Tag Archives: hero

I want to be a leader

I just want to be a leader. I just want someone to come up to me and say something like, “People look up to you Rob, you’re a real leader.” But I want it to be natural. So if you’re reading this and you’re thinking that you’ll just tell me how great of a leader I am the next time that we run into each other, just save it, all right, because it won’t be the same, it won’t be what I’m looking for. I don’t want to have to ask to be recognized as a leader, I want people to just see it. Unless of course you were going to say it anyway, and you just happened to read this, then go ahead, call me a leader. But if this paragraph is the first time that you’ve ever considered the words Rob and leader in the same sentence, don’t bother, I don’t want to have to go fishing for leadership compliments.

What I really want to be is a hero. I’d just love to be recognized for some sort of heroism. The subway hero, that guy was a total hero, and he didn’t ask for it, the universe just put him in a situation where his natural heroics shone through. That’s exactly what I feel like, a regular hero, but I haven’t been given that opportunity to really display what I’m made of. And how do you go about setting something like that up? You can’t. I can’t just push somebody on the subway and then go ahead and attempt a rescue. That’s not heroism at all. That’s just crazy.

No, I wish people looked up to me like a teacher. But not in an official teaching capacity. I’m not certified, and I really don’t see myself going through the whole getting-your-masters-in-teaching thing. But like a regular unofficial teacher. I wish that, if people didn’t know how to do something, they’d naturally gravitate toward me, thinking things like, well, Rob must know how to do this, he’ll show me, he’s a great teacher. And after I’m done, they’d say something like, “Thanks a lot Rob, you’re a natural.” But I haven’t had any opportunities like that, none that I can think of. I remember one time a while back one of my coworkers at the restaurant asked me if I knew how to clean the whipped cream machine. And I said yes, even though I had no idea how to clean the whipped cream machine. But I thought to myself, how hard could it be? And then the next thing I know, the boss was screaming at both of us, mostly at me, something about, “Why did you say you knew how to clean out the whipped cream machine? What’s wrong with you?”

At least a trusted friend, I’d love to have all of my friends call me up at different times throughout the year and, after really long and deep conversations, they’d say to me, “Rob, you’re a great friend, a really trusted friend, thanks.” But no, and I guess a lot of the blame is mine. Whenever somebody calls me, I always let it go to voicemail. And then I almost always respond with a text message. I just can’t shake that fear that I’m not going to be able to think of anything to say, and it’ll be this weird back-and-forth silence, but not even, because I’m too afraid of letting even a second go by without any words, and so I’m always just pulling conversation filler out of nowhere, peppering every ten seconds with words like, “Yeah,” and, “Sounds good,” or, “I’m just loving the weather today.”

Just once, I’d like to walk in on two of my bosses saying something like, “Man, Rob is such a dependable worker.” But every time I head into the office, the most I ever get is something like, “Come on Rob, you’ve got to knock before you come in here.” And I know you’re supposed to knock, it’s just that I thought they saw me through that glass window in the door. And yeah, it’s my own fault, I’m always struggling to not be five or ten minutes late. And I did spill half a bottle of wine on some lady a while back, that was a pretty big deal, I should be grateful that my bosses let that slide. But doesn’t my hard work throughout the rest of the day make up for it? Isn’t hard work the same as being dependable? Don’t you think a few unasked for compliments might propel me to that next level of even harder work and greater dependability?

What makes a hero?

What makes a person a hero? You hear the word thrown around pretty casually, hero, like look at me, I spent six months aboard the International Space Station, or, hey everybody, I just landed an airplane in the Hudson River. Everybody knows what I’m talking about, the word hero applied to people simply for doing their jobs. And in the second example, it’s doing your job, but not even doing it correctly, because airplanes aren’t supposed to land in rivers, they’re supposed to touch ground on a runway, in an airport.


Come on, when I was in high school and my car skidded out of control and I swerved onto my parents’ front yard, nobody was giving me any rounds of applause, no, it was just my dad, yelling about how much it was going to cost to fix all of those holes in the grass, which, I never really understood how you can get so angry about a lawn, it’s just dirt, grass will grow there eventually.

No, real heroics involve going beyond the ordinary, which, while you might think my astronaut examples apply, they don’t, because think about it, astronauts today aren’t doing half of the cool stuff that they used to do. Maybe if one of them hijacked a space shuttle and went to Mars, without permission, without even the necessary provisions, and then he got there and he found a Martian space colony, and it spawned this whole new era of interplanetary diplomacy between us and the previously unknown Martian people, maybe that guy would be a hero.

Maybe. But just hanging out in orbit, running space tests and doing routine space work, yes, it’s a lot more exhilarating than say, waiting tables, but I wouldn’t be too quick to apply the hero label. Again, it’s all about exceeding expectations, about going way further above and beyond what people would think you’re capable of.

Which is cool, because it leaves everyday heroics accessible to the average person. You don’t have to go to space, you don’t have to pilot a giant plane, all you have to do is take everybody by surprise with something that nobody would have ever see coming. Like take the waiting tables example, say there was a guy that started to choke, and I rush over to his side, he can’t breath, and so I start pushing down on his chest, I mean, I took a first-aid course years ago, but I can’t really remember the specifics.

And it’s not working, so I grab a knife and start cutting a hole in his throat, a makeshift tracheotomy, but it backfires, I miss something because, again, I have no medical training, at this point I’m going solely off of stuff that I’ve seen on TV. And he starts bleeding everywhere. No, I’m not a hero. Not yet.

So I take a bunch of straws and I combine them into one really long straw, and then I cut myself open and I stick one end of the straw into my veins and the other into his. I have no idea if it’s going to work, I’m not even sure our blood types are compatible. But I get lucky, and it does work, and he survives, and we both wake up in the same hospital room, side by side on two adjoining beds, it turns out this guy is a billionaire, he leans over to me and says, “Son, you were a real hero. You saved my life! And now I’m going to reward you with a huge cash reward.” I’m still not done. I’d then have to deny the reward, say something like, “All in a day’s work,” and then I’d have to go back to the restaurant and say sorry to my boss for missing the rest of that shift.

Then I’d totally be a hero. Because you need that extra layer of adversity, that final level of impossibility that you still wind up conquering. It’s like, again, I’m not trying to knock the Subway Hero, but is that guy really a hero? You know who I’m talking about, right? The guy that jumped on top of the other guy when he fell on the tracks? I’d say, courageous, yes, quick-thinking, definitely, but heroic?

I’m not so sure. He knew exactly what he was doing. There was a space in the tracks where he was able to wait out the train. All he did was position both himself and that other guy into place. Anybody could have done it. No, heroic would have been like twenty people stuck on the tracks, and the train’s coming, it’s barreling out of control down the tunnel, there’s no way this is going to end well.

But then this guy jumps from the platform, he opens up his chest, he’s Superman. He puts his hand out and slows down the train just by pushing it, and then with his super speed he gets everyone to safety before any damage is done. Now that’s a hero, that’s what I call heroics. If you’re not really going that extra step, if you’re not wowing me, then what are you doing? You’re just doing your job. You’re just kind of regular. And again, I’m not saying I’m a hero, so I’m not trying to put anybody else down. But just take a minute, the next time you go to call someone a hero, think about it. Can this person run faster than a car? Does he have X-ray vision? No? Maybe he’s not a hero after all.