If superhero geeks were people, I’d be China. I’m not ashamed to admit it. In particular, the richness and depth of the world drawn by Marvel over the last few decades leaves me breathless and continues to exert a magnetic influence over me. So perhaps it’s no coincidence that I created the Code Of Extraordinary Change.
The notion that individuals can make an extraordinary difference is utterly compelling.
So with the Avengers movie finally on the big screen and breaking records (I’ve already seen it twice, seriously cool), here’s what we can learn from Earths mightiest heroes.
1. It’s not what you have, it’s what you do
Questioning his arrogance, Captain America asks Tony Stark “Big man in a suit of armour, take that away and what are you?”
“A genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist,” comes the answer.
A good comeback, and Stark’s, volatility, ego and narcissism are surely big enough to be seen from space. If he existed in our world you’d probably think he was a real asshole, so it’s no surprise that Cap brings him up on what he’s bringing to the table.
But for all of Starks fortune and failings, he brings it. He steps up. He makes the hard choice. He risks it all in order to do what only Iron Man can do. When it comes right down to it he proves that it’s not about him, it’s about the difference he can make.
2. You either believe or you don’t
Nick Fury and Agent Coulson believed in the Avengers Initiative completely, even if the Avengers themselves didn’t. They believed that a group of remarkable people could be greater than the sum of their parts. They believed that these individuals would make the hard choices when they had to and most of all, they believed in heroes.
Without that belief they wouldn’t have put these disparate, discordant people together in the first place and they’d have given up when it seemed it wouldn’t work.
They wouldn’t have tried.
3. Your strength outweighs your weakness
Bruce Banner describes the monster inside him as being constantly “exposed, like a nerve … it’s a nightmare“, and the burden of what’s inside him is something he carries with him every single day. He knows that he’s a single shirt-ripping moment away from destroying everything around him.
In the movie, everyone want to know the secret behind how he controls himself and keeps his anger at bay, keeping a lid on the Hulk. It’s only right at the end of the movie that we find out what that secret is.
“I’m always angry”, he reveals. He’s had a hard relationship with his anger and it would be easy for him to see it as a weakness and a fatal character flaw, but Banner has come to a place where he accepts it as part of who he is rather than fighting it.
Focusing on his “weakness” would play on that exposed nerve, create more internal conflict and level most of Manhattan, but in accepting his weakness he’s able to master his true strength.
4. You’re stronger with the right support
Each of the Avengers is seriously frickin’ awesome in their own right. Iron Man’s suit. Captain America’s strength . The Hulk’s raw power. Thor’s lightning. Black Widow’s agility. Haweye’s perception. Each of them kick some serious butt.
But together? That’s a whole different deal. Abilities meld together. Individual strengths become magnified. Decisions are made, plans are implemented and results are seen that simply wouldn’t be possible unless they were all moving in the same direction.
Having the support of your own band of heroes amplifies your capability.
5. Your values make you a hero
Captain America is arguably the weakest of the bunch. Sure, he’s the pinnacle of human performance but he’s still human. He can’t fly, he doesn’t fire rockets from his wrists, he isn’t indestructible, he doesn’t command the power of a Demi-God and a well placed bullet can put him down just like you or I.
But somehow, somehow, he becomes the de-facto leader of the Avengers. How does the weakest link get to lead the others?
Because more than anyone else, his values lead him. And that makes people listen.
6. You get over yourself
At first the Avengers squabble and fight like something from Lord of the Flies. Mistrust, posturing and disrespect abound. Blame is levelled, fingers are pointed and flaws are exposed. These guys really don’t get on.
It’s hard to put aside personal differences and offer help to someone who’s just told you what a waste of space you are, and for most people these accusations and fights would mark the end of any kind of friendship or bond.
But when it comes down to it, every one of the Avengers knows that keeping score and hanging on to who’s crossed them is a complete waste of time and energy, and they have no problem in getting over themselves and letting go of the petty drama and detail that stymies most folks.
They might bicker, but they know that their real power lies in being at their best, not at their worst.
7. You choose how to use your powers
Tony Stark turns his back on the massively profitable weapons business that he and his father built, and decides that he’ll use his business and his power for the benefit of mankind, not its destruction. Thor turns his back on his warmongering ways and learns that real leadership demands higher standards. Black Widow seeks to balance the “red in her ledger” by writing wrongs and being a force for good. Even Hulk chooses to smash the bad guys rather than the innocent.
Anyone can throw their power around without much thought to the ripples caused; but when your powers are deliberately used to create a positive difference, it’s extraordinary indeed.
So tell me, what are your powers and how are you using them?