The reason Volkswagen's Darth Vader ad scored such a hit at the Superbowl is our popular longing for powerful, heroic action. In the ad, the six-year-old, dressed as Darth Vader from "Star Wars," wants to be heroic and do something big. Even dressed as a villain, he is the hero of his own story. His force is frustrated until he attempts to start the family car. He tries and tries, and then it happens -- the car starts. He believes that he has created this action, but we know his father started the car remotely. Still, we are inspired by this mini-hero. He overcomes the impossible. By dint of his own internal energy, he can make the world change on his command.
We are convinced that people today are looking to find their own heroic, courageous selves. All of us want to be part of something bigger and to use our untapped potential to be forces of good, or at least forces promoting our own thoughts and actions.
While the kind of ads that flashed over our screens on Superbowl Sunday were entertaining, shopping, games and goods don't elevate us. They don't prepare us to be heroes. In fact, these activities may isolate us in such a way that we lose feelings of shared community (real community -- not virtual community) and shared responsibility.
Capt. Sully Sullenberger shared this perspective at Davos this year. When asked what makes someone live a courageous life and do heroic actions, he had a near instant reaction. He replied that people need a combined sense of responsibility and community, as well as hours of training. When he had to react, he both felt the urge to do so, and he felt confident that his training would carry him through the crisis.
What does it take, as adults, to put on the equivalent of a Darth Vader costume and attempt the impossible? Courage.
Robin and Laura's book, "Got Courage?" will be published in 2012. We want to hear from you about what you think it takes to live a heroic life.