervous when celebrities idolized are just not weird enough, don't have a net worth high in positive impact, and don't inspire others to show their inner weirdness.  That's the difference between heroes and idols.  Kids look up to idols because they want to become like their idols, and that might not be too damaging if the idol is perhaps a good role model.  However, heroes are different. When I look up to one of my heroes, I don't want to be like him or her. I instead, want to embrace my weirdness and see what I can do.  Who are your heroes? Do they inspire you to embrace your strengths and talents and weirdness? Or, do you find yourself wishing you were more like them?

Many adolescent girls around the world now wish to become celebutantes.  They idolize Kim Kardashian and want what she has rather than embracing what they already possess. The thing about being a hero is that they are ordinary people.  However, we get tricked into thinking our lives are never big enough or daring enough.  As in the case with celebutantes like Kim Kardashian, I'm afraid our girls are starting to believe they are not enough.  They may believe they are not rich or pretty or skinny enough, but they need to know they are enough if their inner hero is to be activated.

So often we say our heroes are people like our parents, our neighborhood firefighters and our teachers, but they are hardly celebrated for what they are worth.  Kids need to remember that they indeed can be a hero in ordinary moments, and then we need to celebrate them for it! They need to learn how great their weirdness is so they embrace it and live out the ordinary moments where the opportunities for heroism exist. 

A couple of my heroes are people like Malalai Joya, my friend Jack, and my volunteer buddy Ann.
They all inspire me to become a hero.  Who are yours? And were they born that way, or aren't we all?

A special thanks to the encouraging words and contributions from Michael, Elli, Peter and Zoe (my newest brother and sister), fellow change agent Shengxiao aka Sunshine, Jim from the The Hunger Project, strangers like Joy who believe in this project even though she has never met me, and anonymous donor #2.


  1. "Kids look up to idols because they want to become like their idols, and that might not be too damaging if the idol is perhaps a good role model. However, heroes are different. When I look up to one of my heroes, I don't want to be like him or her. I instead, want to embrace my weirdness and see what I can do."

    Love this Vicki. I was reading the story of Jonah last night. It says, “Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them."

    What you said total made me think of this. When we idolize anyone, we miss out on our own inner gifts that were given. We are so concentrated on trying to be/have what we are not distend to, that we miss out on who we are, and what the world needs from us.

    You my friend, are such a hero!

  2. Same to you Andrea! Trust me, your friendship has inspired a lot of these posts plus more to come.

    Thanks for being a hero!