Stan Lee, publisher of Marvel Comics and creator of superheroes like Spiderman, the Incredible Hulk, and the Fantastic Four died this week at age 95.

Stan was iconic for giving his superheroes human qualities – his characters made mistakes, became frustrated, and battled inner demons, not just villains. But ultimately they saved the day.

Stan not only entertained us, he inspired us to make the world a better place.

How? Heroism!

  1. helping someone in need
  2. without expectation of credit, reward, or recognition
  3. knowing there is a personal risk (physical, financial, or social, such as judgment, criticism, or even embarrassment)

Researchers have identified heroic traits:

  • Empathy
  • Compassion
  • Confidence
  • Courage
  • Conviction
  • Kindness
  • Optimism
  • Altruism

(also the traits of an exceptional Mentor!)

Typically we associate heroes with mystical creatures who run into burning buildings. But heroism doesn’t demand a tragedy.

We are heroic whenever we act to help someone in need and there’s nothing in it for us. (Instead of allowing what’s-in-it-for-me to direct our action or inaction.)

Essentially, with intention, determination, action, and practice, we can each be heroic in situations and moments:

  1. take action (when most people look away)
  2. speak up (when most people are silent)
  3. be uncomfortable (when most people won’t take physical, financial, or social risks)
  4. help someone in need (when most people say, “not my problem”)
  5. and never expect appreciation


  • Stand up for someone defenseless
  • Help a stranger with directions
  • Sponsor a family at the holidays
  • Volunteer at a food bank
  • Donate money or clothes
  • Comfort a stranger
  • Mentor others

Hero researcher Phillip Zimbardo: “Each of us possesses an inner hero; if stirred to action, that inner hero is capable of performing tremendous goodness for others.

And the secret to “stirring our inner hero to action”? Knowing we can make a difference.

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