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What does it take to live a heroic life in the 21st century?

I need a hero

I'm holding out for a hero 'til the end of the night

He's gotta be strong, and he's gotta be fast

And he's gotta be fresh from the fight

I need a hero

I'm holding out for a hero 'til the morning light

He's gotta be sure, and it's gotta be soon

And he's gotta be larger than life

Larger than life

This chorus comes from my favorite song off of the Footloose soundtrack. It’s one of those pop songs that fill your body with inspiration and hope. Listening to this song makes you feel that someone out there could be the one to change everything for you.

However, I hate the message the song delivers.

I’m not trying to be a grumpy old man, but this song feeds into the problem of relying on hope. And not just any hope, but hope for someone else to be our hero. It reminds us how powerless we are and how only someone else can save us.

This is wrong.

What needs to happen instead, is for us to become our own heroes.

How do we become our own heroes?

I touched upon this before but wanted to get a little deeper on this for the article. The way to become our own heroes is to first understand the foundation of the heroic attitude. Some of you might be thinking that it’s courage, but this is partially correct. In fact, the foundation is a lot harder and scarier than most will admit.

So what is the foundation of the heroic attitude?

The foundation of this journey is the willingness to go through the dark parts of life. And when I mean the dark parts, I mean the ones that will challenge your confidence, courage, values, and thoughts.

In short, whatever shakes you to the core.

This is the dark part of the heroic journey. Countless myths or literature will touch upon the hero’s path to darkness. Human societies across all cultures and times (except for our own in the West) intuitively understood that heroes or anyone of significance had to accept and go through a dark part.

But why?

I’m not a sociologist or a literature expert, but I will give my two cents. The reason why I think the dark part of the heroic journey is necessary is that it offers lessons that you can’t get anywhere else.

It’s hard to gain wisdom and insights from a peaceful life. It’s only through challenges can you learn more about yourself and the world. This is why initiations for young boys were crucial for their maturity. These boys tasted the dark parts of life and had to withstand it. And the boys that complete the initiations are the ones that are most likely to grow up into mature and well-rounded men.

Obviously, we can’t just start having initiations late in life.

Or can we?

Although the traditional initiation might be out of reach for most of us, there are others ways for us to traverse the dark parts.

First of all, we have to accept that going through the difficult parts of life is necessary. Second of all, we need to choose something that we consider scary to us.

This might be going to see a therapist.

This might be committing to NoFap for good.

This might be standing up to a bully.

There could be countless more ways, but it has to be personal for you. Once you realized what it is that scares you the most, you need to proceed with it.

No matter what happens.

Whether it’s an emotional roller coaster, overburdening self-doubt, etc. You need to commit to it. The difficult emotions you feel are part of the dark part of the heroic journey. And this is where most people blunder.

But you!

You embrace the whole journey. The good and the bad. Because you understand the value of it all. And if you’ve been practicing courage, this is where it will help you the most.

Plutarch, the Roman-Greek historian wrote down that courage is the origin of victory. I hope you write that down somewhere. But victory is based on courage. And courage can only be expressed in those difficult moments where you want to run away.

With this knowledge, you won’t be retreating.

You’ll be committed to the journey and your growth. And over time, you will become someone magnificent.

That being said, how often should we be engaging with the dark parts?

One thing people have to understand is that we can’t be too logical with life. Where you think you can treat building the heroic attitude like working out. Where you have your sets, reps, and workout schedule.

Instead, to build a heroic attitude, you have to feel the moments where you have a cocktail of uncomfortable emotions. And express the courage to press on.

Life is like art.

There is no exact way to live, but it’s up to you to create something beautiful. And to do that, you need to feel your emotions and then choose the necessary actions.

So whenever life presents you with a challenge, that’s your cue to take it on. This might happens once a day, many times in a day, once a month, etc. So don’t think about how often. But instead, be on an alert to when those challenges do arise.

Because if there is anything life has taught me, it’s that you’ll never know when a worthy challenge will come.

What if this is too hard for me?

If I’m being brutally honest, going through these difficult and dark parts of life is not easy. In fact, it never has been easy for anyone.

Countless myths speak of the internal torture of going through a heroic journey. You have Oedipus crying in agony, finding out he killed his father and married his mother. You have Hamlet, with his incessant overthinking, not sure whether to avenge his father or not. Or Ivan Ilyich realizing he lived an inauthentic life, but doesn't want to admit it.

The dark part of the journey is hard for everyone. No matter the time, culture, level of confidence, etc. So you have to realize that what you are feeling is normal. The hesitation, the fear, all of it. They are all normal for the people wanting to grow into the mature individuals they’ve always wanted to be. So you are not alone.

But you have a choice.

Are you willing to go down the path of becoming your own hero? Or retreat into an unfulfilled life.

The choice is up to you.

Yet, it’s a choice that will reverberate for the rest of your life.

I know, because I made that choice for myself.

When I was 28 and unemployed, I was an emotional mess. I followed all the rules: go to school, behave, get good marks, don’t cause any trouble. Yet, I was in an unfortunate spot. And with my emotions all over the place, I wasn't sure what to do. So I decided to see a therapist.

And that was a roller coaster. I had to experience anxiety, anger, regret, etc. All the emotions I’ve been running away from. In therapy, I had to willingly accept these emotions in my body. Therapy was a constant engagement with the dark parts of my personal journey. And because of it, I not only grew but I became The Charismatic Nerd.

Even my NoFap journey was akin to the heroic journey. When I quit fapping, I had to deal with sexual frustration and discomfort. It was a difficult experience. Yet, when I got over my addiction to fapping, I displayed confidence that I never knew I had. Or being comfortable with my sexuality.

These are just my personal life examples. But in classical literature, you have Odysseus in the Odyssey, go to the netherworld to gain the secrets to how to get home. Or Aeneas in Aeneid had to go to the underworld to speak with his father to gain the knowledge of starting a powerful empire.

I can keep bringing examples.

But please understand that no matter how hard the dark parts of life are, they are crucial for your development. Because too many times, when people engage with the difficult parts of life, they quit.

Common Mistake: Quitting the journey too early.

Even though we all hear about these myths through modern heroes (Batman, Spiderman, etc.) we don’t apply them to ourselves. So when we go through a challenging part of our lives, we quit.

Whether it’s putting yourself out there for dating. Or willing to engage in conflict. We have to feel the frustrating emotions and proceed despite it. Because those emotions will never go away. They are a part of the human being like a limb. The journey doesn’t get easier.

But you can become stronger.

However, if you continuously quit whenever you face emotional difficulty. Then you will be stunting your growth. It’s akin to staying in your mother’s womb well past your due date.

Like a baby, you have to come out and face the cold world. And like a baby, you can finally start to grow up.

Let’s wrap up this journey with a summary.

  • The foundation of the heroic journey is the willingness to transverse the dark parts of the journey.

  • It’s important because the dark parts of the journey teach you lessons that peaceful/good times cannot.

  • To build the foundation of a heroic journey, you have to be willing to engage with activities that scare you. i.e. seeing a therapist, dealing with conflict.

  • You want to accept the challenges life gives you. Always be ready to take them on when they come to you.

  • Even though this part of the heroic journey is hard, you have to remember that it’s hard for everyone. And there is no excuse to not go through it.

  • Besides my therapy and NoFap journey, you will find countless examples in real life and literature describing the dark part of the heroic journey.

  • Quitting too early is a common mistake people encounter when embracing a heroic attitude. Remember to accept the good and the bad parts of life, and you will come out of it more mature and well-rounded.

Hopefully, this article was not too deep.

But it is imperative to understand what needs to be done to create a heroic attitude in life. Being irrationally positive or a self-help junkie won’t help. But the courage to embrace the challenges life brings will. And the next time you’re listening to ‘Holding Out for a Hero,’ you’ll smile and know that you don’t need a hero. But need to become one.


The Charismatic Nerd

P.S. Think about this quote when you get a chance: "And the day came when the risk to remain in a tight bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." - Anaïs Nin


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