When my Dad died in 2012, it ripped off a bandage and exposed a fulfillment wound that had been festering for years.
In my eyes, my father was the real-life Tony Stark. He had worked on the space program, he helped design fighter jets (and probably some military equipment I’ll never know about), and led the team that designed all the electrical switches on the Boeing 777.
So, when he passed away, not only was my hero gone — I had an overwhelming feeling that I wasn’t living up to his example of saving the world.
That’s when I decided to change.
Dreaming of Superheroes
Growing up, all of my siblings were between 9 and 20 years older than me. There also weren’t a ton of other kids my age in the neighborhood. So I was basically raised as an only child.
As such, I was forced to be creative. That meant a lot of superhero movies — and dreaming up superhero movies (and acting them out) in my backyard.
I came to believe in superheroes and instilled in myself the belief that I would one day save the world.
In the early-to-mid-1980’s, my Dad found himself without a job. At that point, the economy wasn’t yet fully recovered from the economic malaise period. And my dad was in his mid-50s so finding a job wasn’t easy.
You know what my Dad did? This man who had been president of large companies and helped designing world-changing technology?
He got a paper route.
And every morning, he and my Mom would wake up early and head to the local Chicago Tribune facility to bag newspapers and head out to deliver them to people’s driveways. Some mornings he would wake me and I would help out.
I hated it. But the lesson of my Dad — my hero — sucking it up and taking a shit job to support our family has stuck with me my entire life.
That’s when my idea of what a hero is began to change. It’s not just someone who comes to earth from another planet endowed with special powers.
It’s not just a half-god, or a kid with a supercharged spider bite, or an Amazonian woman with a magic lasso.
Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, and that’s why I came to appreciate those that were forced to eat shit and still smile.
Those heroes that were knocked down, sometimes repeatedly, but kept getting up.
Those individuals who thrived showed their powers because of adversity, not despite it.
Good and Evil
Several years later, as I made my way through elementary school, and then junior high, I was frequently bullied and insulted because of my weight.
Yep, I was fat. And because of that I earned derogatory nicknames at school and summer camp, and came home crying more than once.
But my parents didn’t let me wallow in it. They didn’t let me become a victim.
Once, when the older brother of one of my friends hurled a “fat” insult at me and knocked the wind out of me with a punch to the gut, my Dad sprinted across five front yards to confront the kid and tell him that if he ever touched me again, he’d “lay him out.”
That taught me that bullies suck and we need to stand up to them.
And later, when I knocked a fellow student’s tooth loose after he called me a “fat” name, my parents didn’t yell at me. They made me apologize — but only because they were worried we were going to be sued.
Growing up like that, my parents taught me that there were good guys and bad guys.
To stand up to the bad guys.
And, yes, seeing my Dad confronting a bully only increased my view of him as my hero.
Superheroes existed, after all.
My Hero Goes Down Fighting
Fast forward to 2012.
My Dad had been through hell. First, prostate cancer. Then, bladder cancer.
It had waged hell on his body. But he kept fighting.
When the doctors told him he had six months, he smiled and survived another two years.
And when he finally went down, he went down swinging.
A Notre Dame graduate, his final words to me were only a few days after the Fighting Irish defeated the University of Southern California to win their 12th straight game: “It ain’t over yet.”
He was talking about football, but I didn’t see it that way.
Even in his final days, as he was about to go into a medically-induced sleep to slip into the afterlife, he wasn’t giving up.
And when he finally passed away, we all gathered at his wake to watch grown men shed tears.
In the final years of his life, he turned his attention to other heroic deeds like helping the poor and volunteering to record audiobooks for the blind.
He was my hero.
And when he passed I felt like a nobody.
My Dad had spent a lifetime saving the world and all I did was write press releases for a living.
It was a slap in the face that forced me on a journey to find my purpose.
Finding My Purpose
But it didn’t happen right away. It took a few years. And over those years I felt guilty.
After all, my revenue was great. I was taking care of my family. We moved to South Carolina to warmer weather and to cut our expenses.
So, why was I so unfulfilled?
Then I began “unofficially” coaching some friends and colleagues. They saw me as successful and productive, so I was happy to help.
As I coached them, I realized something: Not only did I like it… but I was helping people.
In my own way, I was helping to save the world.
Saving the World, Saving Myself
So I decided to become a coach. Over the next several years I coached — but the majority of time was spent on my agency. I had a “three year plan” to ramp up the coaching and slowly shut down the agency.
But the sense of urgency kept growing. My lack of fulfillment in my agency work grew as well.
It grew and grew until I could take no more. I woke up one morning and asked myself, “if my plane goes down next week on the way to a client meeting, would I feel like I’m fulfilled with where my life is right now?”
The answer was a definite, “NO.”
So I decided right then and there to make the change. I informed my biggest client I was finished.
I went all in on coaching. And I’ve never looked back.
You see, I came to the realization that I still had the same feeling I had when I was a kid — that feeling that I was supposed to someday save the world. That feeling that I could be a superhero.
So I embraced it.
Some people ask why I write about superheroes in my articles and wear superhero shirts in my videos.
It’s because, after 40-plus years, I came to the realization that my purpose in life is to save the world by helping individuals fight for their freedom and fulfillment.
I reclaimed power over my life and began living my purpose.
And in doing so, I’m not only a superhero myself — I’m helping them to realize their superpowers and the save the world as well.
No longer do I have a feeling that I’m not living up to my Dad’s example.
Because while he built technology that helped save the world, I’m helping to build lives.
I am unfulfilled no more.
If you’d like help reclaiming power and purpose in your life, please click here to learn more about my Power & Purpose coaching course.