How to Be Like Batman PART#2: Develop an IRON WILL

Persistence and Determination alone are omnipotent
-Calvin Coolidge, 30th President of the United States

An Iron Will Fist of Iron

To be like Batman takes an Iron Will.

It takes hard work, determination, persistence, an attitude of never giving up.

A habit of doing things that are uncomfortable, a habit of doing what we dislike doing but know is good for us.

It is one of the fundamental qualities of Batman that is rarely understood.

Possessing an Iron-Will can come across as being arrogant, conceited, self-important, dogmatic, inflexible, stubborn, and other qualities that may seem at first to be a negative trait.

But the perception of that negative trait is in the eye of the beholder, not in the mind of the person who is being judged.

To the one who possesses  an Iron-Will, it is a great asset, an Iron-Will can move mountains, move nations, inspire people to better themselves, an Iron-Will can mean a person of character who is unwilling to let fate or any external force choose their thoughts, attitude or actions for them, a person who is unmoved by the threat of imprisonment or execution who stays the course for a greater good.

An Iron-Will is not to be confused with those who would seek to dominate and hold power over others.  While a dictator or despot may have an Iron-Will, a true man (or woman) of courage and virtue is a master over their own mind and habits.  They have zero interest in dominating or controlling others.  Truly, those who dominate others are cowards who live in constant fear of losing their illusory power, if even one individual rises up against them, their illusion of power is shattered, or at least questioned.

Developing an Iron-Will does not mean putting on a symbolic suit of armor, and shutting ourself off from our emotions or other people, it means that we acknowledge and respect the needs of others, but do not compromise our core values just to fit in or conform with popular opinion.

Exercising will power at first is hard, especially as we modern people have grown terribly soft and lazy, having never faced the crucible that the generations who lived through World War II did.  Tough times make for tough and resilient people.  In contrast the more luxurious and comfortable a society becomes, the more it breeds people accustomed to soft living.

We live in an era were if we want to be challenged, to build strength of character, we must choose our own challenges rather than wait for the world to provide them for us.  A life where we never challenge ourselves is really no life at all. The man who strives to better himself and his circumstances enjoys greater joys than the man who has everything handed to him on a plate without ever lifting a finger.

Batman Legends of the Dark Knight 19 Cover Batman vs Shark

When it comes to mental training, there is only one method.  Believe in yourself 100%

-Vince Gironda

The Batman didn’t get to be who he is through self-doubt and neurosis, he believes in what he does 100%, there is no space in his mind for any erroneous thoughts to enter.  He may have been born into a life of privilege and soft living but he chooses to forge his Iron-Will through struggle, difficulty and his relentless pursuit of personal excellence and adaptive learning in any task he applies himself to.

Batman chooses the road less traveled, he embraces obstacles and lives a life of hardship by choice, he would not be who he is without his obstacles and flaws, Batman uses his obstacles as a path to self-knowledge and constantly challenges his skills and abilities, using each opportunity (or crisis) to adapt, improvise and overcome.

The more we exercise our will power, the more natural it becomes to be in command of our own senses, our own minds and bodies, and the circumstances of our lives.  It takes discipline to get up early and train or be willing to do what most people will not do.

But once begun the momentum of self-discipline pays rich dividends.  After a time it is no longer discipline, but a joy to be living a conscious life of creation, rather than a life of constant animal-like unconscious reaction to everything that vies for our attention on any given day.

A life of blindly following the herd to mediocrity and mental death from lack of exercising our own will, our own decision making abilities. The more we exercise our ability to make decisions and exercise our will power, the more we grow as individuals and stop being second-hand citizens who complain and gripe about everything in life, but are unwilling to lift a finger to help ourselves.

Batman flames Jim Lee pin up

“The development and discipline of one’s will-power is of supreme importance in relation to one’s overall success in life. No man can ever underestimate the power of an iron will. It is a part of our human nature, and the quality of our very existence depends upon it.”
– Orison Marden

Forging an Iron-Will is a lesson we all could learn from Batman, and an essential quality on the road to being a hero or superhero.  Batman’s will is so strong it could almost be considered a super power. Where lesser men would fall or give up, he pushes through pain, fatigue, and injuries. He pushes through or around every obstacle that comes his way.

No matter how severe the situation, no matter how impossible the task, Batman never admits the idea of failure into his mind. His will power is supreme.

That is the critical difference that some say defines Batman from his contemporaries.  Few other characters in the DC Universe possess his mental resolve – perhaps DeathStroke The Terminator would be next in line, followed by Superman and Lex Luthor.  Batman’s mental training, never say die attitude, his ability to never give up, are not abilities has was born with, but what he chose to develop through progressive incremental training.

His never-give-up attitude should not be misunderstood as never knowing when to walk away.  Batman knows how and when to withdraw and come up with new plans and strategies when he is in over his head.  The Batman knows his limitations, he knows when to push beyond those limits, and when to walk away to live to fight crime another day.

In the comic books Batman is regularly beaten to near death, captured, tortured, or trapped in dangerous situations that should result in death. However many times this happens, he is never truly beaten, because even if he is beaten physically, he comes back after training and preparing himself to best his opponent.  His worst defeats he uses as further victories, further opportunities to iron out his weaknesses and improve his mental resolve.

His true super powers are his Iron Will, Discipline, Preparation and Planning, Determination, Persistence, a refusal to quit, a refusal to die, a refusal to give up or abandon his cause.  A man may reach great heights of achievement, but he will never succeed beyond the cause he devotes himself to.  Batman’s personal mission, his calling in life is his never ending War on Crime and his commitment is total.

One of the secrets of a successful life is to be able to hold all of our energies upon one point, to focus all of the power of our mind upon one single place or thing

-Orison Marden

Of all the JLA, or the other DC super heroes, his will is supreme. Batman can beat the JLA, or any of his infinitely more powerful peers not because he wants to, but because he can. He develops numerous strategic plans.  He methodically studies his potential foes weaknesses. When Batman is taken by surprise he improvises, but eventually one way or another, Batman wins.

Some people are critical of this version of Batman, as some sort of unbeatable “Bat-God” as he has been dubbed in online fan communities.

But to call him “Bat-God” is to miss the point.

Batman is not unbeatable.

He gets beaten physically and mentally regularly in the monthly comics, he uses those defeats to grow beyond his previous limitations, he uses obstacles as fuel for greatness.  It is fair to say that Batman is a little different in his own stories, versus stories where he is with the JLA or wider DCU community in a large company wide crossover.  Different elements of the character are played upon depending upon the context of the story.  Critics may say that Batman is inconsistent, fans say he adapts to the environment, he is as versatile as Deathstroke or Wolverine, with Batman we never know exactly what he will do, even after countless adventures.

Batman sketch

The Batman’s character has not varied that much over the decades.  He has gone through superficial changes, but at his core Batman remains the same character.  The science fiction stories and imaginary stories era of DC is probably Batman at his worst.  But even those stories contribute to the mythos, and unpopular as they are, they are party of the Caped Crusaders history.

Spectacular stories of Batman teaming up with Superman, the JLA or other DC heroes and villains have been staples of the DC Universe since the 1950s.  Whether Batman is in Gotham City, on the dark side of the moon or in a haunted mansion, it is all fair game.  Batman has been a detective hero, science fiction hero, traditional superhero and more.

Batman fits comfortably in science fiction, film noir, hard boiled crime stories, gothic horror, or universe hopping tales on alternate worlds.  Each fan has their personal favourite version of Batman, but to say there is only version of Batman that is the true Batman, or that any of the other versions are wrong or less worthy is to live in denial of the characters history.

Batman is bigger than any one medium, he exists as a multidimensional fictional entity that can be expressed in a multitude of ways in parallel, each as valid and useful as the other, and all contribute to the greater whole, the gestalt of the imaginative ideas that represent Batman.

The camp Batman of Adam West or the Brave and the Bold cartoon with Diedrich Bader is just as important and significant as Frank Miller’s cynical laughing maniac Dark Knight Returns Batman or Denny O Neil’s even minded slick ladykiller James Bond Batman.  Every version of Batman contributes something to the whole.

An important lesson we can all learn from Batman is that he never gives up, and his Iron-Will allows him to be that person who never gives up.  We as individuals can face all the difficulties in life that the world seemingly thrusts upon us.  We can be starved, beaten and tortured, but we always have the ability to choose our attitude to life.  We can literally go through hell on earth, and we can not only survive but thrive.  No force in the universe can choose our attitude to life for us, only we can do that.

Our bodies may break, but our minds are free, we can only be beaten when we allow ourselves to give up all hope in life.

Batman is a master of not giving up.  While he is a dark brooding character, he is also the eternal optimist. Batman sees the worst in people, and plans for things to go wrong.  But he still ultimately believes that Gotham City and its citizens are worth saving, or he would not go out night after night to fight crime.

If someone inflicted the life of Batman on an unwilling individual, it might seem like a cruel unending torture.  To be Batman means a life of constant struggle, like the Greek legend of Sisyphus who was condemned to push a giant boulder up a hill over and over.  Each time he completed his task the boulder would roll back down to the bottom of the hill, thus making his efforts pointless, this was his unending punishment.

“He was punished for chronic deceitfulness by being compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this action forever.” – Wikipedia

Punishment_sisyphus222
Like Sisyphus, Batman endlesly performs an impossible task

Batman performs an endless task, when he is dead and gone there will still be crime.  His actions in the context of Sisyphus and his boulder are futile, one could say pointless.  Batman knows this and he still takes action, he is totally committed to a goal that is impossible, unlike Sisyphus Batman chose his own affliction.  At least poor Sisyphus got a good workout every day pushing that damn boulder.

Batman performs his duties in the mode of service to humanity, it is his calling in life to be Batman, and to inspire others to join him in his campaign.  It takes discipline, courage and intense focus to get up every day and train and keep your body in condition to be Batman.

It takes effort and willpower to stay the course, not to quit too early, to study many disciplines over many years.  To increase ones knowledge and skills, in ever deepening circles of influence.  Resolve and determination are essential, as is the ability to do one thing, to focus on a single task thus not dissipating ones energy.

A wise man will be the master of his mind. A fool will be it’s slave.

-Publilius Syrus

Batman is a master of his mind, and not a slave. His mental abilities dwarf his physical abilities, however advanced they may be. He is a master of logic, deduction, and reasoning in the classical Greek style. He is a master of meditation, martial arts, criminology, escape artistry, a master swordsman and more.

All of these disciplines take time to study.  They take incredible focus and determination to see the field of study through to the end, to stay the course over weeks, months and years.  Batman never rests on his laurels.

He innovates and improvises his own techniques and methodology in addition to what he has learned from others, improving upon what he has learned and embodied.  Like Tony Robbins, Batman makes constant infinite incremental improvements to whatever he applies himself to.

Many people never attempt anything worthwhile in their lives, or give up without ever really attempting to do anything worthwhile.  The Batman is the man who does not attempt to do everything at once, but can focus on a single goal or task in the present moment.  He pursues his given task with relentless laser-like mental focus and determination, he never wavers from his task.

Like Sherlock Holmes, once Batman has the scent of a clue, his mind never rests until he has his resolution, or breakthrough moment.

Batman has acquired his skills slowly over many years.  His studies lead him to mastery, and to subtle progression and further distinctions as he grows more advanced in his fields of expertise, learning from those who are smarter and more wise than he is.  The Batman has conditioned his mind/body/brain/muscles/nervous system so well that many of his abilities are automatic, reflexive and instinctual.

An essential element to Batman’s character is that he does not panic, no matter how extreme the situation. Astronauts at NASA are trained over and over again not to panic, but to perform whatever task is necessary, no matter the external conditions.

batman silhouette (2)edited

The potential astronauts accomplish this by rehearsing every aspect of their mission over and over, down to the most minute details, they desensitise themselves to panic and fear through repetition and simulated extreme situations and as realistic as possible role plays.

The Batman has applied the same basic principles as those potential astronauts.  He has conditioned himself to become a master of his internal states. He has experienced states of panic and extreme fear under controlled conditions, learned all he can from those states, and how to overcome them.  Of all the things the Batman can do that we can also do in the real world, this is perhaps the most useful skill set to train.

However few people ever bother to try.  Being a master of your internal states and your body does not seem exciting or sexy enough for most people to bother with.  Yet it is a skill that can be used in any arena of life, and many people are addicted to their own self-created dramas, having no interest in maturing as adults.

We don’t need to be masters of the martial arts or mountain top sitting gurus to benefit from mental training.  How grateful are we when a police officer, doctor or paramedic attends to our loved ones in the most extreme situations possible with total calm and reassurance?  How effective would those professionals be in their jobs if they gave in to panic and anxiety at every opportunity?

The man of will understands that it is not the amount of work that can be accomplished at a fever-pitch, stretched in all directions, but it is persistence of focus that keeps us at our best. It is the long, steady pull, the unconquerable purpose, the unbroken effort, that wins the battle of life.

-Orison Marden

Being a master of your own internal subjective state, be it emotion, feeling or bodily sensation does not mean being cut off from or ignoring our emotions, our humanity. It means fully experiencing all states and emotions including fear, but not being controlled by fear, or any other extreme state and allowing it to overwhelm us.

In an emergency situation such as a fire, or scene of an automobile accident, giving in to panic, fear, worry or anything that takes out of the present moment can mean death. Only by staying in the present moment, dealing with what is right in front of us, can we have any control over the external situation or our internal states. Only by breaking things down to little steps, focusing on one task at a time in the present moment can our actions have any potency.

When we are lost in thoughts of any moment other than this one, our actions are ineffective.  In true crisis situations, our ability to remain calm rather than panic, our ability to stay in the present moment, rather than not be present and choose worrying thoughts over presence can literally be the difference between life and death.

Rather than the mistaken impression of a feel good new age philosophy, the power of “now” is a requirement for conscious living.  An experiential process that means paying attention to ones own behavior, habits, attitude, actions, and reactions, rather than blindly stumbling through life thinking only of an imaginary conceptualised past or future, which exist only in our mind.

Worry and panic are luxuries we can no longer afford to indulge in if we wish to be the captain of our own ship. Our bodies do what we tell them to do, our physiological states follow our intentions, thoughts and emotions.

Batman Legends of the Dark Knight 20 Drowning

If Batman is thrown into a river in straight jacket and panics he will almost certainly drown.  If he is worrying about what the neighbors think of him or the football score, he is as good as dead.  Only by choosing to be a master of his own mind can he concentrate on the immediate task at hand, narrowing his perception to his most immediate task. Only by breaking things down to small, manageable steps can he allow himself to escape one death trap or impossible scenario after another.

Escaping from a pair of ordinary handcuffs would take no conscious thought or real effort for Batman as he has done it successfully so many times, whether on land or underwater in complete darkness.  He has practiced his skills and abilities endlessly.  Once he has escaped those handcuffs, let us say he is still underwater and relatively blind, his fight or flight response will be active whether he wants it to be or not.

Some states, like the fight or flight response are activated automatically in response to real dangers and threats. However, all too often we activate our fight or flight response not to any actual real danger, but to a perceived danger such as an argument with a workmate or at home with a family member.  Once the fight of flight response is activate, we temporarily lose some of our fine motor skills, while our overall strength goes up.

So after our body enters a state of hyper-alertness, it is a really bad time to try and sit down and write a letter or an essay, our thoughts will be erratic, our hand trembling perhaps too much to write anything legible.  But it is a good time to throw a punch, throw a spear, swing a club, fight or run away.  The alternative is freezing like a deer in headlights and doing nothing.

This freezing and immobility can be overcome through training, the Batman does not freeze up when confronted with life threatening danger, he leaps in to action, having put himself through hundreds of dangerous scenarios, some of his own design, some at the hands of his enemies.  Actual combat  and danger is like a respite from Batman’s psychologically demanding routine.

The athlete trains for his race; and the mind also must be in constant training if one is to win the race of life. “It is,”‘ says Professor Mathews, “only by continued, strenuous efforts, repeated again and again, day after day, week after week, and month after month, that the ability can be acquired to focus the mind to one subject, however abstract, to the exclusion of everything else.

-Orison Marden

Batman the dark knight returns animated vs mutant leader crowbar

What is defeat?  Nothing but education.  Nothing but the first steps to something better.

-Wendell Phillips

Batman the dark knight returns animated_1_600x338

Through repeated conditioning, the Batman takes advantage of Neuroplasticity.  He creates himself as the being he wishes himself to be, repeated conditioning sets up new neural networks in his brain with the only real limitation being aging and injuries.  But what does this mean?

It means that for Batman, many of his skills and abilities are relatively easy to perform, his neural-shortcuts allow him to do far more in less time, to be more efficient and use less total energy to accomplish the same task than someone who has not learned his unique skill set.

Old world science speaks of limitations.  Modern neuroscience has not so much thrown open the rusty door on these old beliefs – as busted the door clear off the hinges – creating a permanent opening to new ideas that empower people, reminding them they are who they choose to be.  Their environment may have shaped them, but they can train their minds to think new thoughts, their bodies to feel new feelings and associations, building new neural networks and re-inventing themselves daily.

Many people do not due to the false and limiting beliefs that we can not change, that we have some invisible barrier holding us back in life.  In a sense we do, that barrier is our own attitude.  Our attitude conditions our thought patterns, repeated thoughts become beliefs, repeated beliefs become character traits.  Then we say that we can not change or do anything different.  But where did this pattern start?  With our attitude, with out choice to how we perceive our lives and react to the world.

The Batman makes new choices and is not held back by yesterdays thoughts and beliefs.  Those neural networks don’t just “happen”, they are created through repetition.  So Batman trains himself relentlessly not just in his existing skills, but acquires new skills, new learning all the time, constantly challenging himself, growing more skilled and growing smarter daily.

If we want to be like Batman it means not accepting yesterdays reality, but creating each day anew, putting aside self-imposed limitations, which are after all only perceptions, or our attitude to life, they have no objective existence whatsoever.

The process of obtaining this level of self-mastery — this complete command of one’s mental powers — is a gradual one, its length varies depending upon the mental constitution of each person; but its acquisition is worth infinitely more than the cost of it’s labor.

– Orison Marden

Batman Zero Year Cover Cowl Greg Capullo_566x600

To be Batman, or like Batman means total dedication to being the best version of yourself you can be.  It means saying yes to life and yes to challenges and hardship.  It means taking action, rather than making excuses.  If you are going to make excuses, make them for why you have to do something important that truly matters to you, rather than put off what you most value in life.  Second hand citizens are dis-empowered because they allow themselves to be.  No man nor god can choose our attitude in life for us.

Nobody but us is ultimately responsible for the direction of our lives.   We may not know where we are going or where we will end up.  But the steering wheel on that ship is in our hands, we can at least pick a direction and plot a course, and hope for the best.  And when trouble comes looking for us, we can stand proud and laugh in its face, for we all have the Iron-Will of Batman within us if we choose it.

Struggle only makes us stronger.  Batman welcomes adversity, it keeps him sharp, it keeps him on his toes, it keeps him at his best.

“No one ever won success without great will-power to eternally hold himself to his goal, even in the face of great difficulties and obstacles. Even if you possess great abilities, without will-power, they are of little use, for they are not forced to leave their mark. They are never fully developed into the great gift that they were meant to be.  For the person of only medium talents, but who possesses a great strength of will, can, by remaining focused on this one thing, win great success.”

– Henry Ward Beecher

READ MORE ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES:

HOW TO BE LIKE BATMAN PART#1: Mental Training and Physical Conditioning

How to Be Like BATMAN PART#3: CORE VALUES

HOW TO BE LIKE BATMAN PART#4: Build Self Confidence Brick by Brick

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