Creating a New Inner Hero Journey Via HIP

Why should we replace “Super Heroes” with ordinary, everyday Heroes?

Why should we expand our view of Heroes beyond military brave warriors who have done documented daring deeds on the battlefield?

Why should we not honor only exemplars of heroic action taken by solo individuals that illustrate extreme instances of courage above and beyond that expected for first responders?

Why should we not limit our Hero gallery to only those exceptional people who have made a lifetime commitment to a noble cause

despite personal sacrifices and potential risks to life and limb?

Why should those who challenge institutional injustice as whistleblowers be accorded hero status when there are usually not any mortal risks.

The single answer to all these Whys is that they unfairly narrow the definition of Hero to the province of a relatively small cadre, mostly male, who appear to be rare, exceptional individuals, with special talents not shared by ordinary mortals.

I have been on a mission to totally challenge such a narrow set of beliefs and instead offer an inspiring alternative for ordinary mortals, like most of humanity.

To realize that vision I created The Heroic Imagination Project (HIP) as a non-profit (501 c-3) organization in San Francisco, founded in 2008. HIP's purpose is to promote everyday heroism as: a) Antidote to inhumanity, corruption, and evil;

b) Celebration of the positive potential of human nature.

HIP's mission is to teach individuals the skills and awareness needed to make effective decisions in challenging situations in their daily lives.

HIP achieves its purpose and mission by translating research findings from social psychology and related fields into knowledge, tools, strategies and exercises that help individuals and groups take effective action at crucial moments in their lives.

HIP trains young people to be Heroes–in-Training by doing daily deeds of goodness, caring and kindness, thus translating the private virtue of compassion into the civic virtue of heroism.

Where is HIP Locally and Globally?

HIP has developed a variety of programs that have been adopted globally at all levels, ranging from individuals and schools to cities and even entire nations through ministries of education. Examples include:

  • Community Colleges in Oregon and California--- our programs have been in dozens of community college psych departments for the past 5 years. Currently, we are piloting a unique program that trains community college and university students to deliver our workshops to at-risk youth high school students, providing internship, educational, and mentorship opportunities while promoting compassion and everyday heroism.

  • CSU-HIP-STEM HEROES—We are collaborating with the California State Universities to develop a new curriculum using heroes in the STEM sciences to promote character education in for middle and high school students studying the STEM disciplines.

  • Flint, MI –– a community-based effort using a train-the-trainer model to deliver HIP modules in schools and community centers. We hope to uplift this depressed city by making it into Herotown, USA.

  • Globally:

  • Budapest, Hungary – HIP plays a key role in a unique, countrywide Hero Square, a community-based effort using a train-the-trainer model to deliver 3 HIP modules to more than 1000 high schools and 30 businesses throughout Hungary.

  • Poland – The Polish Ministry of Education is supporting our nation-wide program to deliver 3 HIP modules to middle and high schools and colleges in Poland.

  • Sicily— Our programs have been delivered successfully in several towns and are now focused on expanding throughout Italy.

  • Bali, Indonesia—Our programs are in The Green School, and their trainers are preparing to deliver them to schools throughout Indonesia.

  • Porto, Portugal—A vibrant program with many high schools is generating great results.

  • Czech Republic—Has started an ambitious program spreading around the nation, and to neighboring countries.

  • HIP-UK—We have teamed up with the leader of an international high school tutoring agency to deliver all 6 of our HIP lessons throughout the UK.

Ireland, Norway and China—are all engaged with us to develop HIP programs in their schools.

What Are HIP’s Core Lessons?

1. Mindset – Helping people shift from a fixed mindset—a belief that one cannot change one's abilities or personal characteristics such as intelligence—toward a growth mindset—a belief that one can improve aspects of oneself with time and effort.

2. The “Bystander Effect” – Teaching people how to overcome the social forces that prevent them from taking action in unclear or emergency situations, and instead gain the skills to act wisely and effectively.

3. Bias Reduction – Promoting awareness of our human tendency to make assumptions about other people and groups, and conversely gain resilience when they experience prejudice and discrimination from others.

4. Adaptive Attributions – Helping people reduce or eliminate the effects of stereotype threat and unhealthy attributions on learning and performance.

5. Situational Awareness – Teaching how group influence and situations affect decision-making and offering strategies to address social situations mindfully.

6. Social Conformity – Helping people gain awareness of their automatic tendencies to conform in social situations and replace them with healthy behaviors.

What Are HIP’s Current Goals?

In 2020, our primary goals are to expand our lessons into three new directions:

a) Making them appropriate for middle school students (and eventually to primary school students);

b) Reformatting our programs to be effective in businesses and corporations;

c) Working towards the development of free online programs for the general public (long-term goal).

We are also developing several new lessons to increase our portfolio. Currently in development is a module on Sustainability and Conservation. In the future, we will add programs on Social-Emotional Intelligence, Time Perspective, Persuasion, and more.

I have been aided throughout this process of turning a vision into an operational reality by my collaboration with Zeno Franco and Matt Langdon. Zeno worked with me closely when I was writing The Lucifer Effect book in our discussions about the nature of heroism, as well as creating a novel 12-category taxonomy of different types of heroes. In addition, we have written several magazine articles and chapters in professional journals, as well as chapters in edited volumes on heroism. He continues to be both a tough critic and compassionate supporter of our Hero


Matt Langdon had long been toiling in the fields of heroic journeys where he would take young children on a Joseph Campbell type of hero adventure. He is also a master conference organizer in creating Hero Roundtable events in many cities around the world that engage not only the usual academic audiences, but also more importantly, they always involve students as well as townspeople. Matt has always arranged for my presentation of HIP’s mission, educational lessons, and future plans to be featured as a keynote in most of these conferences. My involvement with these practitioners and researchers has also brought me into contact with many kindred souls in this domain of ordinary people who are capable of doing extraordinary deeds of goodness and kindness that make the world a better place-- deed by deed, day by day.

207 views0 comments