For as long as I can remember, my favorite superhero has been The Incredible Hulk.
I guess any control freak would have a repressed desire for ‘hulking out’. But more significantly, I’m captivated by his special kind of invulnerability: the more punishment he takes, the angrier he gets. And the angrier he gets, the stronger he gets. Nothing really hurts him, every kind of adversity is a temporary inconvenience until he gets powered up enough to… totally hulk out.
So if you get in the Hulk’s way, it doesn’t really matter how strong you are. You can beat him down, which will piss him off and make him stronger. Then he’ll get back up, and you’ll have to do it again. And again, until eventually he gets up and smacks you around. So he always wins, right? Like, he really can’t lose, because he doesn’t have an Achilles’ heel the way Superman (or, well, Achilles) does. Say you trap him in a force field or under a glacier: now he’s helpless, which will really piss him off. And eventually he’ll flip out and explode the glacier all over the place. So he always wins, right?
No, he doesn’t. You don’t have to know a lot about comic books to realize that the Marvel universe does not revolve around the Hulk. In fact, only rarely do ‘invulnerable’ type superheroes (e.g. Colossus or the Juggernaut) have a huge impact on what’s going on. Why? Because even though their powers mean that they can never really lose, that doesn’t mean that they always win (something that my adolescent self failed to realize). And this explains why comic book writers get away with handing out something that at first glance seems rather imbalanced, even in the realm of superpowers. Sure, if the invulnerable hero is content to merely exist within himself there’s nothing anyone can do about it. But as soon as he wants to exert his influence on the world (and what hero doesn’t?) he might find that his powers fall short. He’s invincible, but other heroes are more effective.
What lessons can we learn from the limitations of invulnerable superheroes? The most obvious is: No matter how much you persevere, you might not get results if you’re not doing things the right way. An extension of this, which we may recognize in slightly different real-life scenarios, would be: When something isn’t going your way, doing whatever you are already doing harder may not get you anywhere. Finally, on occasion we may need to offer the following to someone who seems invulnerable: It is possible to make no mistakes, and still lose.
This series is about the influence, small or large, that you have over the world. Part 2 talks about whether you need additional resources to reach your goals, or just greater clarity.