When I was 10 years old, I had a secret.
A secret that I never dared to share with my closest friends, my parents, or anyone in my life.
My secret was that I would someday grow up to be Superman.
Seriously, that was the truth… or so I believed at 10 years old.
Earlier that year, I had watched the 1980 movie Superman The Movie, starring Christopher Reeve, where I had seen a young boy fall to earth, bestowed with secret powers.
He was teased and ridiculed by the other kids, because he was quiet and shy, but unbeknownst to them all, he was going to grow up to change the world.
When I first watched the movie, I remember thinking, “I am that kid. I get teased by the other kids, I’m quiet and shy, I must have secret powers that will one day make me fly.”
The reason all the kids teased me, was because I was a ‘flapper’.
You see, when I was young, I had this weird habit: instead of verbalizing my thoughts and feelings, I would flail my arms about, and gesture wildly. This was my way of expressing myself, because I couldn’t bring myself to use my voice.
All my friends called me ‘the flapper’ and would laugh hysterically, and tease me whenever I would get excited and start waving my arms about.
I figured the reason I flapped my arms was because one day I would fly like Superman.
But in the meantime, I was just a quiet weird kid in the 5th grade, who couldn’t string two sentences together.
That was when I met Mr Clifton. He was my 5th grade teacher, a rebellious type of guy, with a cool car, a leather jacket, and a twinkle in his eye.
From the day I met him, Mr Clifton had different plans for me.
Everyday during class, he would ask me to visit the classrooms of other teachers to run errands. Usually they were small things like asking to borrow some chalk, or giving them a note. But each day he would ask me to do the same thing. I’d have to go to the classroom, knock on the door, speak to the teacher, and then report back to him what they said to me.
After a few weeks of this, I complained to my Mother when I got home one day. She called the school and asked Mr Clifton why he was getting me to leave class each day to go around as an errand boy.
Mr Clifton told my mother: “Your son has a lot of potential, but he cannot use his voice. His shyness is holding him back. Every time I get him to talk to teachers and students he grows a little stronger, and his powers increase.”
That was 28 years ago, and I believe the reason I am who I am today is because Mr Clifton saw that I had Secret Powers. He pushed me to use my voice to speak and share with others.
I never did learn to leap tall buildings, but my flapping eventually was replaced by the ability to express myself.
As I grew into an adult, I became a speaker and trainer helping others communicate better. I learned to use words and feelings to build other people up, and to encourage them to find their power.
I believe that each of us, just like Superman, has secret powers that we know we can develop. They may be things that initially start as weaknesses, or are embarrassing for us somehow. Yet if we have the courage to keep improving, to keep focusing on our unique talents, they can turn into strengths.
The problem is, we live our lives like Clark Kent. We hide who we truly are from the world, so we seem like everyone else and we fit in .
Clark Kent was the costume that Superman wore so that the world wouldn’t discover his Secret Powers. My Clark Kent costume was shyness.
What is your Clark Kent costume?
I meet people everyday wearing costumes, pretending to be shy, lazy, ignorant, or cowardly. In reality they are confident, powerful, intelligent and brave. Their costumes keep them safe, but the truth is they all have a Superman inside.
Sometimes it takes another person to help us take off our costume and to start to reveal our Secret Powers to the world. And sometimes we can do it ourselves.
No matter what age you are, no matter how far behind you feel like you are, you have powers that you can use to make an impact in the world.
All you need to do is believe in your Secret Powers, and you will learn to fly.