“Peer”iodicals: “Ordinary Superpowers” by Mark Henson – Book Reviewed by TLP Cohort #7 Member

“Ordinary Superpowers” by Mark Henson – Book Reviewed by TLP Cohort #7 Member

Author, Author Mark Henson, in chapter one of his book Ordinary Superpowers, says, “I believe with all my heart that you don’t have to change THE world. You just have to change YOUR world.”

The idea that we should strive for self enhancement and personal improvement over accomplishing large-scale feats and grandeur is one that, I believe, is lost on most people today. I believe that society has led us to a place where being oneself, inherently, doesn’t carry much weight on the side of being that extraordinary person that can break through and change the course of the world as we know it. Mark Henson makes numerous references, in this book, to “extraordinary” superheroes, such as Batman and Superman, with their extraordinary superpowers and ability to save the day for the world to see. These are stories that, for me, were etched into my mind and set the bar high for personal accomplishment.

Sure, we are all familiar with things that are our strengths, things that come easy to us, things that we know we can exploit and use to our advantage to earn some level of success and accomplishment, but, perhaps, we haven’t really explored which of those strengths or attributes, if any, are ones that, when isolated and strengthened, could propel us to a level higher than we’ve ever imagined, or if they could help to elevate someone else, perhaps many others, to an unimaginable height or level of success.

 Though the idea of nurturing and growing one’s self sounds easy, perhaps, it’s not. Perhaps we get too caught up in the mundane, day to day, drudgery that we have come to know and rely on for its monotony and predictability, to realize that we are capable of so much more. Perhaps we need a little nudge, here and there, to remind us of how great and accomplished we can be, and how much we can do to contribute to the greatness of others. Mark Henson has learned that, through self-evaluation, reflection, and perspective, we all possess “superpowers” that may not be worthy of a skin tight suit, cape, or mask resembling that of a winged creature of the night, but ones that are capable of really changing OUR worlds, if we choose to understand and nourish them.

For me, the concept of “Ordinary Superpowers” is one that I have pondered in the past, but, have never assigned a label to. I believe that every person is a unique being that is perfectly designed to do exactly what it is that they were designed to do. The hard part is figuring out exactly what that is. I have often tried to evaluate myself, from many perspectives, but professionally and societally, more often than not.     

Perhaps it is with hard times that we look for our place in the world. Perhaps it is then when we look ourselves in the mirror and wonder why we are here and how we can do better for ourselves and for others, and, perhaps we lose focus, when hard times transition back to good, and never zero in on what those things are. Mark Henson, in this book, encourages his readers to try to identify the things about us that are particular to us and though not unique, from the standpoint that there is, likely, someone somewhere with a similar skill, is an ability that we possess, and is one that stands out amongst a familiar crowd. He labels these particular skills “Ordinary Superpowers” and offers insight and direction for building on them.

I think that this is a concept that can be quite difficult for people to grasp, not from the level of understanding the idea, but from actual self-reflection and analyzation of what is good about them, what is great about them, what is not so great about them, and what qualifies as a “superpower”. Let’s face it, It is always easier to identify what is great about someone else, and even easier to identify their flaws, but a tough pill to swallow when tasked with identifying those things about ourselves. I think that, conceptually, if you can be open minded enough and have the propensity to WANT to do better for yourself, and moreover, others, the author leads you on a detailed path towards focus and understanding to get you to the level of elevation that he has found for himself. Again, I believe that it is one of the most difficult things in life, to be critical of yourself enough that you can view yourself from a third person perspective, identify your strengths and weaknesses, and determine which ones stand out amongst the rest. However, I do believe that, with some effort, we can all get to a place where we have identified, at least one, of our “Ordinary Superpowers”, however big or small, and nurture it until it becomes a tool, in our belt, along our journey towards success.

Mark Henson encourages his readers to reach out to those that know them best to help identify their “superpowers”. I found that people that “know you best”, may or may not share the same perspective, looking in, as you do, and moreover, may provide you with an assessment that is notably biased and almost expected. However, in my journey towards identifying even one of my “Ordinary Superpowers”, I was able to gain some perspective, from someone close to me, that helped me to realize that one of my superpowers comes in two parts, passion and compassion. I would be the first one to tell you that I am a very passionate person, sometimes to a fault, but often aimed at success. When I asked about the “compassion” part, it was noted that I will not let anyone fail, and will exercise the same level of passion, I would normally reserve for myself, to lead others toward success. I think that passion is a superpower, because it allows me to, not only, maintain a path for myself, but to mentor, educate, and motivate others for success. Someone that is passionate about something exudes that energy for others to grab on to and can help to motivate others for success, even when there is no real benefit to them in the long run.  

Though I juggled a couple of other “powers” around, while on my voyage, it came to me that my level of curiosity is somewhat special. As an adolescent in school, my curiosity lacked focus and would tend to lead me down a path toward nowhere rather than the upward route it does as an adult. I find myself wanting to know more about everything. Its not just enough for me to know that something works, I want to know how and why. This level of curiosity can, sometimes, be viewed as a nuisance, by some, but pushes me to reach beyond the line of routine, or common, understanding so that I can gain a level of knowledge that extends deeper than that on the surface. To some, perhaps, my curiosity could be viewed as needing to know more than necessary, or metaphorically speaking, overfilling my cup. For me, the curiosity is a hunger. It is a yearning for information and understanding. It is guiding me on my path towards enlightenment and success. It is “property” that I acquire and I own for my personal use, and to offer to others who may need it along their journey.

When I think about joining my curiosity and hunger for knowledge with my passionate commitment for success, I realize that I have so much more to offer myself and my future, and that of those around me, both personally and professionally.

Lastly, I have identified my ability to articulate my thoughts, and the thoughts of others, through words on paper as an “Ordinary Superpower”. Again, as an adolescent, I was more focused on my superpowers on the gridiron, and in the hallway, than I was for knowledge or education. I never appreciated what it was to be able to take a thought or a feeling or an emotion from myself, or from someone else, put it on paper, and have someone read it and actually feel it through the words in print. It wasn’t until I was threatened with graduation, for a less than good average in English class, that I realized that this was not only something that I could do, but something that, perhaps, a lot of people cannot. Now, as an adult, and not threatened with a less than good average, it brings me a feeling of fulfillment when I can assist someone with organizing their thoughts and feelings and emotions, put it on paper, make it make sense, and allow them to share it with the world. Whether it be for wedding vows, a best man’s speech, a letter of intent, a proposal for services or materials, or a routine e-mail, I view the opportunity to write and to be heard as a great one. I am humble enough to know that I am no great author, but I do possess a couple other superpowers, as noted above, that give me plenty to write about. Often I find myself looking for an outlet, a place where I can write about the things I’m passionate about and the things I’ve learned through incessant questioning and curiosity. Perhaps, by refining and combining my superpowers, I will find myself in a place to better myself and the world around me. Words spoke, however knowledgeable and passionate, are only words in the wind if not in print. Mark Henson suggested, in his book, to try and identify three superpowers. Three, at the beginning of this journey seemed impossible. I’m convinced, however, that three could be just the tip of the iceberg IF someone hungers for success and is willing to dig deep below the surface, seek clarity, and practice refinement.

I am a person that whole heartedly believes that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. I believe that a team is only as effective and successful as its weakest member. From a leadership perspective, I believe that we need to work just as hard, if not harder, for those that work for us in order for any one of us, or all of us, to be successful. I am a person that longs to pass knowledge and experience on to those that long for it. I am motivated to succeed, not just for myself, but for those that accompany me, above or below, on our journey towards achievement. I am passionate about that journey. I will go above and beyond to support those that need to be supported and to share my passion, my superpower, with those that need a lift along the way so that we may rise together. I will focus on and nurture my passion and enthusiasm so that it becomes stronger. I will continue to ask questions and learn as much as I can about as much as I can and, in turn, will pass that knowledge on to the curious and the questioning. And I will continue to write whenever I can, even if it is just for myself. I will put my thoughts on paper, I will continue to use that superpower to help others and I will continue to refine that power so that, someday, my words may educate or empower someone to do something great.

I will make a conscious effort to grow these powers and to expand my mind in hopes that, in time, they will help me to make a difference.

Mark Henson noted that everyone’s “Ordinary Superpowers” are different. They are uniquely theirs, perhaps not one singularly, but in combination with each other, and as such, we need to rely on those around us, that truly support us on our journey and supplement our superpowers with theirs, and we can achieve success unparalleled. He reminded us that we should not discard relationships because someone’s superpowers, or lack thereof, either don’t mesh well with ours or actually steal energy from ours, but to shift the energy and the dynamic of that relationship such that it can no longer hinder us on our way or rob us of the calories needed to take the next step.

The author said, “To multiply your powers, you must have people in your corner who complement your abilities”. I believe that we are strong and capable, stand alone, beyond what we can comprehend. I am certain, however, that we cannot fathom our capabilities when we unite and cooperate.

In closing, Mark Henson reminded his readers that “Instead of trying to “be legendary,” why not just try to be you? “. I think this was the perfect ending to the journey he shared and the insight he offered. There is nothing more profound than learning to “just be you”, even if you have certain “superpowers” that make you great. We have all seen instances where success has led people to lose sight of who they are and where they came from, and I think that encouraging people to be super, yet humble, is the perfect recipe for a future filled with success, fulfillment, and happiness.

About Connecticut T2 Center

The Training & Technical Assistance Center at UCONN provides education and technical assistance to members of Connecticut's Transportation and Public Safety Community, including municipal public works directors, street and road maintenance superintendents and staff, city and town engineers, Connecticut Department of Transportation employees, transportation planners and law enforcement professionals serving as legal traffic authorities. We are Connecticut's LTAP Center
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