How to Become a Hero c.j. hayden
   How to Become a Hero
   You Are the Champion the World Is Waiting For

   C.J. Hayden, MCC

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Like minds at work 

In Maggie Oman Shannon's new blog, Living the New Story, she describes the process of "following the bread crumbs" to find one's calling. Maggie is the author of One God, Shared Hope: Twenty Threads Shared by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

I think the following-the-bread-crumbs method of discovery is vastly underrated by our all-too-linear Western culture. A popular belief that can defeat the would-be hero is the idea that your calling is supposed to descend upon on you at an early age, and you should recognize it at once. In fact, it's probably much more common not to figure out what you're really here for until midlife (at least). And when you do, you will probably realize that you have been sniffing around the edges of whatever it is for quite some time without quite recognizing it.

Speaking of bread crumbs, Maggie's blog has also quite coincidentally reconnected me with someone I encountered while following my own crumb trail many years ago. Jamie Walters and I first met via the San Francisco Bay Guardian's Women in Business directory in 1993. Jamie is the founder of Ivy Sea, "fostering the spirit of conscious enterprise, big vision, inspired leadership, skillful communication, and more conscious ways of living, working, thinking, and being." She's also the author of Big Vision, Small Business: 4 Keys to Success Without Growing Big.

In her recent article, "Authentic Leadership or Mindless Mimicry," Jamie highlights the value of following your own visionary trail of bread crumbs vs. other more well-trodden paths: "What [visionaries] can teach... is the very power of choosing authenticity and following one's own vision versus falling in with the crowd that's mindlessly following some trend and then wondering why they find it lacking in truth and vibrance. Yet there is good reason why so many more follow trends than seek-and-do from their own authentic vision: to follow a fad is much easier; to fall in with the crowd seems less risky. To act from your authenticity requires that you know who you are, at your core, and then find the courage to be that — unmasked — in the world."

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Virtue is as virtue does 

Investigating further the definition of heroic virtue established by the Catholic church, I have learned that Cardinal Lambertini, later Pope Benedict XIV, is regarded as the decisive authority on the subject. In his work on the Beatification and Canonization of Saints, Benedict defines heroic virtue as the habit of performing continuous acts possessing the quality of goodness in a very remarkable degree.

A significant point in Benedict's definition is that it requires good acts to be performed. In other words, simply holding virtuous intentions is not enough. To become heroic, one must act on those intentions, and do so continuously.

Benedict further suggests that the true hero must "perform virtuous actions with uncommon promptitude, ease, and pleasure." To Benedict, "...pleasure and sweetness indicate a habit already formed and in a degree of intensity amounting to heroicity. It will be seen then that sadness and gloom and depression are utterly alien to the spirit of the saints..."

I find this official pronouncement about the required mood of the hero to be supremely encouraging. We often think of saints as being somber folks, bearing their concern for others as a visible burden. But Benedict's instructions are clear: rather than bemoaning the state of the world, the hero's task is to cheerfully set about improving it.


Share your job-seeking story 

My new book Get Hired NOW! will be coming out in 2004 from Bay Tree Publishing. My partner Frank Traditi and I have the manuscript about half finished, and we're in the process of collecting job search stories -- both successes and failures.

Did you ever find a job by being persistent... in an unusual way... by joining a job club... through informational interviewing... by asking everyone you knew? Did you have a hard time finding work by looking in the wantads... by searching on the web... by using a start-and-stop approach?

We're looking for first-person stories about your job search experiences to illustrate what really works to find a job. If you're a coach or counselor who works with job-seekers, please forward this request to your clients also.

You can submit your story at our web site. We've suggested some topics there for you. If your story is selected for the book, in addition to international fame, you'll receive a free autographed copy.


Heroic virtue 

In reading about the beatification of Mother Teresa yesterday, I made the fascinating discovery that the Catholic church has an official definition for heroic virtue. "An heroic virtue, then, is a habit of good conduct that has become a second nature, a new motive power stronger than all corresponding inborn inclinations, capable of rendering easy a series of acts each of which, for the ordinary man, would be beset with very great, if not insurmountable, difficulties."

I was first struck by the phrase: "a new motive power stronger than all corresponding inborn inclinations." Isn't that what we aspiring heroes are always looking for? How can the call to heroism become so strong that we overcome our inhibitions, self-limitations, and disabling habits? Where is the blinding vision, the burning bush, the flame of inspiration that will keep us going despite all obstacles?

But then I looked again, and saw this: "a habit of good conduct that has become a second nature." Oh.

What if we abandoned the desire for all that Sturm und Drang, and simply began instituting daily habits of good conduct? Could we become heroes little by little instead of in one dramatic moment? Behavioral experts tell us that if we follow a new habit for 21 days, it can become second nature.

What habits of good conduct would you like to begin today?


Do not wait for leaders 

Mother Teresa was beatified by Pope John Paul today, the first step to officially recognizing her as a saint. Mother Teresa ranks high on my personal list of enlightened heroes, not only because of her unfailing display of heroic virtue, but because of the path she followed to heroism.

At the age of 12, she decided she wanted to help the poor, and began training for missionary work. At 18, she left her home in Macedonia to join an Irish community of nuns working in Calcutta. She taught in a convent high school there for 20 years, but as she approached midlife, she wanted to do more to relieve the suffering she saw all around her.

With no funding of any kind, she started an open-air school for homeless children. She was joined by volunteers and eventually obtained financial support from the church and local government. From these simple beginnings, she founded a new religious order, The Missionaries of Charity. The order today provides food for the needy and operates hospitals, schools, orphanages, youth centers, and shelters in 50 Indian cities and 30 other countries.

Mother Teresa's advice to heroes-in-training was: "Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person."

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World Food Day 

The latest issue of Heifer International's magazine World Ark alerted me to the celebration of World Food Day on Thursday, Oct. 16. World Food Day is a worldwide event designed to increase awareness, understanding, and informed year-round action to alleviate hunger. In addition to numerous local community events, there will be a teleconference on the current critical food shortage in sub-Saharan Africa, beginning at noon Eastern time.


En route, Costa Rica to Panama 

I'm back home in San Francisco now, but the following entry was written while still cruising last week. Getting online from the ship was possible but limited, hence this delayed posting.

The last few days, I've been thinking a lot about the role that choice plays in our lives. On our days at sea, there are important decisions to be made constantly: swim or take cha cha lessons; read or embroider; eat lunch in the dining room or the buffet. I've been able to settle such burning questions as whether I prefer English Breakfast or Earl Grey for my morning tea (English Breakfast wins), and whether Monopoly, Clue, or Yahtzee is my favorite (Monopoly rules).

I understand that some people feel trapped when traveling on a ship for days at a time, but I find that on an average day here on the Island Princess, I have more choices available than I ever do on a work day. There's no enforced routine aboard a big ship like this -- food is available 24/7, the pools, Jacuzzis, gyms, and public rooms are always open. If you didn't know which way the ship was facing, you couldn't even tell sunrise from sunset. With no structure at all, there is nothing left but a constant state of choice.

If you turn that idea around, what it tells you is that the more structure you impose in your life, the less choice you have. It sounds somewhat obvious when stated that bluntly, but I think we often forget this simple equation. We may think we are exercising our independence when we add things to our schedules -- our chosen work or school routine, time for meals, appointments with everyone from doctors to hairstylists, classes for exercise and recreation, dates with lovers and friends.

But every choice we make leaves us with... less choice, as our days and Palm Pilots become filled with where, when, and with whom we are supposed to be. So much supposed-to-be shuts out just being. There's no time to find out who you are when you are always having to be somewhere else.


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