Faster than a speeding the bullet is how I read Larry Tye's new book, Superman: The High Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero (Random House). Engaging, fun, inspiring -- like The Man of Steel -- are only some of the super adjectives that the book richly deserves, and I am sure that it will leap to the top of the bestsellers list in a single bound!
For good reason, I was especially taken by the chapter about Mort Weisinger, the editor who guided and developed the Superman mythology for 30 years. This "editor extraordinaire" was my father, coincidentally, for 30 years. Not a morning went by where he didn't burst into my room wearing a blue terry cloth bathrobe (no "S"), shaving cream on his face, sometimes a lit cigar and enthusiastically wake me with, "Hank, how's this for a story/cover?" That's how my school day started -- with an injection of creativity. It was a great, great childhood, and he was my best friend.
What made Superman super? What made him so powerful, so enduring? Mr. Tye illuminates us with many answers. I have one and, as a psychologist, believe it is relevant to your life.
When I was eight, I'd proudly answer the "What made Superman super?" question with Superman lore: he derived his powers from the earth's yellow-sun atmosphere, in contrast to his home planet Krypton's red sun atmosphere. It was the difference in the planets' atmospheres that gave him his extraordinary powers of flying, x-ray vision, super strength, heat vision, super breath, super speed, super everything. These powers gave Superman an edge in his battle for truth, justice, and the American way. And in fact, this is how my father thought of power -- a trait, attribute, characteristic that gives you an edge in meeting the challenges of life.
Yet, as I was to learn from my Dad, it was not Superman's superpowers but the heroic character traits my father gave him that made him admirable, that explained why youngsters lined up in front of dime stores each month to buy the newest Superman comic book.
"Superman's real powers," he often told me, "are his courage, resourcefulness, compassion; vulnerability and imagination. These are the ones that make him successful."
This was a lesson as an adolescent and young teen he taught me over and over as we had our lively chats about Superman adventures. In time, I came to realize these memorable talks were not really about Superman, but that he was actually instructing me in life's lessons and the personal powers that would enrich my life.
On a daily basis, he showed me how using my imagination, cleverness, humor and loyalty with my friends were the real powers that would help me meet life's challenges. And now, years later, in my clinical work with patients and consulting with corporate executives, I know these are the very attributes that define the truly powerful people, the ones who -- irrespective of money and job status -- lead invigorating and successful lives. Conversely, I have seen dozens of corporate executives -- making money galore and holding powerful job status -- who lack these personal powers and, as a result, they feel miserable, overwhelmed and helpless as if they are sitting on a ton of Kryptonite.
I plan to write more about how you can integrate into your life the "Super Powers" that made Superman successful so you too can leap tall buildings in single bound, bend steel in your bare hand and change the course of mighty rivers. In short, the powers will help you fly like Superman! Here's an overview of the powers you will learn to harness, and of course, I will share how my Super Dad had Superman illustrate each and peppered with back stories of the Superman history that only I know:
The Power of Courage: Courage is a central force in overcoming internal and interpersonal conflicts.
The Power of Collaboration: Collaboration goes beyond cooperation; it is closer to "synergy" where the final rewards are greater than that which individuals alone can achieve
The Power of Wits: Becoming a clever problem-solver is a super skill to meet life's challenges head on. .
The Power of Solitude: Just as Superman had his Fortress of Solitude, we all must find space in our lives, not for escape but to nourish fresh thoughts and to replenish ourselves
The Power of Loyalty: Loyalty is a powerful binding force in all relationships, must be earned and never to be taken for granted.
The Power of Passion: Nobody accomplishes anything great without a joyful investment in what they do.
The Power of Play: the value of play and having fun, not only as a respite from work, but also as a tonic for life's pressures. .
The Power of Criticism: how a negative experience can be transformed into a power that can enhance your performance and ultimately boost your morale.
The Power of Sacrifice: Focusing on the goal you are sacrificing for, not what you are giving up is essential in achieving worthwhile goals.
The Power of Vulnerability: Failure to accept moments of vulnerability invariably leads to rigidity and psychological myopia.
The Power of the Code: Truth, Justice, and the American Way: A code commits us to behaviors we can be proud and cause others to recognize our integrity.
These are powers that made Superman our most enduring hero. In the months to come, I'd like to hear examples of how these powers helped you fly like Superman!