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Training a Hero - By Matt Langdon

Posted on 3/8/2018
Have you ever seen something you knew was wrong but didn't do anything about it? We all have. It's human nature. But there is a way to overcome the psychological and social barriers to action - hero training.

The opposite of a hero is not a villain; it's a bystander.
When a hero sees something they know is wrong, they do something about it. A bystander, on the other hand, does nothing. There are numerous ways to be a bystander - standing by, walking away, looking the other way, making excuses. Likewise, there are numerous ways to be a hero - intervening in the moment, telling someone about the problem, supporting or acknowledging the victim.

Most people say they would do something if they saw something wrong. In reality, few people actually do. In February, President Trump said that he thought he would be the kind of person to intervene in a crisis, but he admitted that he couldn't know until it happened. Admitting that is something we all need to do because there are many barriers to action.

The Bystander Effect has been researched for decades. It says that the larger the crowd, the less likely anyone is to take action. You're more likely to receive help if two people see your need than if one hundred do. This happens because people transfer the responsibility for action to others - kids assume an adult will do something, adults assume action is someone else's duty or someone is better trained.

We're also affected by social pressures. We don't want to embarrass ourselves or the person doing the wrong thing. We worry that if we report a concerning behavior that it will hurt the person's career. We think people won't take us seriously. We want to fit in and not upset the apple cart.

It's not hard to see how this applies to the world of sport. If someone in or around the team is doing something inappropriate, it's hard to be the one to complain. Coaches and athletes often have strong reputations that cause people to ignore or make excuses for their failings. Who wants to stand up against that? You might lose your place in the team, your child might be ostracized.

In the last year, it has taken extreme courage from individuals to speak up against abusive behavior in all sorts of realms. Those individuals faced a public backlash, career-ending threats, and the loss of long-time friendships. But they knew they had to do something. Many people benefited from that heroic action and many people felt more comfortable in speaking out about their own situations. And many more people stayed quiet.

It's hard. Every time. We need more heroes in the world. We need to train people to be heroes-in-waiting, ready to step up when they see the need. I'm proud to be one of those hero trainers. There are a number of us around the world. Here are some ways you start a heroic habit today. You can reach out to a trainer near you if you want more.

Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable.
Many times when I speak in front of a crowd, I wear orange pants. On normal days, my wardrobe consists of jeans and a black shirt. I don't do color. So, orange pants make me uncomfortable. I do it anyway because heroes need to be ready to stand out. While most people are watching, the hero has to leave the crowd to help. Orange pants might be easy for you, so think of something that would make you uncomfortable and try it out once a week or once a month. Walk around the mall backwards for half an hour or draw a dot on your forehead. You'll know what it feels like to be looked at.

Collect Heroes.
When you learn about heroes through books or movies or YouTube, you'll have great examples of people who stood up to do the right thing despite a risk or sacrifice. You may not ever be in the same situation, but you'll see that everyday people (like you) are taking risks for others every day around the world.

Ask Yourself, "What Would I Do?"
When you see a story in the news, ask yourself what you would have done in that situation. If you walked past a house on fire, what would you do? What could you do? If you heard someone at practice make threats against someone, what would you do?

You can learn more heroic habits by checking out the Hero Round Table, my conference series that takes place around the world. There are over 100 videos at youtube.com/heroroundtable that can introduce you to heroes, hero training, and ideas that might change the world for someone.

Be a hero-in-waiting. Someone is going to need you one day.