Riffing on the World’s Finest, via Seth Godin

by capelesst

Seth Godin (who you’re all following, or are at least subscribed to on a daily email basis, right?) yesterday posted about the importance of understanding your audience’s worldviews before addressing them (here), and in doing so used the imagined contrast between giving a talk to a conference full of Batman worldview types, and a conference full of Superman types. I imagine the Batman conference would be broodingly silent, save the occasional knuckle-pop or cowl-creak. The Superman conference would be more like being in a room with a dozen faulty fluorescent bulbs sputtering and blinking, as the attendees zoomed in and out at super-speed, saving kittens from trees and reporters from helicopters. Tough crowd, Kryptonians.

Anyway… I want to offer another way of looking at this pair.

Batman is a man perfected. But still a man. When Donald Rumsfeld started talking about “known unknowns“, he was unwittingly talking a lot like the Bat. He (Batman, not Donald, we’ll likely never mention Donald again) knows you can only predict so much, only cover so many angles. His response is to hone himself to humanity’s physical and mental limits, learn from the best, surround himself with talent, ally himself with comrades in conviction, and: plan for when all of that’s not enough.

What makes Batman a Superhero (instead of a white collar boxer playing dress-up and buying boys to be his friends) is his strategy, his pre-meditation, his rigorous assessment of options. He is the Caped Crusader of Contingency, the Dark Knight of Dire Outcomes. He has to be, because otherwise, he’s just a pointy-eared guy in way over his head.

The question this all raises, though, is:

What’s your plan B? (the “B” there is not for Batman.)

How often do you consider the variables of any given situation, from what you need to pack tomorrow to the future of your company? And when we say consider, I don’t mean in the idle way that I work in a comic shop and occasionally think “hmm, awful lot of cheap comics on iPads now, wonder what that really means?”. I mean like sit down and game out a dimension of your future according to what you know, what you know you don’t know, and some out-there stabs at those things you don’t even know you don’t know. How often do you do that? Often enough?

The reason for the question is that there’s another way of approaching things. Consider Superman. Superman is an alien solar super-battery juiced up on Norman Rockwell home-cooked Apple Pie Values. He feels obliged to turn his greatness to helping people, and uses his wicked-cool powers to race into hazard with minimal thought, secure in his unique giftedness and ability to plan on the fly (heh). In other words, though he is by his nature responsible (as are we all, right? sure!), he depends heavily on an established, oft-used, and negatable (Kryptonite anyone? Lead shielding?) set of abilities to see him through any eventuality. Furthermore, Superman’s potential unforeseen eventualities may originate anywhere, in any dimension of space or time. The scale of his abilities increases the range of his potentialities, he could literally have to deal with situations beyond the range of human comprehension or imagination, he’s that powerful and driven.

But this is a guy whose idea of security is to have a key (for the Fortress of Solitude) so heavy only he can lift it. Because he can’t conceive of someone stronger than him? Someone smart enough to create a device stronger in one plane of movement (that of key-lifting) than him?

Superman doesn’t have a plan B. He doesn’t need a plan B. He’s Super.

And he’s not real.

The cyclist who doesn’t check the weather forecast. The student who doesn’t do the reading. The perennial latecomer. “It’ll be fine”. “Don’t worry about it”. “You’re taking this a bit seriously“. All of this is acting Super, throwing on a cape and mask, leaping out the window.

And that’s a known known.

p.s. did you ever have the “Batman vs. Superman: Who Wins?” conversation? Here is a funny take on the answer, and here is a portal into the weird world of those who “debate” the issue.

Don’t ask me.