The way young people are exhorted to “follow their heart,” “dream big,” “reach for the stars,” and other clichés, one could easily get the idea that progress depends on people doing difficult or at least very hard things. People are essentially encouraged to do “the heroic” and thereby become heroes. Given the popularity of comic book movies, perhaps we can think about “superheroes” to rethink the mythology of doing hard things.
The idea of doing exceptional, amazing things certainly fires one’s imagination. But it is probably leading to disappointment, dissatisfaction, and nonproductivity in most cases. "The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty" (Proverbs 21:5 ESV). "A faithful man will abound with blessings, but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished" (Proverbs 28:20 ESV).
If you think about it carefully, superheroes don’t do hard things, at least not often. Their story plots go to great lengths and fantastic elaborations to set up a scenario that is hard for a superhero to deal with. To have a worthwhile story with Superman as the hero requires a super villain. Otherwise, the whole point of “superpowers” is that one can do amazing things without any difficulty. Superman doesn’t display bravery when he foils an ordinary bank robbery because he can’t be hurt by such robbers. Stopping a bank robbery would be heroic if you did it because you are not bulletproof (though it might be foolish for you to try). For Superman it is safe and effortless.
Even a “superhero” like Batman is in the same category. Obviously, he doesn’t have powers on the level of Superman, but he is victorious because he has resources in terms of money, technology, knowledge and training. He made himself strong.
This footage is a bit more melodramatic than realistic (much like the Rocky Balboa workouts). Real training is usually more perfunctory. What matters is not yelling with effort but to keep showing up and following an effective program.
But the point remains that a superhero does “heroic” things by being a person who does such things with relative ease. If one was not born on Krypton and did not get superhuman power from Earth’s yellow sun, then one must become a strong, super-capable person.
In some areas, like sports and music, becoming a superior person involves training sessions. But other abilities are not so easily developed. But one thing that is essential to becoming able to do heroic things in the future is executing non-heroic things in the present—especially doing them consistently and excellently.
When King Saul asked why David believed he could fight the giant Goliath, David told him that he had fought off a lion and a bear to protect his flock as a shepherd. It is obvious from the story that David was assigned shepherding duties, not because he was regarded as great, but because he was the youngest of his brothers. Yet he put his life on the line for that job and it prepared him to be king.
When we think of doing hard things and winning big prizes, we need to not focus on the opportunities that never come that we are somehow certain would give us glory. We need to concentrate on the responsibilities that we have in our life now and not regard them as drudgery. Perhaps they are training us. "Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense" (Proverbs 12:11 ESV). "A servant who deals wisely will rule over a son who acts shamefully and will share the inheritance as one of the brothers" (Proverbs 17:2 ESV). Or, as Jesus put it: "Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much" (Matthew 25:21).