New Year’s Resolution: Live Like A Hero
On December 31, 2014 over 300,000 people gathered near Chen Yi Square in Shanghai, China to celebrate the New Years with a light show and festivities. As midnight approached the crowd began to swell and surge towards the viewing platform overlooking the river.
Fake cash coupons resembling $100 US bills began to rain on the viewers and chaos ensued. Soon the crowd panicked as security forces were overwhelmed leaving 36 dead at nearly 50 others injured.
On the platform a young man named Xiaojun noticed the danged as crowed started to stampede. Xiaojun urged others around him to shout at the people to “go back!”. Xiaojun recalled, ““There were about 10 people shouting. We didn’t know each other.”
The group then jumped over the handrail and helped people climb off the viewing platform and formed a lane in the crowd so people could return to safety in the back.
Their actions were captured on video and spread throughout social media of their deeds. Xiaojun was praised for his quick thinking and efforts. However, when questioned about his motives he simply replied, “I did the right thing at the time. It was nothing.”
For those whose lives were saved, Xiaojun and his accomplices were heros. To Xiaojun, he just did the right thing. But what separates Xiaojun for the thousands of others that were also on the viewing platform? What makes him a hero?
The Greek historian Plutarch was fascinated by heroism. He spent his life obsessing over the heros of his day, Roman history, and Greek myths. He believed that even fantasy has it’s roots in reality.
His epic work Parallel Lives compiles the biographies of antiquities most legendary heros and is arranged in pairs to illuminate their common moral virtues and vices. From Odysseus to Alexander the Great, he analyzed their lives and accomplishments both on the battlefield and in everyday life. Each was held to the highest esteem and none were forgiven for wrongdoing.
Plutarch work has survived and has served as the handbook for heroes throughout the ages. “It has been like my conscience,” remarked Henry IV of France, “and whispered in my ear many good suggestions and maxims for my conduct the government of my affairs.” American founding father John Quincy Adams was a devoted follower as were Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and George Patton.
The lesson Plutarch taught them is this: Heroes care.
In Christopher McDougall’s book Natural Born Heroes he dissects the lessons from Plutarch and heroes from antiquity to modern day. “True heroism,” McDougall writes, “as the ancients understood, isn’t about strength of boldness, or even courage. It’s about compassion”
For Xiaojun in Shanghai this meant to take action warn others of the deadly stampede. His empathy and compassion for others is what makes him a hero.
McDougall writes, “Empathy, the Greeks believed, was a source of strength, not softness: the more you recognized yourself in other and connected with their distress, the more endurance, wisdom, cunning, and determination you could tap into.”
It’s common for New Year’s resolutions to last a few days to a month before reverting back to old habits. If your goal is to lose weight, get out of debt, or be less stressed than many will stumble along into 2016 towards your target, but most will quit.
Instead, as 2015 comes to an end I am setting a theme for the next year: live like a hero. A hero’s strength is derived from compassion for others to bring out the best in yourself.
As with most New Year’s resolutions there is room for failure. Heroes are intrinsically flawed. But as Plutarch wrote, “To make no mistakes is not in the power of man; but from their errors and mistakes the wise and good learn wisdom for the future.”
Adventure Capitalists encourages others to follow their bliss and live like a hero. Be sure to join the newsletter here and share below.