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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Doing well by doing good 

Recently, a member of the Get Clients NOW! online community posed the group a question. There were some social issues she cared very much about and she wanted to address them somehow in her professional work. I hear this desire often from self-employed professionals. Having already taken the first step toward choosing how they spend more of their time by opting to work for themselves, now they wonder, "Can I make a living by doing what I really want to do and also give back?

I think this is a real possibility for professionals who work for themselves. Here is how I answered the member's question.

There are many ways of incorporating issues you are passionate about into your business enterprise. Some of them involve earning money directly from working on the issues and others do not. For example:

o Offering your professional services to nonprofit organizations pro bono, at a reduced fee (paid for by the agency but free to the recipients), or at full fee (paid for by a grant to the sponsoring agency). A hypnotherapist concerned about social conditions in the country she emigrated from could offer her services to victims of trauma arriving in the U.S. as refugees.

o Speaking or writing about the issues that concern you either on a paid basis or in return for promotional opportunities for you and your business. You can talk about the issues and promote your business at the same time to those who read your articles or hear you speak. This weblog allows me to talk about non-business issues that interest me while still receiving promotional benefit by gaining more visibility with new readers.

o Starting a project of your own to help others that emphasizes your professional skills and gains visibility for your business. Often this can involve partnering with an existing nonprofit or a business who can provide some financing. Steven Van Yoder's Global Initiative for Entrepreneurship is a great example of this strategy.

o Using the programs or events of your business as fundraisers to benefit a cause that concerns you. I've done this frequently for causes like Heifer International or coaching legislation in Colorado.

o Offering resources your business has to groups who need them, e.g. a page on your website or meeting space in your office.

o Concentrating on making your business profitable with the goal of being able to volunteer more of your time and money to important causes.

These are just a few ideas for business owners to begin incorporating the concerns they have about the larger world into their existing enterprise. If you want to move in this direction, pick just one idea to start with so you can begin making a difference right away. It really is possible to make a good living and make a valuable contribution at the same time.

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Whatever it takes 

When I was going through coach training at The Coaches Training Institute, we learned a process of values clarification to use with our clients. We first had to try it on ourselves, of course, and it was the first time I had ever set down in writing what my personal values were.

In the process we learned, we were encouraged to give our values a unique name that captured our personal flavor of an otherwise generic value. (You can learn more about this process from the book Co-Active Coaching.) For example, I identified a key value of mine called "persistence" and connected it with ideas such as survival, resolve, fortitude, and determination. The name I coined for this value was "whatever-it-takes."

Picture the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indiana Jones -- already battered and bruised enough to defeat any ordinary person -- learns that the Ark is leaving the area on a truck. "Truck?" he says, "What truck?" and struggles to his feet to continue the chase. That's the whatever-it-takes value in action.

Now values are a very personal thing, and just because I hold this particular one doesn't mean it's universal. But I believe that this is what heroes do -- whatever it takes to achieve their mission, accomplish their goal, complete the quest. There's no room for "I can't." The hero says instead, "How can I?" while resourcefully looking for another way. I have found that these three words can serve as a magic elixir for the disheartened hero.

The next time you find yourself frustrated, discouraged, or even without hope of carrying on, ask yourself, "How can I?" and just see what happens.

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Origin of the hero 

I've been listening to a class on tape lately on the topic of Ancient Greek Civilization. This is the second class I have taken this way from The Teaching Company, and it's an enjoyable and easy way to learn about a wide variety of subjects. Lesson Five is titled "The Age of Heroes," and according to professor Jeremy McInerney, it was during the Dark Ages from 1200-900 BCE that the hero as we know him today was born.

This was an unsettled time in Greece, when central authority collapsed, and society was structured around smaller units dominated by cheftains and clan leaders. But during this period often thought of as less civilized than the earlier Bronze Age, a crucial development took place: the rise of epic poetry. Wandering poets travelled all over Greece, performing cycles of songs concerning the deeds of great warriors. The greatest of these poems were Homer's Iliad and Odyssey.

The poems upheld what we now think of as a "heroic" code of behavior and linked heroism with steadfast adherence to duty in the face of overwhelming odds. The entire mentality of Greek civilization -- codes of honor, their notions of the relation between god and human, man and woman, parent and child -- were conditioned by the world created by Homer and these epic poems. These cultural ideals and concepts have been passed on to modern Western civilization in our political models, dramatic forms, philosophy, art, and a host of other ways. Most scholars agree that the cultural life of the West has evolved directly from that of the Greeks.

My own concept of the hero matches Homer's quite closely, but with one important exception to McInerney's characterization. I believe that heroes should demonstrate steadfast adherence to more than just "duty" when beating the odds. The hero must cling fast to his own vision, mission, and truth, whether or not that is where duty lies as others define it. Too many would-be heroes deny or delay their heroic possibilities because of the compulsion they feel to care for others, fulfill obligations, and live according to rules passed down by their families. I'm not suggesting that in order to become a hero, you should walk out on your responsibilities. But it is necessary to consider carefully whether all the obligations you have assumed are continuing to serve you and the greater good. The necessary freedom (time, money, space, or psychic bandwidth) required to follow the hero's path may be closer than you think.


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