by Donald Dunphy and Maggie McGary
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Motivational speaker Kevin Brown opened NAFA’s first-ever virtual conference & expo with energy and optimism, setting the tone for what proved to be an exceptional experience despite its unconventional format.
Author and motivational speaker Brown took the virtual stage to share the story of his unconventional path to business and personal success, a philosophy he calls The Hero Effect®. The Hero Effect, Brown shared, is the recognition that heroism isn’t something only embodied by a handful of exceptional individuals; it’s something that we’re all capable of by striving to do the best we can do each and every day. It might sound simplistic, but as he shared anecdotes from his personal life highlighting the profound impact seemingly insignificant actions displayed by ordinary people throughout his life, he drove home the fact that actual heroism isn’t about flash or fanfare; it’s about humility.
Brown described how throughout his life he was fascinated by heroes—first, as a child, by superheroes, then, as an adult and a parent, by seemingly ordinary people who were able to profoundly impact the lives of all who knew them. He shared how posed the question “what does a hero look like?” to thousands of people over several years, eager to see if he could discover an underlying theme or characteristic that all exceptional people shared. The replies he got included the expected: historic figures, first-responders and healers, and sports heroes. They also included everyday heroes that we often take for granted, such as teachers and parents. While he received hundreds of different replies, there was one common theme uniting every single person’s perception of what it is that makes a person heroic: ordinary people who do extraordinary things.
This answer sounded right, Brown confided to attendees, but didn’t feel right. He explained that while it sounded noble and aligned with a sense of humility, it was also somewhat at odds with the notion of heroism. We know that it’s right and expected to help people when there’s an emergency or something dire at stake; however, doing what’s right because of exceptional circumstances or for the sake of receiving something in return isn’t heroic; it’s not even noble. What is it, then, that separates the ordinary from the extraordinary?
This, Brown told the audience, is how he came to the realization that what separates ordinary people from extraordinary is their actions and the impact those actions have on everyone whose lives they touch. The characteristic that exceptional people—heroes—share is that they do what’s right just because it’s right. Period. Not for personal gain or the potential for profit. Not for the accolades or the spotlight. Heroes are people who move beyond what’s in it for them or what’s expected to create exceptional experiences for everyone in their lives.
They also take responsibility for their actions and hold themselves accountable, regardless of circumstance. Their dedication to doing what’s right isn’t contingent on circumstance; their commitment to doing what it takes endures regardless of obstacles and challenges. Exceptional people, those whose actions impact everyone around them and make them unforgettable, don’t see obstacles as deterrents; they see them as challenges to be surmounted and overcome. And they never doubt their ability to do what’s necessary; what’s right.
Brown urged attendees to reflect on the impact each one of them has on people, posing the question “Who looks in the mirror and sees your face? Who looks in the mirror because you showed up?” He pointed out that each one of us has the power to wake up every day with purpose and the unwavering knowledge that what we do today matters. In that spirit, he implored attendees to remember that each one of us as individuals—and, through the sum of our actions, the fleet profession as a whole—has the potential to be exceptional and to positively impact countless lives.