Professor Batman

Even before The Dark Knight Rises is released, a lot can be learned from Bruce Wayne.  Christopher Nolan’s adaptation of Batman and his self-imposed battle with the forces of evil is more than entertainment.  After all, could anyone argue that Bruce Wayne is not the greatest example of a successful man?

Once you take away the awesome gadgets, the state-of-the-art superhero body-armor, and the adoring community who benefits from Batman’s vigilante nightlife, you have a man. Plain and simple. Unlike most superheroes of the comic world, Batman possesses no super-human powers other than his own strength and cunning. He is a successful hero because he maximizes and focuses on his internal qualities.

Is Bruce Wayne simply a myth? Or is he a character who can inspire each of us to define our purpose in life, our personal measure of success.

Our entire lives we are taught to achieve success. In school, we aim for good grades, excellence in sports and community service, a well-rounded resume of accomplishments. But is this really what success is about? I’ve heard a number of definitions of success, often presented from the negative: “Well, I can tell you success is not just about having a lot of money” or “Success is not about how many toys you have.”  These definitions are only slightly better than the, however well-intended, utterly meaningless, “Success is doing what makes you happy.”

The flaw of these definitions is their vagueness. What happens to your definition of success when you’ve lost your job due to the recessive state of the economy? Thank goodness you believe success isn’t about money, because chances are good you won’t have any in the foreseeable future. Happiness is a roller coaster in itself, hardly dependable as an emotion much less a standard.  Are we to believe Bruce Wayne is happy that he has to be Batman? No, most certainly not.

My fascination with Bruce Wayne and his alter ego brought me to a realization in my own life.

Having served in the U.S. Air Force as a helicopter pilot, I became familiar with the radio call.  In fact, anyone interested in aviation would acknowledge that a very important part of flying is the 4-part radio call.  I would go farther than most and argue that conceptually, radio calls are the true measure of a pilot’s skills.  Furthermore, the process beginning with preparing the radio call and ending with transmitting it over the airwaves is the determining factor of the flight’s success or failure.  You see, the first part is the answer to the question “Who am I talking to?”  The second part is the answer to, “Who am I?”  The third part answers the question “Where am I?”  By now, the savvy pilot or radio operator listening to the radio call can begin to visualize the next part.  Fourth, and finally, you close the transmission stating your intentions; in other words, answering “What do I want to do next?”  In our example Blue 96 is coordinating his final landing with the control tower, which might sound like: “Tower, Blue 96, On Final, Full Stop Landing.”

The first three parts of the radio call are very important. However, most important for the pilot—who is constantly moving forward at an accelerated rate towards an eventual end—is the last piece.  If a pilot doesn’t know what he wants to do next, he clearly isn’t going to be as successful as one who does.

Let us now turn back to the epitome of success, Bruce Wayne, a.k.a. Batman. To begin, this man of few words uses them wisely.  Whether he is talking to citizens of Gotham during the day as Bruce Wayne the businessman or whether he is talking to thugs or policemen, as Batman the vigilante, he demonstrably knows his audience.  He illustrates flawlessly that it is no coincidence a pilot’s radio call opens with verbalizing the object of your comments. This is because your personal identification—the second part of our radio call—is dependent on your audience.  Recognizing this fact is vital to being a success. To our priests, we are wretched sinners; to our children, we are parents; to our wives, we are husbands; to our pizza delivery guys, we are customers.  And we hold these roles all at the same time.

Next Bruce Wayne, particularly when in his role as Batman, always knows where he is.  Batman comes out on top of every situation precisely because he is more familiar with his surroundings than his opponents. Why? Because he prepares.  His manipulation of time and space are an example to us all.

But most importantly, Bruce Wayne always knows what he wants to do next.  In fact, his life is dedicated to the future.  Batman is a creation of Bruce Wayne’s foresight.  Without a goal, a desired future, Batman does not even make sense.

And when his goal is achieved Bruce Wayne will let Batman fade into the background, ready to re-appear only as a last straw.  Bruce Wayne, however, will always be present, building a better future.

Growing up in America, more of us than not, have heard about the importance of the future our entire lives.  “If you can dream it, you can be it.”  “Opportunity comes to those who seek it.”  “You make your own luck.”  And my favorite of these proverbs, “What is possible is done; what is impossible will be done” captures in its most eloquent form, the idea that ‘possible’ is past-tense, whereas those notions that we find ‘impossible’ are the very ideas that we should strive to achieve.

When we take the pilot’s four-part radio-call, add the undeniable and now logical success of Bruce Wayne, and mix in a little time-tested colloquial wisdom, something spectacular happens.  It is as if we stumble upon a new law of physics.  We realize the inescapable truth:  WE. SEE. THE. FUTURE.

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