What Makes a Hero?
Who doesn’t like a great story? I sure as hell do. Biographies and biopics hold a special appeal for me. I enjoy learning about people’s journeys and find it both entertaining and inspiring. What makes it engaging is not so much the content of the story but the manner in which it is told. I firmly believe that each person’s life is a great story. No matter how mundane one’s life may appear to be, there’s always a compelling story within it - whether that story is enjoyable or not is dependent on the skill of the storyteller. The strength of a story is determined not by what actually happens in that story but in how it makes us feel.
A great story has two main elements: a protagonist we can relate to, and a challenge (or a set of challenges) which drives their quest. We relate to a protagonist’s flaws — flaws which we feel we share. The fears. The insecurities. The doubts. And what absorbs us in a story is a protagonist’s struggle to navigate their shortcomings.
We find these elements in every story because every person is flawed and faced with a challenge of one kind or another. The nature of those challenges may be different but the journey of overcoming those challenges can be just as fascinating. The struggles of an average middle class person in a city can make for just as great a story as, let’s say, Nelson Mandela’s life can. And it is quite possible for Mandela’s story to be portrayed in a such a way that it fails to move us at all. That is why we end up with poor biographies and biopics from time to time. They are poor because of poor storytelling, not because those lives were boring.
And what about us? We can see our lives as stories as well. I am the protagonist of mine and you are the protagonist of yours. And like all good stories, there’s that one big challenge upon which the story hinges, that seemingly insurmountable one which acts as the villain of our story. Each life is a story and there are several stories within one life. It’s like a novel which is made up of several short stories with a unifying theme running across them.
Ask yourself — are you on a journey which would make others root for you (the protagonist)? Are you on the hero’s journey? You should be — because I heard that heroes aren’t necessarily those who succeed, but those who try, and try with such devotion that we end up envying them. Heroism, therefore, lies in the boldness with which one pursues their goals — not in the outcome of the pursuit. That is why it is said that a hero is one who can make failure look magnificent.