14 February 2013

Using advantages

Johnny Blaze is a man with absolutely everything to fear.

In the movie Ghost Rider, Johnny Blaze sells his soul to the devil. You don’t get out of deals with the devil. He knows that he is damned.

With everything to fear, do he run and hide? Absolutely not.

Instead, he becomes a daredevil. johnny Blaze, world’s greatest stuntman, out there performing for the crowd and doing crazy stuff. Before each performance, each stunt, he looks in the mirror, plays Karen Carpenter, and says to himself:

“You can’t live in fear.”

I quoted the Ghost Rider movie when I was talking at the identity session at Science Online 2013. I have always blogged under my real name (even though people sometimes think it is a pseudonym). And I mentioned the kilt story here, too:

@DoctorZen wears the kilt to remind himself to BE FEARLESS. #scio13ID #scio13

Yes, I’ve mentioned this anecdote before. But what I haven’t told you is some of the things I’ve done that I considered to be part of my efforts to “not live in fear.” For me, when I’ve talked about “being fearless,” I’m mostly thought of things I’ve done in a professional capacity. I think about things like trying crowdfunding, self-publishing a book on Amazon, and publishing a paper on my blog.

In a way, this kind of fits with the Ghost Rider. Ghost Rider was not, like many other superheroes, a character who helped others out of selflessness. Blaze is possessed by a spirit of vengeance. Whether or not the Rider helps anyone is almost incidental to the things he does.

In the “Identity” session, I mentioned I have advantages in being online as my known, professional self:

@DoctorZen : as white tenured guy easier to be brave public intellectual online. Kilt = reminder to be fearless #scio13ID #scio13

Danielle Lee responded to that:

@DNLee5 calls @DoctorZen a Tony Stark - and we need that she says - people to use their advantage to call things out #scio13ID #scio13

Tony Stark has some of the same advantages I have (middle aged white man) and some that I don’t (wealth and genius). Danielle’s point was that when you have all those advantages, first, you don’t have to hide behind any sort of secret identity (the movie got to this point much, much faster than the comics, though). And the second thing she pointed out was, indeed, that Stark at his best doesn’t just leave things as he finds them.

I said then being compared to Iron Man was one of the nicest things that had been said to me in a while. Later that night, I had a great chat with Dr. Rubidium in the bar where we discussed related issues: how you can help people, and when. And again, it surprised me that anyone would consider me in those sorts of terms.

Following that conference, I decided I needed another reminder to myself. I needed a reminder not just to be fearless in things I try for myself, but to try to leverage some of the advantages I have in aid of others. So I bought this shirt:

While I may not have learned a lot of new information at Science Online, I did get some reminders that went deep with me. And one was a reminder about the power of a compliment, and the power of discovering that others might see you in more positive terms than you might think. For some, maybe this feed imposter syndrome, and they sit there and think, “I’ve fooled them all”... but maybe you can push yourself yourself and try to meet some of those perceptions.

Additional, 11 March 2013: The Identity session from Science Online 2013 is now up for viewing! The bit between Danielle Lee and I starts about the 9:00 mark.

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