Lance Armstrong is a Hero and You’re Not!

Lance_Armstrong_(Tour_Down_Under_2009) Lance Armstrong is a hero and it’s time you took responsibility for creating him. He’s been your hero and mine since before you were born. His story lies deep in the DNA of us all. The myth of the hero is something you’ve been guided by your whole life. Admit it! You want heroes, you crave the myth, and you’re willing to bend the rules to find them.

Cognitive Dissonance

The concept of cognitive dissonance refers to our psychological drive to avoid the tension we feel when we recognize a contradiction in our beliefs. For example, if you consider yourself a healthy person and if you have ever overeaten (as well all have) a contradiction has arisen and a justification is created to reduce the emotional tension felt, such as, “a healthy person can still overeat on occasion.”

If it continues, the justification may become, “if I eat well 80% of the time it is fine.” Then it might become “80% of the time, excluding special occasions” and so on. This is easier to do than to recognize that you could be both healthy and unhealthy at the same time.

The biggest lie that we are taught is that there is “good” and there is “bad.” A “hero is good”, and a “villain is bad.” A hero follows one set of “moral” rules, and a villain follows a different set of “immoral” rules and they do not cross over.

If a hero was to do something a villain would normally do, it is said to be because of a weak moment, or a bad choice, as if it was some sort of corruption of the mind, rather than simply because that is also what the “hero” wants to do.

Enter Lance Armstrong – A Truly Heroic Villain

Lance Armstrong is a genius, and a hero and a villain. He’s a winner and a cheat. He’s healed people and he’s hurt people. And it’s all because of you! The brilliance of his achievements can not be underestimated or simplified into good or bad, because they are both and more.

First of all. The man manages to win 7 Tour De France races in a row. That’s incredible. “But he cheated” I here you exclaim. Yes and no. It depends on what we are measuring. In terms of following the rules of ‘not doping’, then yes. But, then many others were doing it as well. He just did it best. His strategy was filled with acts of genius.

He was smart enough to find the right (or perhaps wrong/immoral) team and the right (or perhaps wrong/immoral) doctors and the key leverage points to manipulate whoever he had to in order to build and feed the myth of his cycling greatness. The very myth that inspired millions, brought people together for a “good” cause and saved thousands of lives.

Should a villain overcome cancer? Perhaps he wasn’t a villain when he overcame cancer, but was later corrupted. Or perhaps the same desire to win at all costs and “cheat death” was the same skill utilized to “cheat” his way to cycling victory. Then of course there is the realization that we created the myth of his greatness and the good that came from it more than he did.

Why?

Because we want heroes and we’re prepared to pay the costs.

The livestrong foundation would have enhanced the quality of and saved thousands of lives. Yes, part of the reason it came into existence was to feed his ego, but it also got results! It strengthened communities, united people against a devastating disease and perhaps lead people to direct some of their attention and money towards something a little more fulfilling than whatever crap people usually blow their spare cash on.

The success of the foundation would not have been even 1/10th as great as it has been if he had never won a Tour De France. Having several individual winners over the years would not have created a much of a story. But just like one victory wasn’t enough for him, it wasn’t enough for us either.

We all got greedy and chose to ignore the true reality of how improbable every additional victory was. It’s actually quite ridiculous. A cancer survivor with no previous history of cycling success does not suddenly become Superhuman. But what a great story it would be if a Superhuman did arise.

And a Superhuman did arise, it was just that he wasn’t the Superhuman hero you wanted. You were seduced by the impossible. Like a child who must believe that the presents under the tree are from Santa.

The result itself is not enough. You wanted a “moral” winner, who raced to victory whilst maintaining a sense of honor, integrity, fairness and justice.

Instead, you eventually received an incredible example of the possible. You learnt what can happen when your top values are winning, cunning, deceit and obsession. Life isn’t about “good” or “bad”, it’s about realities and results.

You Want the Truth, but You Can’t Handle It

You want the truth? Here it is, I’ll give it to you.

You’re not a hero.
You’re not a villain.
You are both and neither, often at the same time.
You will do good, and you will do bad.

What I aim to offer today, is what I believe to be the secret to getting the most you can out of your life. Whether you judge what you do to be good or bad, heroic or villainous will be up to you.

Just know, you will do things that you think are heroic and other things you think are villainous and you will be right and wrong, often at the same time.

Guru’s and Gullibility

You were born to be influenced. You are constantly being manipulated. Your parents, friends, boss, media, partner and everyone else you come across are all trying to get you to do something. Something that may or may not benefit you, but is aimed to benefit them. You will do the same thing in return.

The tools of influence, like any other tool in life is neutral. It is not the tool, but how it is wielded. You must consider the the intention and the potential result of its use.

As a psychologist and self-development enthusiast, I have to face my own dilemmas and my own cognitive dissonance regularly. There are very few people I truly respect in the self-development world. I think most of them, whilst pretending to be “moral heroes” are really “immoral manipulators” solely focused on the bottom line.

They want you to believe their success has come from following one set of rules, but really it’s because of another.

Lance Armstrong is everywhere!

So here is my dilemma: I often know what they are doing and I don’t agree with it or really like them because I can see right through the manufactured sincerity. I could write a whole book on just how many tools they are using deceitfully. However, since they have some sort of skill or technique that I want to learn because I believe I will do good with it, I will pay to attend and therefore contribute to their ongoing success.

Quite a dilemma isn’t it?

What about this one?

Not too long ago, I spent some time working in a detention center for asylum seekers. My aim was to do what I could within the boundaries set to take care of their needs, including their mental health. Many people would say that was a good thing that I did. And I agree, in many ways it was. Here are the dilemmas:

1. I don’t agree with mandatory detention or the basics of how it operates.
2. What I could or couldn’t do was highly restricted and regulated.
3. I was paid quite well to be there.

Hmm! So I worked and profited on something I don’t agree with.

Doesn’t look very heroic when I put it that way does it?

But, these people needed help and I did that.

So what does it all mean?

The Secret to Happiness

The secret to happiness, has to be self-awareness and acceptance. The reality is, purity and perfection do not exist. The truth will set you free but not before smashing you in the face!

If you have ever followed my work, you know that I believe in happiness. I believe in the good of people, in what is possible and heroic acts.

I just think it is important not to be completely swept in the myth of unquestionable greatness. Every hero you have ever had has done something you would be morally opposed to. That does not mean you should not have heroes, or aim to be one, just know, you’re not as good as you think you are. You’re not as bad as you think you are either!

The point is self-awareness allows you to see a little more clearly so you can improve. And acceptance allows you to keep going and not get stuck on the fact that not everything you do will be purely moral.

It’s time to grow up. Santa and Superman are both myths. Their existence is impossible.

Pure giving and pure altruism is unobtainable.

Santa runs a slave labour camp to get the presents made and Superman will choose to let some people die.

The False Morality of Altruism
In my opinion, pure altruism doesn’t exist. In fact, altruistic acts are usually the most selfish of them all.

You help someone because you get an emotional boost from it.

There is a very selfish payoff. It’s that simple.

Now you may think that there are other reasons too, such as spiritual choice. And you may be right, but the perceived reason is far less important than the result. Every time the average person helps someone, an emotional boost is felt and that is the biggest reinforcer.

We are all creatures of addiction. The main reason I study and promote happiness is because that is in my opinion the safest and most rewarding addiction of them all. Helping people gives me the biggest bang for my emotional buck.

I think it is more exciting to help than to hurt. More enriching to offer truth over deceit. To create a win within the moral rules as opposed to outside of them.

I don’t necessarily think I am right or wrong. These are simply my preferences because I truly believe this is the simplest path to happiness. There is a range of research that backs me up on this as well.

But I definitely don’t think I am or aim to be pure or perfect. My acts are also selfish, and I have dissonance. I’m just trying to be transparent.

The truth will set you free. And the truth is you don’t always know what you do, why you do it, and if it is “good”. But developing your self-awareness and acceptance will help.

Maybe Lance Armstrong is a hero and you’re not! Maybe “moral” values are for fools who can’t let go of the myth.

But than again, I could be wrong. I don’t pretend to know everything.

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Picture from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Lance_Armstrong_(Tour_Down_Under_2009).jpg

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