Despite the fact superheroes are fictional, and as outlandish as some of some of them may be, they do provide lessons for those of us living in the real world. Whether as CEOs, inventors, investors, journalists, engineers or scientists, superheroes — in both super-powered form as well as their mundane alter-egos — can shed light on some of the skills that make people successful in the world where superheroes are fictional creations.
Bruce Wayne/Batman: Business Tycoon and CEO
In the world of Batman, the Wayne family is a well-established member of the world’s elite. Forbes’ “The Forbes Fictional 15” ranks Wayne Enterprises eleventh in the list of wealthiest fictional companies with a value of $31.3 billion dollars. Based on plot lines from the comics and the nearly limitless iterations of the character across multiple media, Bruce Wayne’s ancestors founded their merchant company in the 17th century and it has since become a major player as a defense contractor, shipping company and chemicals lab, among other endeavors. With that kind of history and such a massive footprint in the world of business, Bruce Wayne inherited a tremendous amount of responsibility (not to mention an extremely impressive mansion).
Bruce Wayne could have retired on his wealth or relentlessly expanded his empire. But, due to witnessing the murder of his parents during a mugging when he was a child, Wayne has committed his energy to fighting crime. He never wavers from the goal of upholding justice. His primary form of philanthropy may not involve donating money to worthy causes (though he does that too), but is focused on keeping Gotham, and often the rest of the world, safe from both minor and major threats. Wayne takes a tremendous amount of satisfaction in seeing the bad guys get what they deserve.
Lessons about business management skills, as learned from Bruce Wayne
- Unwavering commitment to a goal can lead to great satisfaction that goes beyond financial reward
- No matter how successful a person may be, giving back to one’s community is not only good business, it is fundamentally good. Hopefully such philanthropy does not always need to be inspired by childhood tragedy
Tony Stark/Iron Man: Mechanical Engineer and Business Leader
Tony Stark is a genius. He’s a fictional genius, but a genius nonetheless, and one who earned two master’s degrees in mechanical engineering and physics by the time he was 19 years old. Forbes lists his personal wealth at $12.4 billion as the CEO of Stark Industries. Marvel.com’s “The Stark Truth Behind Stark Enterprises” from 2008 states Stark Enterprises had profits in the territory of $20 billion in the prior year.
Though Stark inherited a well-established company from his father, he’s never stopped innovating and cultivating its operations. Stark is always trying to improve his Iron Man suit and always pushing the limits of what is possible.
A recent Business Insider article, “20 Skills That All Successful Entrepreneurs Have,” pointed out most entrepreneurs actually don’t work for start-ups or start their own businesses. Instead, many entrepreneurs “are working for well-established companies. Where do you think ideas for great new products and services come from at innovative companies like Apple, Google, Boeing, Ford, Comcast, Amazon, GE and Disney? They come from their entrepreneurial-minded employees, from the CEO on down.”
Some of the skills successful entrepreneurs and business leaders have: the ability to learn from mistakes, being resourceful, applying creativity and contributing to society as active citizens.
Lessons for mechanical engineering and business skills from Tony Stark
- Identifying useful resources and boiling down creative innovation into practical applications. Both of these are crucial to the Iron Man’s mechanical suit’s technology. But the suit is only as valuable as the person inside. Stark’s commitment to protecting the innocent are what make Iron Man so valuable.
- Being resourceful, creative and committed to helping others are lessons prospective corporate leaders can learn from Tony Stark.
Peter Parker/Spider-Man: Student and Photojournalist
Peter Parker’s persona as a science prodigy and bullied student are two essential elements of his character’s origin. After being bitten by a radioactive spider in the comic and developing spider-like powers, his initial plan was to use his power to solely to make money. After some hard life lessons, Spidey/Parker redirected his energy to helping others and fighting crime.
In addition to having the ability to climb walls, one of Spider-Man’s greatest powers is what he calls his “spider-sense.” This power allows him to sense when danger is near and to prepare to fight or flee. His spider-sense is like the super-attuned intuition a lot of us would love to have. We don’t, however, need superpowers to rely on our intuition.
In whatever profession someone pursues, they can pay close attention to detail and trust our instincts. Maybe we are developing a new product or performing investigative reporting. Trusting our instincts without a hint of doubt can often help us achieve our goals. Trusting intuition and instincts can lead to confidence and new discoveries.
Lessons learned from Peter Parker for prospective journalism studies students
- By trusting his spider-sense, Peter Parker can inspire people to trust their own instincts. Through careful analysis of any given situation, individuals can respond appropriately by trusting their instincts. Insecurity can lead to doubt and decision-making paralysis. For a journalist, confidence and instinct are essential when looking for leads or finding the appropriate question to ask
- Keeping a sense of humor, can minimize stress level. Stress and fear can often lead to anxiety and making mistakes. Spider-Man may teach that by appearing relaxed — almost casual — about high-stakes challenges, we may be able to achieve our goals more effectively than with clenched teeth, a grimace and a sweat-covered brow
Another lesson we can learn from Spider-Man
Even when making a mistake, don’t take anything too seriously. That doesn’t mean we put forth substandard effort or act lackadaisically. No, Spider-Man cares deeply about helping others and knows that he’s often in life-or-death situations. But he also seems to know that a sense of humor keeps him relaxed and stress-free. These factors allow him to perform at his best. Spider-Man is the class clown of the Marvel Universe. Even when he was bullied as a high-school student, Parker always kept cracking jokes and often got the upper-hand against his abusers simply through his wit.
Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk: Nuclear Physicist
For those with an interest in science, Bruce Banner might be the ideal role-model. With the exception of his fits of maniacal rage and ability to wreak catastrophic destruction, the Hulk and Bruce Banner have many qualities one may seek to emulate.
Banner, like the rest of the characters on this list, was born with an affinity for science. But Banner’s gifts led him in a unique direction. When an innocent teenager wandered onto the testing ground for a gamma radiation bomb Banner had developed, the scientist heroically rescued the kid, but absorbed the radiation his place. As a result, whenever Banner feels anger, stress or fear, Banner transforms into the massive Hulk, who has unearthly strength and is nearly invulnerable. Perhaps most problematically, the Hulk has almost no remnants of the Banner personality, becoming instead a raging id with little interest in social rules.
Despite the Hulk’s powers, which could easily be construed as a villain’s, he’s been able to harness what could be incredibly destructive and negative and turned it into a force for good.
So what can be learned from this complex character? For one, he’s is a highly intelligent scientist and selfless hero, but also an extremely destructive force. The metaphor is clear: scientific knowledge can unlock wondrous possibilities but can also be used for destructive purposes.
Bruce Banner must spend much of his time controlling his anger and fear so he doesn’t become the Hulk at inopportune times. At times he wishes he had never unlocked the rage inside of him and created the Hulk. But he also knows that such wishful thinking is immature. Instead, Banner accepts his reality and tries to use his potentially devastating powers for the force of good. He tries not to get angry, but when he does, he tries to use the results for something good. In the vast majority of cases, he’s successful and is incredibly loyal to his friends and supportive to people in need.
Lessons learned from Bruce Banner/the Hulk about science skills:
- Even when scientific innovations lead to something destructive, it may be possible to harness that destructive energy in a way that’s controlled and beneficial.
- Banner also reminds us that we all have a raging hulk inside of us and we must continually control our strongest emotions to achieve our goals. Sometimes that hulk can work to society’s advantage but we must always be aware of its potentially destructive power.
If you’re looking for ways to superpower your own skill set, check out some of the program listings below, or use the school search tool on the right.
“The Forbes Fictional 15,” Forbes. September 26, 2014. http://www.forbes.com/special-report/2013/fictional-15
“The Stark Truth Behind Stark Enterprises,” Marvel.com. September 26, 2014 http://marvel.com/news/comics/4991/the_stark_truth_behind_stark_enterprises
“20 Skills That All Successful Entrepreneurs Have,” Business Insider. September 26. 2014. http://www.businessinsider.com/skills-of-successful-entrepreneurs-2014-1