While walking in the park, I passed a group of grown men in comic book t-shirts and fedoras pretending to be superheroes. They were completely absorbed in their game, and their childlike enthusiasm was both pathetic and weirdly endearing. It was clear these men longed for some sort of adventure or experience absent from their lives and had turned to fantasy to fulfill it. It got me thinking – what would it take for men like them to live their fantasies out in real life, rather than just imagine them?

Superhero stories dominate our culture. Every month or two a new superhero film smashes box offices around the world. I grew up on comics, and I love these stories. Something in comics speaks to young men on a very primal and spiritual level. People dress up at these characters, attend conventions, and want to live in their worlds. I can understand why.

There are masculine virtues portrayed in superhero stories that go back to ancient times and mythical traditions. Our culture has lost and even demonized these virtues in other forms of entertainment, but not in the modern mythology of comics. Men are drawn to these characters, because they embody what men wish they were.

Fortunately, men do not have to simply read about greatness, they can become it. I know a lot of men who spend their time in fantasy, be it in comics, video games, films, or other passive pursuits who might find their lives more fulfilling if they started pursuing their desires in reality.

I write this guide in the hopes that by using the cultural language of superheroes, I can encourage a few passive men to take action in the world. Here’s what you’d have to do to become a real life superhero:

Get In Peak Physical Condition

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Superheros are in peak physical condition. While our culture says all bodies are beautiful and gets angry when healthy men and women tell it otherwise, superheroes only have one body type—jacked. Comics have often been accused of showing unrealistic images of women, but like Roman and Greek art, comics show an idealized body type for both sexes. Actors who plays these characters have to undergo months of rigorous dieting and conditioning in order to achieve the body type they are naturally drawn with. If you want to be a hero, start training.

Develop Unique Skills

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Superheroes have unique skills. Many heroes are supernatural or cosmic in nature, but others are just highly skilled men like you or me, who’ve trained in a unique filed. Most know some form of fighting or martial arts. Many have mastered technical, scientific, or business skills that are totally unique. If you’re interested in learning, there has never been a better time than the age of internet. Any skill you could imagine is out there. If you want to be a hero, be constantly learning new skills.

Develop Your Style

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Superheroes have style. I’m not just talking about the costumes (though, I’m at least talking about those), but the intention behind them. In a culture that says physical appearance don’t matter superheroes place a massive amount of importance on how they present themselves. Superheroes use their visual appearance to demonstrate their values. As modern clothing becomes more casual, androgynous, and bland, superhero costumes stand out as a bold statement. If you want to become a hero, ditch the screen-printed t-shirts and dress like the guys whose images are on them.

Reinvent Yourself

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Superheroes reinvent themselves. Every superhero has a origin story, where a chance event, personal trauma, or difficult challenge forced them to grow into the hero they are now. Rather than shrink from challenge, superheroes use their worst experiences as leverage to become the best version of themselves. Going from being a daydreamer to a real world success will take massive change. If you want to be a hero, be willing to grow and change who you are.

Find Your Mission

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Superheros have a mission that goes beyond their own personal happiness. They have a greater spiritual purpose which drives their actions and benefits the world around them. Often this can purpose can be reduced to a simple maxim like “with great power, comes great responsibility.” This mission or purpose guides all of their actions, even when it forces them to make uncomfortable or difficult decisions. If you want to be a hero, find a mission and dedicate your life to serving the world in some way.

Put Your Mission Before Your Woman

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Superheros put their mission before their woman. Putting your mission before your woman is the central tenant of game. If you internalize this concept, many other things fall into place. Superheroes often sacrifice their personal relationships for their mission in the world, and are even willing put loved ones in physical danger if it means doing the right thing. If you want to be a hero, you must have a purpose that is more important to you than women.

Find Mentors

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Superheroes have mentors. Central to most origin stories is a teacher, or guide who gives the hero the skills he needs to move forward. The X-men all attend a school for gifted individuals lead by a compassionate psychic. Superman found records his father left him. Spider-man had his uncle to show him that he needed to use his powers responsibly. Mentors can take unusual forms, but most great men were taught by great men. If you want to be a hero, find mentorship.

Join A Team

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Superheroes form teams. The X-men. The Avengers. Even a loner like Batman has the Justice League. While we can do great things independently, we can do even more in community. If you want to be a hero, band together with like-minded individuals who share your purpose.

Be Willing To Endure Hatred

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Superheroes are often hated and feared by the people they are trying to protect. They still do what’s right, and never apologize for who they are or what they believe. In a culture where men are constantly being told to check their privilege, superheros see their unique background and gifts as something to inspire others rather than something to be ashamed of. Know that if you seek to improve yourself, there will be people who feel threatened by it. Do it anyway. If you want to be a hero, be unapologetic about it.

Superheroes Embody Masculinity

Writing this list, I noticed that much of what it takes to be hero lines up with the advice of the manosphere. Finding a mission, working in a community, and achieving physical mastery are all aspects of traditional masculinity.

In a different era, those young men I saw pretending to be superheroes in the park would have been sparring. Someone would have seen their desire for adventure as young men, put a sword in their hand, and trained them as warriors. Now, our culture values consumption more than heroism, so we sell young men the dreams they want to live as fiction, but never give them the tools they need to take action.

As I was reflecting on the comics I grew up reading, I realized I am now living the virtues I’d read about as a child. When I passed those men in the park, I was on my way to a martial arts class. That evening I blew off a girl who wanted to see me to work on projects I was passionate about. I have a purpose that goes beyond my own happiness, and a community of people who work on it with me.

I feel hopeful even when I see introverted or awkward young man immersed in fantasy, because I know what’s possible. I used to be one of those men, but I changed my life one hour at a time. You can too. Don’t settle for merely reading about adventures, take action and live them.

Read More: Are You The Superhero Of Your Neighborhood?