The Sum of Heroes

There’s that famous line from Isaac Newton about seeing further by “standing on the shoulders of giants.” It’s true, of course: Without the breakthroughs from great minds of the past, we couldn’t keep pushing the boundaries of technology, art, and knowledge.

Where Newton reminds us to be humble, however, I think it is also worth considering a corollary, something to make us bigger rather than smaller: You’re not just standing on the shoulders of giants — you are also the sum of heroes. Every person who has ever inspired you, no matter how small the spark they’ve added to your fire, has left an indelible mark on your soul — and over time, those marks add up.

I am not just Nik. I am Harry Potter. I am Pippi Longstocking. I am Tim Ferriss, Superman, and my incredibly cool neighbor back from when I was 7. I am Walter Isaacson, Liz Gilbert, and every author whose book I’ve ever read. I am my friend Brian, who overcame drug addiction. I am my friend Vici, who learned to be alone. I am the sum of all their little puzzle pieces and a million more — just like you are.

Your particles are different, but the result is the same: You are a hero with a thousand invisible supporters, and you have just as much potential to become one of the giants on whose shoulders the next generation will stand on as anyone of them had when they set out on their greatest quest.

Remember your heroes, but most of all, remember you are one too.