What Makes A Hero?

Interview With Sharif Khan

Interview by Ralph Zuranski

What is your definition of heroism?

It stems from the original word ‘hero’ which comes from the Greek roots servos and heros, which means to serve and protect. So self-sacrifice for the higher good and betterment of humanity is at the heart of being a hero. And what that implies is that the seeds of greatness lie within us all because we all have that innate capacity to serve. Martin Luther King said it best: “Everyone can be great, because anyone can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t even have to make your subject and verb agree to serve…You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

Did you ever create a secret hero in your mind that helped you deal with life’s difficulties?

Very interesting question. I have a Council of Light or imaginary team of heroes if you will. I got the concept from Napoleon Hill’s book, Think and Grow Rich, where he talks about creating a team of heroes in your mind, where you go deep within your mind and choose your greatest heroes to sit on your round table and council you. I actually go to a secret place in my mind in meditation where I have a council of these people.

Some include greats like Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Sinatra, Jodie foster, Oprah, Einstein, and an eclectic mix that changes from time to time. I actually talk to them in my dreams and imagination and they give me answers encouragement and advice. It may sound strange, but that’s how I’ve developed my own ‘wisdom council’ if you will.

What were or are the qualities and attributes of your secret heroes?

They had a dream, they were determined, and knew exactly what they wanted and they had a larger than life vision. They went out there with courage and did what they wanted to do and didn’t take “no” from anybody and were able to accomplish their dreams; and so I look up to these role models knowing if they can do it, I can do it.

What principles are you willing to sacrifice your life for?

FREEDOM! Freedom is worth sacrificing my life for. Freedom to live our dreams, freedom to imagine, to hope and prosper from doing what we love doing, that is worth giving up our lives for. In North America, we do have economic freedom and political freedom, but that is not normal. We are blessed and privileged because more than half the world does not have the same opportunities.

Do you have a dream or vision that sets the course of your life?

Absolutely. My vision is to inspire the world and make a positive difference in peoples’ lives. To help create a global culture of heroes and responsible citizens dedicated to promoting peace and prosperity in the world. That is a vision that’s larger than life. It gets me going and energizes me whether I’m having a good day or bad day; it gets me up every morning and allows me to stretch and grow.

Do you take a positive view of setbacks, misfortunes and mistakes?

Absolutely! I think it was Mr. Thomas Watson Sr., founder of IBM, who said, “If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.” So failures and setbacks and mistakes are stepping stones towards greater and greater success. We need to ask ourselves: “What can we learn from this experience? How can we grow from this experience?” Because nothing really is a failure; everything is a learning experience.

Were you willing to experience discomfort in the pursuit of your dream?

Yes. That is something that is necessary because it takes a lot of hard work and effort. Nothing really comes easy. Anything worthy of great achievement requires hard work, effort, persistence, and perseverance.

How important is it to believe that your dreams will eventually become reality?

It is very important! I believe you have to taste and feel and smell your dream as if it is a reality right now. I’m a big believer in seeing the reality and the vision and dream right up front, right now, the way it is. If you can’t visualize and feel the tears of triumph running down your face when you win that award or get that promotion, nothing will happen.

It doesn’t matter how many goals you set, or how many affirmations you say till you’re blue in the face, if you don’t have that feeling or that knowing that this is going to be a reality, then nothing is going to happen.

Do you experience service to others as a source of joy?

Yes I do. I sincerely believe the hero’s journey is about following one’s bliss and doing what one loves doing in service to others. That is what really brings the most joy, and that is what really brings the most success as well, because the only way to get what we want is by helping enough people get what they want first.

I’m a big believer in serving. If you want to increase your wealth and influence by ten times, just ask yourself the question, “How can I help ten times as many people as I am helping right now?”

Who are the HEROES in your life?

My father was a hero. Jim Ross, who I dedicated my book, The Hero Soul, has been a hero to me because he was a teacher and a mentor, a messenger, a carrier of truth. I think the people out there making a difference in peoples’ lives, teachers, coaches, entrepreneurs; I think all those people who are serving people or helping solve problems and showing people how to overcome their own problems are the real heroes; and it’s unfortunate that the media doesn’t pay enough attention, which is why I really like your “In Search of Heroes Program” because it’s really unique.

Why are HEROES so important in the lives of young people?

Heroes are so important in the lives of young people because there are not a lot of role models out there. And some of the role models give a very negative impression. So when we see someone in movies or even in school, when we see gang leaders who are profiting from criminal activity and wearing nice clothes and driving a Mercedes, these people have a negative influence on younger people.

I think the younger people really need to see heroes and leaders who are not only making a difference in peoples’ lives but also prospering themselves so they can look to those people as examples and follow in their pursuit. Our children and young ones are going to be the future leaders of tomorrow. So it’s very important to have the right heroes and the right leaders impacting their lives.

How do people become heroes?

That’s a very good question. To start, self knowledge is really important. On the Greek temple of Apollo there is an inscription that reads, “Know thyself, and you will know the gods and the universe!” To know your strengths and weaknesses, your deepest desires and your deepest fears, really being able to understand where you begin and where you end and beyond.

Self knowledge is so important because through self knowledge we learn what it is that we really want to do, what our calling in life is, what our blessings are. By pursuing those blessings, by following our bliss, and doing what we love doing in service to others, we automatically become heroes.

How does it feel to be recognized as a ‘hero’?

It’s a really rewarding feeling. Coming from a stage in my life, having grown up in Scarborough here in Ontario, Canada, where I was suffering so much low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness that I never took any leadership roles at all in school and in my young adulthood; to now come full-circle and be respected as a ‘leader’ as a ‘hero’ training entrepreneurs, executives, and educators and students alike on the qualities of leadership and being a hero…it really is a very rewarding feeling to be held in respect and esteem. Words can’t describe it.

Why do you think you were selected for this unique honor?

I believe that early in life, because of the unique situations that happened in my life, and the tragedies which I suffered, I connected at a deeper level, at a spiritual level, and found out at a very early age what my calling in life is. And my calling, my purpose, is to enrich the lives of as many people as I possibly can, using my God-given talents, writing being the main one. So I think I’ve been privileged because I saw my calling at an early age, and I took action and decided to pursue my calling regardless of what others were saying around me.

Do you have any good solutions to the problems facing society, especially racism, child and spousal abuse and violence among young people?

Our own image is reflected in every single human individual around us. What we do to others we are actually doing to ourselves. And if we mistreat somebody else, or if we call somebody else names or harm somebody, we are actually harming ourselves, because what goes around comes around and the law of motion says, ‘for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.’ If you want to be respected and treated with love and compassion, then you need to treat other people with love and compassion and respect – and you’ll get that back ten times over.

If you had three wishes for your life and the world, that would instantly come true, what would they be?

My first wish would be to have people in the world live in harmony and for people to find ways to be prosperous doing what it is that they really love doing. I’d love to see a world where we can actually accommodate that and help people to do what they love doing and prosper. I see so many people and see so many youth out there who have all these aspirations and dreams, but they’re not finding an outlet to be able to live those dreams. And they are really perishing inside. It’s so sad to see so many people who don’t find a direction or calling in life and are thinking of committing suicide. That is one wish: to see everyone living a prosperous life doing what they love doing.

My second wish, if there was a magic wand and it was a utopia, to end the wars and famine and disease, and have a world where there is just peace and love and respect for each other.

And finally, my third wish would be to have a world with people dedicated to EXCELLENCE. Because God is Excellence! Being the best of the best, holding ourselves to high standards and to quality. We would really have a paradise on earth if were committed to excellence – towards truth, and nobility, and something grand.

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