This article first appeared on Forbes.com.
When I (Corey) was a child, I went through a phase where I would keep two children’s aspirin under my pillow while I slept in my superman jammies. My 4-year-old brain was pretty sure that if a robber snuck into my room in the night to do me harm, those little peach-colored sugar pills would give me the strength to fend him off much like the Underdog super energy pill. “Have no fear, Underdog is here!”
Like all the kids in my middle-class neighborhood. I was obsessed with the Hulk, Transformers, and Star Wars. Now, as an adult, I am blessed to work with real-life entrepreneurial superheroes everyday. People who are endowed with superpowers born from insurmountable challenges that they then turned into nonprofit and for-profit businesses: childhood cancer, life on the streets, burns on over 80 percent of the body and face, rape and incest, bullying, and learning disabilities that rendered kids invisible.
At our company RTC, we call these entrepreneurs Crusaders, because they’re on a mission to change the world. Using their personal stories as springboards for change, they empower others, especially children, to not wait for tragedy to find purpose in their lives, and to align their passion with the way they earn a living. Below is a list of what we’ve learned from these Crusaders that you can use in your own life to inspire your kids to change the world.
1. Fight the fights worth fighting. Batman’s cause was born out of the murder of his parents. Iron man’s was birthed from being a prisoner of war. We all have an origin story that defines our beliefs. A Crusader finds the battle they were meant to wage and builds their life around waging it daily. That includes what they study in school, the initial jobs they take in the workforce and the eventual businesses they build around their causes.
2. Discover your superpower. Your daughter might be the reliable “save the day girl” or the voice that simply will not go unheard. Your son may have a natural compass for justice or an inclination to build things. Every human being has a superpower. It might not be x-ray vision, and you might not be able to read other people’s minds, but we all have gifts that we’ve honed throughout the course of our lives and they should be used as our unique selling proposition.
3. Live by a code of honor. Superman fought for truth, justice, and the American Way. Spiderman believed that with great power came great responsibility. A Crusader’s code of honor is their compass and helps guide them in making daily decisions, big and small. Define your code. In business we call these core values.
4. Defend the weak. No matter what fight a crusader is engaged in, there is always someone who desperately needs them. Teach this principle to your children and they will build businesses with natural demand because people are hurting, people are afraid, and people feel alone. A Crusader fights for them, is a voice for them.
5. Wake up early. Crusaders don’t sleep in. In fact, they often get their best work done before daybreak or late into the evening. They put in long hours because the world needs them. That sense of responsibility is greater than a Crusader’s need for an extra hour in bed.
6. Invest in yourself. Whether they are billionaire playboys like Tony Stark or totally broke freelance photographers like Spiderman, Crusaders are business owners who invest in their toolkits. But high-tech uniforms, utility belts, and suits powered by arc reactors can get expensive. Crusaders also invest in their brand through hard work, personal development and smart time management.
7. Believe you can change the world. Crusaders start heart-centered companies that change the lives of the people they touch. Often one at a time, without fanfare, and when the cameras aren’t rolling. They know that changing the world is not always done on a grand scale, but more often through human connection; by being strong for someone in need, there for them, and courageous in the face of fear when they are most vulnerable.
This is post-industrial America, and creativity, agility and passion have replaced, uniformity, top-down hierarchy, and a “do it because I said so” mentality. So, as a parent, perhaps the greatest gift you can offer your children is leadership by example. Show them how to live like a Crusader by doing so yourself.
That might mean following your passion to open your own heart-centered business, or finding a way to be intrapreneurial within your current role at work. Will it be scary? Of course it will. But is it worth it? You know it is. And when you’re afraid, and just plain feel like a 4-year-old in the dark, repeat the following: “The secret compartment of my ring I fill, with an Underdog super energy pill.”