My name is Adnan Khera, and I recently became a superhero by following this template:
1. Identify a superpower
Over the past several years, I have had an enormous affinity for dancing. When I danced, I became a different person. I transcended myself, and everyone around me could see it. I would create unique situations and could energize the people around me. This electricity truly was a superpower. I was asked, "Why can't you always be that person you are when you're dancing?" I replied, "Because I'm just a person." Perhaps, this was not the case when I danced.
2. Choose ideals to represent
What was important to me? Selflessness, individuality, universality and inspiration. These were the values I wished to represent with my superhero. Unlike his fictional counterparts, he would have to derive his powers from the people he inspired rather than some farfetched sci-fi premise. A superhero, yes. But only because he would ultimately instill hope in mankind. What else is there to a superhero really?
3. Create a symbol
I had yet another power in my arsenal. This was my ability to costume. My strength was not in the craftsmanship of my apparel, but the combination of context, audacity and design. I shrugged off self-consciousness to create a barrage of handcrafted costumes for which I spent little money but sacrificed much vanity. I had shaved my head, painted my body and been a noticeable figure in places where different was the norm. To become a superhero, I created yet another costume: I dressed as a doctor. An outfit associated with relative wealth and prestige juxtaposed with street performance and Sharpie-emblazoned cardboard signs. A powerful image by all measures.
4. Become that symbol
"People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy and I can't do that as [myself]. As a man, I'm flesh and blood, I can be ignored, I can be destroyed; but as a symbol... as a symbol I can be incorruptible, I can be everlasting."
I am Adnan. I am a person -- with all the frailty of my sinew. To inspire, I had to become more. I had to become a purified image of hope. I became a symbol in which people could believe, a symbol which would outlast me.
5. Pick a name
Every superhero needs a name. A name that is clear, concise and unique. While I focused on the symbol, my name had already been assigned to me. One of my ER patients from years ago had recognized me in Baltimore as the guy who danced down the street on my way to work. She exclaimed "Oh, I know you! You that doctor be jammin'!" On my first day out, I was a nameless enitity with only a blank white coat and a hashtag describing my actions -- #DoctorBeDancing. Soon, I would evolve into my title as the symbol grew larger than the man.
Becoming #DoctorBeDancing was not easy. I was taxed enormously. My body hurt. The Doctor could dance because it was Adnan's body that would later be sore. My mental energy was spent focusing on strengthening my symbol and maintaining univeral appeal. I could hardly think of anything else. I had cut back on running and social dancing to allow room for the superhero to manifest itself in my life. Sacrifices were certainly made, but the rewards were without compare. The Doctor empowered the people, but the people invigorated Adnan, and so I could press on through the doubts.
7. Let your actions speak
As a symbol, I could lead by example. The man became blurred by the image. I didn't need to speak to communicate, because my actions spoke louder than my words would. In fact, the words I said hardly mattered at all. The image alone carried the project. At times, this bothered me because the interpretation of the living portrait I had painted was oversimplified. I had to remind myself that art was a projection of the observer's imagination. As long as the superhero inspired, the mission was accomplished.
8. Face adversity
Not everyone understood my purpose. On occasion, I faced off against those that would seek to undermine my goal. I faced difficulty in the form of burglars, other buskers, the occasional passerby and even police. I bent to their wills at first, but I knew that I represented a force greater than myself. With time, I learned to defend myself. The costume was a suit of armor reinforced by the people's will. I was safe even under fire which gave me the courage to strike back when necessary.
9. Demonstrate influence
The final step in becoming a superhero was to have every aspect that represents the hero be synonymous with the values I represented. When the people saw my visage, see the motif of my costume, see my hashtag or hear the name, I wanted them to think back to the values I had set forth: selflessness, individuality, universality and inspiration. Eventually, the people began to understand the values even in the absence of a physical manifestation simply because they knew that it's always out there -- and that those ideals are within themselves too. With that, I became more than human. I was an idea. A superhero.