When I was little, my grandfather knew I loved hearing Batman stories, so he'd always tell me this one story that went like this: "Batman and Robin were in the Batmobile. And they were riding along the edge of a curving cliff. And up ahead of them was a white van, which held the Joker, the Penguin, the Riddler, and Catwoman. And as they drove along this cliff, Batman and Robin caught them."
That's when I'd look him right in the eyes and whisper, "Tell it again."
He'd smile at me and say, "Batman and Robin were in the Batmobile. And they were riding along the edge of a curving cliff…"
And when it was done, I'd say, "Tell it again."
And he would.
It was the same story every time. Just four sentences long. Batman and Robin were in the Batmobile… But he told me this story over and over simply because he knew I loved hearing it.
That's a hero to me.
In that action, he taught me about love and compassion and dedication. He taught me the power of creativity. He opened the first window of my imagination. And most of all, as I looked back on it, he showed me the true impact of a well-told story.
That's what I wanted for my son.
From there, I started looking for more heroes. I wanted to hear their stories -- the ones no one knew. It made sense to me -- especially since, as a parent, the only lesson we ever teach is the one that comes from example.
One of the first stories I heard was about the Wright Brothers. A friend told me that every day Orville and Wilbur Wright went out to fly their plane, they would bring enough materials for multiple crashes. That way, when they crashed, they could rebuild the plane and try again. Think about it a moment: every time they went out -- every time -- they knew they were going to fail. But that's what they did: Crash and rebuild. Crash and rebuild. And that's why they finally took off.
I loved that story. I still love that story. And that's the kind of story I wanted my son to hear: a story that wouldn't lecture to him, but would show him that if he was determined…if he wasn't afraid to fail…if he had persistence (and a side order of stubbornness), the impossible becomes possible.
Since that time, I've been collecting heroes and their stories for my son (though of course, every hero in here is heroic for both boys and girls alike. Every single one.). There are thousands of heroes. And I think that's what I like best. There is proof -- absolute proof -- everywhere. Look around at any life and you'll find examples of charity and honesty, leadership and humility, tenacity and dignity. These are the tools I want my sons to have. Indeed, as this book got started, it became even more important as my younger son, Theo, was born. I want these tools for Theo too.
Does that mean every hero in the world is in here? Of course not. I purposely left out most religious leaders so there'd be no battling among faiths.