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Superhero Leadership: 3 Lessons From Marvel Comics’ Unlikely Success

The gist: If you want to become successful, there are three important leadership lessons from Marvel’s story that will help you become a superhero leader.

Like his superheroes who rush into danger and defy the odds to save the day, the creator of Marvel, Martin Goodman, is a leader who understands the importance of taking risks.

After a few jobs and mild success in the publishing industry, Martin decided to start his own company. Since superhero characters were becoming popular, he made an enormous bet. He hired a company to develop a super hero comic book and printed a million copies. His first comic and he was already betting the company on it.

If they called him crazy, it wasn’t for long. Martin worked hard to develop his leadership and intuition for products that could go big, and he knew he had a hit when his writers delivered the star character in his new magazine: The Human Torch.

If this story is starting to sound familiar but you can’t quite place it, The Human Torch went on to become a founding member of The Fantastic Four—one of the longest lasting and most recognizable comic brands in history.1

If Martin’s story teaches us anything, it’s that, if you want to know how it feels to create something great, you must also know how it feels to go out on a limb and stand at the brink of failure.

If you want to ride that wave and experience it yourself, there are three important leadership lessons and rules for success from the Marvel story.



  1. Interestingly, Martin was initially hired by Louis Silberkleit—the guy who would go on to create Archie Comics which was one of Martin’s future competitors.

13 Rules for Being Alone and Being Happy About It

As you read this, I’m flying back to The U.S. from China. Alone. While I was there, I ran a marathon. Alone. I stayed in a hotel room alone (mostly). I wandered around Beijing alone. I sat down to eat at the local restaurants alone.

This is normal for me.

Sometimes, people ask, “Tyler, wouldn’t you have more fun traveling if you had someone to go with?”

And my answer is always both yes and no.

Traveling with a friend or someone close can be a really rewarding experience. You don’t truly know someone until you travel with them, and getting to know someone like that can be a lot of fun (or not!).

But I have just as much fun traveling alone. It’s a different experience, but no less enjoyable. When I travel alone, what I learn about is myself. I learn about my own strengths, and I learn about my own weaknesses and insecurities. I’ve never come home from a trip feeling anything less than a better, stronger person.

Traveling isn’t the only time being alone is a valuable experience. It can be powerful in any aspect of life. Continue…

Nobody Likes the “Idea Guy”

One time I had a “great” idea for a telephone company. Service would be free—all the calls you want! But you’d have to listen to advertisements before each one. I asked my friend what he thought the idea was worth. His answer:

“I don’t know. Telephone companies make a lot of money. Maybe $1 billion?”

Great! I had a $1 billion idea!

Of course, I never started my incredible telephone company and I definitely never made my $1 billion.

Looking at it now, I was lacking 3 things that would have gotten that idea off the ground:

  1. Any idea, whatsoever, about how to start or run a telephone company.
  2. Any desire to run a telephone company.
  3. An understanding of what it is that makes a business truly valuable.

The “Idea Guy”

We all know an “Idea Guy.” He’s the one that seems unbelievably intelligent and creative. He has an endless list of interesting ideas, but he waves his hand and says “minor details” when you ask him how any of them might actually work.

We all know someone like this because the Idea Guy needs a partner (that’s you). He can’t make anything happen himself, so he tells you all his ideas and waits for you tell him he’s a genius and that you should be business partners.

“Don’t worry,” he expects you to say. “I’ll do all the work. You just keep pumping out those great ideas.”

But an idea, unfortunately, is worth nothing. Less, even, than the paper it’s written on (idea guys love restaurant napkins).

The Money is in the Execution

An idea is only a multiplier. You have to add execution to the mix to actually create a business.

A great idea that never comes to life is worth nothing. How much would you pay your smartest friend for her best idea? Nothing, of course—you’ve got plenty of your own!

But an average idea you dedicate yourself to can make you rich. Look around at all the businesses in the world, and most of them are pretty boring, run-of-the-mill companies. Look at most successfully self-employed people. A lot of them are doing fairly average things.

The difference is that they do these average things very well. And that, in its own way, makes them remarkable.

Putting Idea and Execution Together in Your Own Micro-Business

Conventional wisdom says, “Think big. Act small.” Or even, “Think big. Act even bigger!”

Maybe that advice works for some, but I’ve tried it many times and it doesn’t work for me. My new mantra is,  “Think small, and act small, too!”

The problem with thinking big is that it produces a laundry list of actions that are too heroic for you to actually take on. When you have a big idea and no confidence in your ability to execute it, the result is… nothing! Time to move to the next “big idea.”

On the other hand, when I force myself to think small, I also force myself to come up with something I know I can do—something I’m sure I can execute. When your idea matches your confidence level, good things happen.

A better way to put it is that I bring my ideas down to my confidence level rather than try to bring my confidence up to my ideas.

That sounds limiting and counterintuitive, but the truth is just the opposite. When I’m able to execute a small idea, I gain more confidence. When I gain more confidence, I take on bigger ideas.

As far as I know, there’s no instant confidence-building potion, so my strategy is the best I’ve got.

The Last Word

If you have a business idea you want to try, but you’re having a hard time getting started, consider a new approach. Stop trying to fake confidence you don’t have just to satisfy your ego for a big idea.

Instead, cut your idea in half until you have something you know you can do. Then go do it! If you want more confidence to take on bigger things, there’s no better way to do it than by having some success with smaller ones.

Or, you could keep jotting down more ideas on restaurant napkins, waiting for someone else to make them happen. The choice is yours.

9 Ways This Introvert Polished His Public Speaking Skills

The gist: Not all introverts suffer from public speaking anxiety. But if you do, here are some ideas to eliminate it and become a strong communicator.

I stood on stage, looking out over everyone focused on me—waiting for me to speak, to say anything— and the voice in the back of head made its way forward to remind me, “You’re not good at public speaking.”

I was the opening talk for the TEDx event, and it was up to me to set the tone.

This is an extraordinary responsibility on top of giving the most important talk of your life and, had it been any other circumstance, I might have given into that voice. “Yeah, you’re right. I shouldn’t be here. I’m an introvert. I’m an internal editor. I can’t even finish a sentence with my wife without wanting a do-over.”

Thankfully, I’d done my homework. Not just on the talk, but on how to overcome my public speaking anxiety. I knew what I needed to say, I believed in the message, and I had a plan even if the perfect circumstances I spent so much time practicing in didn’t reflect reality on game day.

Today, I can get on stage in front of a few thousand people and speak with confidence and authority. If I’m lucky, some finesse and a few jokes that aren’t total duds. But it certainly wasn’t always like that.

When it comes to public speaking, any confidence I have is the result of a tremendous amount of work, frustration, cold sweats, and embarrassment. But I’m glad I had those experiences because they got me here—a place I can share some lessons about how to go from a terrified, bumbling idiot to a calm, confident communicator.

That, perhaps, will be the most useful part of this article for you—simply knowing that public speaking skills can be learned. You don’t have to be born with them.

From sharing an idea with a small team of friends to standing in front of thousands of strangers, these are the public speaking skills—many from speakers far better than me—that have transformed me from a timid, stuttering speaker to a confident, respected one. I hope they help you spread your own big ideas.


Lazy Expert Syndrome: How to Stay on Top of Your Game

The gist: We all eventually suffer from “lazy expert syndrome.” The best way to snap out of it and grow is to mentor someone new to your field.

It was the “roaring twenties” in America, and business was good. Even for criminals.

Al Capone had slowly built himself an empire making upwards of $100M each year. The only problem? He was in the business of narcotics, prostitution, gambling, and murder.

Capone literally got away with murder for years because he’d painstakingly built a network of minions to do his bidding. He was a careful man. All the major crime-fighting bureaus in The U.S. were trying to take him down, but he was untouchable.

That is, until he made an extraordinarily dumb mistake telling a prosecutor he was sick and couldn’t come to court to testify in a case. The police investigated, found him perfectly healthy, and arrested him on contempt of court. That started the ball rolling on a series of charges that eventually brought down the whole operation and sent Capone to the infamous Alcatraz prison.

One of the biggest businesses in America, brought down by a tiny flub. How could it happen?

He got lazy. Capone let his ego get the best of him; he thought he was so untouchable he didn’t need to exercise caution anymore.

The world is better off without Capone’s expertise, but it’s not better off without yours.  If you’ve ever made a rookie mistake—one you should have known better about—you might have experienced what Capone did: Lazy Expert Syndrome (LES).

Read on to learn how to keep LES from ever taking you down or setting you back. Continue…

Recover From Career-Limiting Mistakes With Humor

The gist: Humor is a great psychological tool to get and keeping people on your side. Use it wisely, and use it often—especially when you screw up.

Everyone makes mistakes. But what makes one mistake forgivable and another not?

You’ve probably seen plenty of instances where big mistakes were ignored. Or the opposite—seemingly insignificant mistakes are blown out of proportion.

“How does that happen? Where’s the justice?” you might ask yourself.

You may not realize, though, that when you make a mistake, the way it’s received by everyone around you almost completely depends on how you react to it.

During the 2014 mid-term elections, Tom Brokaw, a world-famous news reporter, made what would have been a career-limiting mistake on-air.

The next day, every media outlet in America was talking about it. But instead of criticizing or making fun of him, they were laughing it off with the air of forgiveness.

How did Brokaw turn his massive flub—what would could have been a career-ending move for any rookie reporter—into an endearing news story? And how can you use the same psychological principle to magically recover the next time you find yourself in the same situation?

Use humor. Continue…

From Low Self-Esteem to President: A Lesson On Overcoming Self-Doubt

The gist: Low self-esteem can grip all of us. And feeling self-doubt is part of being human. Understanding your psychology can help you overcome it.

In 1911, a young man by the name of Harry was struggling with low self-esteem. He’d met a woman, Bessie, and they became friends. Before he knew it, he’d fallen in love. There was a problem, though. Harry didn’t know if Bessie felt the same way, and his self-doubt was tearing him apart.

While away from home, he wrote her a seven page letter filled with passage like this:

Speaking of diamonds, would you wear a solitaire on your left hand should I get it? Now that is a rather personal or pointed question provided you take it for all it means. You know, were I an Italian or a poet I would commence and use all the luscious language of two continents. I am not either but only a kind of good-for-nothing American farmer. I always had a sneaking notion that some day maybe I’d amount to something. I doubt it now though like everything.

But I never had the nerve to think you’d even look at me. I don’t think so now but I can’t keep from telling you what I think of you.

Say, Bessie, you’ll at least let me keep on being good friends won’t you? I know I am not good enough to be anything more but you don’t know how I’d like to be.

Still if you turn me down, I’ll not be thoroughly disappointed for it’s no more than I expect.1

Harry, it seems, was no master of seduction.

In time, though, he must have built an effective tool for dealing with his crushing self-doubt because he did eventually marry Bessie, and today he’s more widely known as President Truman, the man ultimately responsible for ending World War II.

How did he overcome his crippling self-doubt? A key quote from his time in office and notes from cognitive psychologists give us a hint. Continue…


  1. Archived at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum.

How to Manage Your Overwhelming Social Calendar

The gist: It’s easy for an introvert to become overwhelmed by a busy social life. Here are 6 ideas to thrive socially without burning out.

As an introvert, it’s shockingly easy to become overwhelmed by a busy social life. From going to work to hanging out with friends to attending networking events, it can be hard to come by much-needed alone time.

Personally, I’ve been trying to solve this problem by ridding my calendar of (useless) meetings. These days, it’s not unusual to find myself racing around town for three or four different ones on any given day and jumping on a Skype call between them for good measure.

I’m an introvert so I despise days filled rushing from group to group—it’s totally exhausting.

At the same time, I’ve created this life. I’m free to choose which meetings I do or do not attend, yet I choose to attend many. It’s a funny predicament I’ve put myself in. I hate meetings, but I consciously end up in many of them. Why? Because I actually like meeting with people and building relationships.

I think that says something about introversion many who don’t possess it struggle to understand. We’re not shy. We’re not hermits. We love building connections, we just find it tiring to do so.

While I’ve worked to cut the number of meetings I attend, I’ve also attempted to understand my introversion better. I wanted to find the happy balance and never again sit through an important meeting feeling brain-dead.

Thanks to new research about introversion and a healthy dose of self-experimentation, I’ve pinpointed a few important rules to follow when it comes to setting myself up for success at important meetings.


Be More Persuasive by Telling Compelling Stories

The gist: Be more persuasive and inspirational by telling better stories. Five simple steps will help you form perfect arguments.

When I was a kid, my mom had stories for everything: why you should brush your teeth, eat vegetables, and not talk to strangers or do drugs. One I remember vividly, though, is about lying.

When I was six, I was on my first baseball team. I loved playing in games but didn’t care much for practice. To get out of it, I’d pretend I was sick. When she caught on to what I was up to, Mom threatened, “You were too sick for practice yesterday, so you must be too sick to play in your game today.”

The details are fuzzy, but I probably cried a lot and ran around throwing a fit. When I was done, she told me the story of the little boy who cried wolf. No one believes a liar, even when they’re telling the truth.

After that, I only needed to hear the story to know it was time to shape up each time I stretched the truth. The story changed me. Against my instincts and desires, it forced me to be a better person. I still remember it today when the temptation to lie strikes.

One little fib might not be the end of the world but, over time, you erode your credibility until it’s completely gone.

Story is a powerful motivator for change in anyone. If you have a message for the world—if you’re trying to get people to change the way they think and behave—a story could be the most powerful weapon in your toolbox. Continue…

Your Attachment Style Determines the Quality of Your Connections

The gist: The quality of your relationships is highly connected to your attachment style. You built yours long ago without knowing it, but it’s never too late to improve it.

When it comes to making friends and connections, I can be a tough nut to crack. As an introvert, I keep others at arm’s length. For a long time, I forced myself into a paradox where I’m both loyal to those I’m close with but extraordinarily hard to get close to.

I’d assume anyone who wanted to get to know me must just want something, that they were in it for themselves and I had to protect myself. Unless I already knew who you were, I wasn’t going to let you into my circle.

“It’s not my fault,” I’d say. “It’s just how I am. Everyone should just deal with it. They would if they really cared.” For years, I missed out on making a lot of connections and, honestly, I felt lonely.

Eventually, I got tired of that. Not tired, so much, of my attitude, but tired of the results of it. I started to learn more and more about introversion. What it means. How it works. Why I am the way I am.

What did I learn? That my approach to building connections had nothing to do with my introversion. Instead, it had to do with a flaw in the way I thought about relationships and the people around me.

Once I fixed it (and no, it wasn’t easy or done in 3 simple steps), my life started to fill up with new, meaningful connections. I met new business partners, made new friends, met my wife, etc. etc.

Here’s what it was, and what you can do if you’ve been in the same place. Continue…