Two Steps to Become a Hero

Taught by an Incredibly Handsome Criminal Genius and Master of all Villainy

Ben Conlin
6 min readMar 29, 2022
Photo by Yasin Yusuf on Unsplash

Here’s my day so far; went to jail, lost the girl of my dreams, and got my butt kicked pretty good. Still, things could be a lot worse. Oh, that’s right. I’m falling to my death. Guess they can’t.

— Megamind

In 1971, psychology professor Philip Zimbardo conducted an experiment known as the Stanford Prison Experiment. 24 college students were chosen to participate in this two week study, simulating a prison environment. Split into prisoners and guards, the students were put into the prison and observed from afar, with no outside intervention or instruction.

Although both groups were entirely composed of ordinary, everyday students, things quickly grew out of hand. The prisoners and the guards both took on their roles to the extreme, with the prisoners staging riots and the guards employing psychological torture on the prisoners.

After six days the situation had gone too far out of control, and the experiment was terminated.

The implications of this experiment were long lasting, and frightening.

How does the role we are given shape who we become?

Megamind was and is still one of my favorite movies. The combination of Will Ferrel and Tina Fey throughout the movie is iconic, and then adding Jonah Hill and Brad Pitt to those two makes a group that can’t be beat. The witty comebacks, and hilarious commentary instantly drew me in. But it was more than that piece that connected me with the movie. There was something deeper that makes me love it even more.

Megamind is supposed to be a villain.

He is told by others, repeatedly, throughout the movie, “You’re a villain! And you’ll always be a villain. You’ll never change.”

It is his identity.

“I was destined to be a supervillain.”

“I’m the villain! You’re the good guy! I do something bad, and you come and get me.”

“Megamind, incredibly handsome criminal genius and master of all villainy!”

“I’m the bad guy. I don’t save the day.”

“I’ll always be a villain.”

As the film progresses, however, we see him begin to stray from this mindset, to learn that he is in control.

Minion: I may not know much, but I do know this. The bad guy doesn’t get the girl.

Megamind: Maybe I don’t want to be the bad guy anymore!

So what changes?

On an evolutionary scale, we learn to act a certain way to survive. One reason why humans excelled at living was our ability to adapt, to learn and grow. We could out-survive all other species because we were best able to change to meet the needs of the situation.

With a modern lens however, this survival tactic becomes more complicated. When we are thrust into a situation, we adapt and we survive. We play the role that gives us the best chances at success. People use different personalities, different versions of themselves, depending on the situation. I act very differently at a party or out with friends than I do at a job interview. Is this a conscious change that we control, or does it control us?

On the other side of the coin to Megamind is Metro Man. As a self-proclaimed super hero, he protects the city and stands for justice. He was endowed with the characteristics typical of a hero, “the power of flight, invulnerability, and great hair!”

(As a side note, both of these characters lean heavily into the stereotypes of a villain and a hero, not only in their powers, but also in appearance, choices, and thoughts. In the first scene we see baby Megamind in an old and broken spaceship, and Metro Man in a shiny ship.)

Mega Man too struggles with his identity. He was given everything denoting a hero, and yet it isn’t his desire. He tells the people that, “the greatest honor you’ve given me is letting me serve you. The helpless people of Metro City. And at the end of every day, well, I often ask myself; who would I be without you?”

He doesn’t fight Megamind because he wants to. He fights megamind because he sees it as his duty to protect those who can’t protect themselves. He doesn’t know anything else. While noble and courageous, this leads to friction and conflict in Metro Man’s mind. In a little piece of foreshadowing, Megamind tells him that “even the most heartfelt belief can be corroded over time.”

In the end he wasn’t able to cope with that responsibility, and decided to leave.

How do WE become heroes?

But this article isn’t about failure to live up to explanations, that one is coming next.

We want to learn how Megamind overcame his situation and grew from it, becoming the hero of his story. And it starts with a girl.

Step #1: Find Proper Motivation

When Megamind first tells Minion that he doesn’t want to be the bad guy, it is because he wants to hang out with Roxanne. He has fallen in love, and that is incompatible with being the bad guy.

Metro Man never had a personal motivation. He was disconnected from the city. He was pushed into the hero job.

While Megamind’s motivation came in the form of love, it can come from other legitimate places as well. The two types of motivation, intrinsic and extrinsic, emphasize this point very well. Metro Man is extrinsically motivated. He is pushed into the light by the factors around him. Megamind is intrinsically motivated, pushed to good because of his own personal desires.

Having intrinsic motivation to do good and be good drastically increases the likelihood of longevity.

This principle is applicable in every aspect of life. Motivation to perform or achieve that comes from within is much stronger than coming from your surroundings. Countless writers will tell you that if you focus on the money (extrinsic motivation), you’ll burnout. If you write because you love to write (intrinsic motivation), then it doesn’t matter.

This is the reason why so many feel “stuck” in their 9–5, disappointed with their circumstances. For most, the 9–5 is a direct byproduct of money. Money is an extrinsic motivator, and will eventually lead to burnout.

Step #2: Find a Catalyst

“Inertia is the resistance of any physical object to a change in its velocity. This includes changes to the object’s speed, or direction of motion. An aspect of this property is the tendency of objects to keep moving in a straight line at a constant speed when no forces act upon them.”
— Wikipedia

In order to overcome inertia, we need a catalyst.

Megamind was stuck. He was on a straight line, and that didn’t bring him happiness. He felt melancholy.

In order to overcome his inertia and change direction, he needed a catalyst. Again, for him this was Roxanne. She pushed him out of his ways, changing his perspectives. It took time for him to become a hero, but she pulled him from his “destiny” as a supervillain, and put him on a new path.

(Does this really make Roxanne the hero in the movie? I vote yes.)

Sometimes life is hard to change. We grow comfortable and complacent in our day-to-day lives. Change is scary. But sometimes, it needs to happen. We need to overcome our general malaise, and find a new path.

So what does this have to do with being a hero?

I personally believe that we can all be heroes. It doesn’t take a cape. It doesn’t take superstrength, superspeed. It doesn’t take a body that looks good in spandex. Being a hero is about making a positive impact in the lives of those around you.

We need to recognize that something as simple as a hello can make someone’s day, brighten their life.

Sometimes, it takes an experience to recognize this. I hope this article might be an experience for you.

Forever optimistic,


Funny, I guess destiny is not the path given to us… but the path we choose for ourselves.
— Megamind

If you enjoyed this post, let me know! Share your catalyst experiences down below with me, a time that made you realize you needed to change for the better. Some simple things can be so life changing that they need to be shared. Right now I’m working on a series titled Building a Hero, if you enjoyed this post then go check out the rest of the series! In the last article, we discussed recognizing heroes in our everyday lives.

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