Crisis and Motivation

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I’m pleased and honored to guest post over here at Awaken Your Superhero. Chris and I have worked together for years on the Marketing Over Coffee podcast, which has allowed us to hang out with cool kids like Chris Brogan, Mitch Joel, Seth Godin, and David Meerman Scott, as well as the thousands of members in the MoC LinkedIn group. I’m happy to help him out with a bit of writing, and to have a chance to chat with you, loyal reader.

In my efforts to maintain an image of professionalism I normally avoid referring to Super Heroes in my daily work. The image of comic book fanboy as adolescent doofus is a powerful one, and perhaps one day it will go through the same transition that blogging has gone through – from that of basement dwelling dork to the latest application of technology to writing and storytelling. But I’m not holding my breath.

As a reader here, you have already moved beyond the Superhero stigma, so I thank you for the chance to speak freely. By virtue of nothing more than the number of years I have followed the comic industry I’ve amassed a broad knowledge of the genre, a use of time I rank as better than watching television, but not as worthwhile as traveling or exercising.

The concept of the superhero meshes nicely into both mythology and religion. The tales of heroes, the brave and the bold, performing incredible feats is universal and an excellent way to educate. But it’s not enough that our heroes have the power to accomplish great things, the stories are only interesting if there is conflict. The ability to survive crisis (a term with an extensive history to those who know DC), challenges on a larger stage, is often the cornerstone of a great tale of adventure.

The benefit of these stories is that they define what makes us all heroes, that fire in our core that keeps us motivated. They give solid examples of the determination in your heart that tells you to go one more round when your body says “stay down”. We look to the heroes as the people we want to be, those who stand up when duty calls. Reading about, or better yet meeting heroes who have the courage to do what is necessary can inspire you to do the same.

Chris and I have been able to work together through the uncanny coincidence that we live very close to each other. Both of us are along the race course for the Boston Marathon that will be held this Monday. I ran the marathon in 2002 and there’s one moment that was (literally) the darkest hour of that adventure.

A big problem with me running Boston is that I am a big fat bastard (BFB), and when the temperature goes up, my ability to stay cool and maintain pace drops off rapidly. With this race so early in the season, the majority of training is done in the winter and then race day is a roll of the dice. You can get snow or sleet, or you could get over 70 degrees and a sunburn (my Perfect Storm scenario, which played out perfectly, much to my chagrin). Another problem of being a BFB is that many will argue that this is the most prestigious marathon in the world, attended by the World’s Finest, so the organizers are able to set qualifying times that an average athlete (never mind a donut chowing bozo like myself) will never get to. In a wonderfully inspired bit of marketing, many charities have taken advantage of the hubris of would be runners, and offer a race number if you agree to a fund raising threshold (now usually around $3,000).

Crisis and Motivation 1

The Franciscan Hospital for Children had thrown a number of events for young professionals in Boston, and this was how I was notified that they had numbers. I signed up in December and began upping my mileage from my max of 10 to 26.2. As part of the program I took a tour of the hospital and the day care facility they run there fo

r children that have medical needs that make it impossible for them to attend any other day care program. I met a young lady I’ll call Dee, to preserve her privacy, who had the voice of an angel, and we had a picture taken that was liked enough to be used in the Annual Report for the hospital that year (in the full size photo you can see that I am actually still sweating, my metabolism cranked up from doing 12 miles around the Charles River that morning).

By the end of February I was falling apart, not only was I feeling a twinge in my knee, just finding the time and energy for both work and the additional workouts was taking its toll. As the alarm went off at 5:30 am and I faced a run of 10 miles in the dark, over ice, I finally broke, ranting and raving in the dark. Only half jokingly I said “F— this. I’m not doing this, f— the marathon”. My (then not yet) wife asked “What about the hospital? You’ve committed this to them.” I said “F— them, they suckered me into doing this, and worse yet I need to get them $2,500 for the right to do it.” She paused and asked “What about Dee?”

This stopped me completely. Even on my worst day, standing there in the dark, I could not say anything bad about a young lady that faces more challenges just getting to school than I face on what I consider a bad day. My dear wife had invoked one of my own heroes. I took a deep breath, wiped my eyes, kissed my wife, and went out to do my miles.


John J. Wall (@johnjwall) is the co-host of Marketing Over Coffee and writes about his life at Ronin Marketeer. He harbors no illusion that he is a runner as he still qualifies for the fat guy division (commonly called Clydesdale). In May 2011 he will be running the Run To Home Base, an event that raises funds for veterans dealing with traumatic brain injuries and post traumatic stress disorder. If you would like to support those who have fought for your freedom, please consider donating. Thanks true believers!


2 responses to “Crisis and Motivation”

  1.  Avatar

    I just wanted to say thank you… That’s a great story, and a fantastic example of why it’s worth keeping going, and it was really generous of you to share that with us all.

    I’ve been feeling like it was all too much work, and I hate talking to people anyway, and what’s the point? But I have my own friends who are in a bad situation and I’m trying to help fix it, and I have to remember that when I feel like quitting.

    Thanks. The decision to go on makes you a hero inside. The decision to share that story makes you a hero to all of us.

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