Podcast – Episode 0062 – Luck vs Hard Work

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In this episode, Joel and Antonia talk about Spiderman, Batman, and luck vs. hard work.

In this podcast on luck vs hard work you’ll find:

  • Who do you think deserves to get more credit as a superhero? Spiderman or Batman?
  • Spiderman – Got bitten by a radioactive spider and instantly had superpowers.
  • Batman – Although blessed with massive amounts of wealth, Batman was not a superhero in a traditional sense because he never had mystical powers. However, he had something to focus on (death of his parents) and over time, he was able to become almost herculean with his abilities.
  • Question: Which one are you more attracted to? Which one would you say more represents how you view people becoming larger than life?
  • Getting instant powers has a correlation with the concept that things are either bestowed upon you or not. You are either the lucky recipient of something great or not.
  • As a result, some people end up sitting down waiting for that “spider bite”.
  • “American Idol” and “YouTube” are good examples of the Spiderman concept.
  • Where can we find our personal success? How can we frame and rewire success in our minds to encourage us to go to the pathway to success?
  • Any project gets easier when you refine your skills and get better.
  • There are some skills you need to learn in order to become successful. Luck comes to those who are prepared.
  • Oftentimes, the lack of clarity of what you really want obstructs your work dynamics.
  • The Analysis Paralysis state may happen to all personality types when they want to know everything first before taking any action.
  • Get into action with what you love right now. What is beautiful to you just now and you want to pursue it? Figure it you and get into action.
  • When you do what you love, you’ll gain better clarity as you go and figure out what the programming is that’s causing you to not get what you want.
  • Figure out your limitations, whether you’re a doer or a planner and pursue the other side.
  • Overall, the likelihood of getting success is higher when you’re doing something rather than doing nothing.
  • Among the four decision-making processes, which one do you think has the Spiderman and the Batman style?

Luck vs. Hard Work #batman #spiderman #luck

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  • Anthony

    I’ve considered this topic before through the lens of “lottery mentality”, but having it framed this way was a bit more insightful. I recognize that I’ve definitely been the spider-bite type, but realized that I often felt that I was actually embodying the Batman-type through life and wondering why it wasn’t working! I haven’t explored the idea much yet, but I think it might be because, as an INFP, the endless introspection and inner sorting FEELS like work, and gives me the impression that I’m actually achieving something. Which I am, in a way, but I’ve rarely balanced it with action-taking, so to anyone else’s perspective it just looks like I’m just spinning my wheels.

    • Charis Branson

      Hey Anthony!

      Thanks for your feedback on this podcast! You have some interesting insights. A couple things came up for me as I was reading your comment.

      First, inner work is HUGE. Sometimes the results aren’t so visible on the outside, but when we look at what we have grown into, versus where we came from, we can usually track our amazing progress. So, kudos to you for working on yourself.

      Second, there is such a thing as too much inner work. I’m not sure if you have listened to the most recent podcast on the HAT model, but it has some great reminders on how we all need to eventually DO something. It’s okay to heal and transcend but we also need to achieve. Sometimes by focusing on achievement we can jump start our growth potential.

      Here is a link to that podcast in case you haven’t listened to it yet:


  • Tariq Khan

    “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” – William Shakespeare. (As you like it? )

  • Lance

    I’m an INFP, Authenticity/Exploration, and I can say I’ve had the Spiderman mentality. I don’t know how much of that mentality came from how I was raised. I was basically taught that I didn’t have a choice and that doors will either open or they won’t, regardless of what you do. On top of that things came too easy for me. I never really had to work very hard to get by in school or sports. I had a few friends that fell into some great opportunities and became very successful in the music business. All which furthered my Spiderman thinking. Many years later I’ve realized how immature I’ve been and how much time I’ve wasted. I understand that hard work is required if you want something, but I often have such a hard time motivating myself. I also end up taking on too many projects for others and never get around to working on the things I need to for what I want to eventually do. I didn’t expect to get into whining in this comment. Sorry about that. I guess I’m interested in how to really switch from a Spiderman mentality to a Batman mentality.
    I know… I know… the paid content is gonna help. Once I get some extra cash I’m all about it. Thanks for the podcasts and the good stuff on your site. It’s a wealth of food for my brain.

  • Kylie

    In answer to the question you guys ended the podcast with, I agree with Joel in that I think certain types tend towards either one of the modes of thinking. Obviously there’s how the person was raised and everything like that, BUT I do see a trend for some of us towards one end of the spectrum or the other.

    For Example
    I am an INTJ. To my credit and dismay, I usually think that I can “think tank” my way through things. “If I could just think of enough possible solutions, then the one perfect one would just show and I’d be able to follow it.” Obviously Batman. As I have noticed, INTJs tend towards arrogance as well, and so it’s very appealing to be able to think that somewhere in my brain or in the data that I’m voraciously seeking after, lies the answer. I just haven’t dug far enough yet.

    On the flip side, I have known quite a few INFJs, and while it would be tempting to clump them in the same category due to the J-ness of them, I would not agree; at least for the undeveloped ones, but even for some of the developed ones. Regarding decisions for/based on other people, it seems that if an INFJ can get consensus and it’s not a completely stupid idea, then they’ll go with that. Batman: work to find out what to do and then do it. However, I’ve noticed that when it comes to themselves, especially the ones who haven’t developed good use of their Ti/Accuracy, they are waiting for….something. What it is depends on the INFJ, in my experience. If they’ve had a particularly traumatic life, then the Spider-Man worldview for decisions for themselves is overwhelming. They don’t believe in themselves enough (and frankly sometimes don’t even like themselves enough) to TRY to catch a break, and therefore end up waiting in the shadows, stewing in their self-dislike and dislike of others (because no one believes that they’re awesome). Obviously, with the more developed ones this is less of the case, but I still find some sort of waiting-ness to them. The phrase “Any action is better than no action” (which totally appeals to me) is not something they’re on board with.

    Lengthy description, but thought I’d share my thoughts since YOU asked for them. 😉

    • Joel Mark Witt

      And I’m glad you shared your thoughts. I think you make some good points… and of course you had me at “…I agree with Joel.”


      • Kylie

        I have learned people techniques, and one that helps immensely is to tell people that you agree with them, when you do. 😉 I’m interested to hear your thoughts/theories, though. I’d also be interested to talk to you about how you use your Fi/Authenticity because mine is….interesting. 🙂

  • Jonathan

    Your idea inspired me to use Storm vs. Catwoman for a girl I approached to draw on the street. I used it to ask what kind of superhero she preferred, but even though she didn’t care either way, I had fun with the idea.

  • Jane

    From the perspective of an INFP, I agree with a lot of the points behind this particular podcast. I think about the concept of creating my own luck regularly. I like to observe the successful (and not) people around me and try to determine what it is about their intellect, persona, morale, etc. that has contributed to their success.

    I think the fact that I don’t value the “spiderman” method whatsoever has actually caused a lot of frustration for me in my life. I feel somewhat guilty coming from a successful family and knowing that it is a powerful factor behind my own personal success. That’s not to say I haven’t worked hard, but there are people in the world who work a lot harder than I do and haven’t seen their payout. Then at the same time, I’m so fortunate and I would be insulting people who don’t have such luck if I denied the opportunities I have had.

    Do you think that my “authenticity” driver has some influence on my resistance to the spiderman method? I’m still learning about the cognitive functions behind the types, but I know that other INFPs I have met seem to have a strong drive to find their own calling in life and not let anyone tell them where they should end up.

    Love the podcast! I have got my ENTP boyfriend hooked on it too, and your ideas have helped us understand ourselves and each other so much better. It helps that your genius types are so similar to ours! 🙂

    • Joel Mark Witt

      Thanks Jane for commenting.

      Glad you and your ENTP boyfriend are learning together and listening. Awesome.

      As an ENFP myself – I can see what you mean about having a yin-yang push-pull with family advantage vs hard work.

      I think this is something I’ve noticed about “Authenticity” in general. It can feel paradoxical at times. It’s my opinion that this stems from us “Authenticity” people literally being able to find ANY emotional perspective inside our hearts.

      Often these emotions seem to contradict each other for me. It’s like I have many voices inside me that all want different things. It can be very frustrating.

      I’ve done work around “parts integration” inside myself. I will actually imagine the different voices and work to mentally bring them into concert with each other. (Easier said than done).

      My thoughts… get over feeling bad about having advantages and see it as a gift to help do even more good in the world. “Much is given much is required” type thinking. (again – easier said than done).

      Of course this is my perspective and opinion. I don’t really know your unique situation – so find the principle behind what I’m saying not the specifics.

      Does that make sense and resonate?

  • Jian Wei Gan Lim

    Oh boy.

    I’ve gotta say a part of me really doesn’t want to do what I’m about to do considering that I’d not too long ago written a glowing review for your podcast on iTunes, and written you an e-mail to thank you for helping to illuminate certain things regarding my personal life.

    That said, I’m a born and raised Malaysian with Chinese roots and a semi-dedicated Buddhist/Taoist (defining one’s spirituality in the Chinese culture is extremely difficult), and I’m also an avid comic book reader. Therefore, you’ve touched on two things of which I’m intensely familiar and while I don’t disagree with the conclusions you draw, the analogies you’re drawing for the basis of your models just take way too much out of context. I want you to know I still find you guys great, but this is one hell of a double-whammy and my writing juices are in top-gear today, so here goes.

    First off, we’ll get your discussion on the contrast between Eastern and Western spirituality out of the way since this really wasn’t discussed as much in the podcast. Now, you’ve discussed Eastern spirituality before and your approach to it did always strike me as slightly myopic. Since we’re getting into this discussion now, I think it’s a good opportunity to address some of the issues with your approach.

    Overall, you’re making an incredible amount of assumptions about Eastern culture. There is a grain of truth to most of your assumptions, but a lot of them seem like they’re drawn from the Hollywood version of Eastern culture. You seem to be going about this with the agenda to establish a dichotomy between Eastern and Western thought, and while it exists in some respects, it’s really not as clear cut as you make it. The dichotomy you intend to establish early in this podcast is one based on the means of reaching the spiritual zenith. You contextualise Eastern culture as achieving this through individual effort while Judeo-Christian societies achieve this through the grace of an unreliable supreme power.

    There are some cringe-worthy generalisations made about Eastern thought in the section where you discussed it. Giving credit where credit’s due, you make a fair point about individualism in Eastern spirituality. Certain sects of Buddhism do teach that the path to enlightenment can only be achieved by one’s own efforts. A perfect metaphor to describe this process is that when an individual seeks to relieve himself, it is something he must do of his own accord. Likewise, the discovery of ‘the Way’ is not something that can be taught, but which must be discovered by oneself. Most schools of Buddhism and Taoism are agnostic in the sense that a spiritual power does not exist that can guide the individual to enlightenment.

    But that’s only certain schools of Eastern religion. The grassroots religious traditions of the Chinese race do incorporate an incredibly potent reliance on aid from a higher power. In this case, the higher power is one’s own ancestors and the general idea is that once a family member passes on to the afterlife, they become a deity of sorts that watches over the family. Consequently, we pray to our ancestors in much the same way that Christians pray to Jesus or God to bless us. Fortune plays an appreciable role in the spiritual lives of most ethnic Chinese, and there is the belief that filial piety to one’s deceased ancestors can move them to change our fortunes for the better (or conversely, change our fortunes for the worse if we do something to dishonour them). I haven’t even gotten to the various deities in Chinese mythology that many still pray to, even those who don’t traditionally engage in religious practices. Shintoism and Hinduism have similar traditions along those lines too so it’s frankly more than a little silly to claim that Eastern cultures don’t incorporate enlightenment through divine aid into their frameworks. The entire basis of Confucian societies is that you are not yourself, but your family as well. What you do affects the image of your family and vice versa, and that holds through even when a member of the family passes on.

    Now, truth be told, I understand why you have these misconceptions considering your positions. There are many properties of Eastern culture that are alien to the West, and it is tempting to conceptualise the unknown East in terms of it being so unlike the known West. I do not expect that you have had much opportunity to interact with Eastern culture and certainly most of your exposure to Eastern thought would have been filtered through a Western perspective. A certain undertone to your discussions on Eastern though seems to be that it is more ‘enlightened’ than the West, and while I cannot say for sure whether or not you realise it, you are making an assumption that is ultimately centered entirely on the Western perspective of things. Consider how all of what you find mysterious about the Asian culture must seem to those who have grown up with it. Admittedly, as I understand it, most Asians nowadays do opt to be atheist, but most of us still have had to grow up within these contexts. And you know what? We find Western culture as fascinating as you find Asian culture. Hell, I cannot count the number of times I’ve seen Christian imagery in Asian entertainment that I’m pretty is completely inaccurate. Yeah, I get that to you, being raised in the Christian tradition comes with a lot of drawbacks based on how piety must be paid to an entity that you’re not even sure exists. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that another culture being ‘different’ is an indication of it having a higher or lower value. Most Asians will tell you how sick they are of having their worth being contextualised by their families, and I know tons of people here who’d love to lead the “Western life” even though they don’t seem to have a full grasp of what it means. The other side’s always tempting, but I think it’s always a good idea to sit back and seriously consider how things actually would turn out if one were born and raised in that new environment, and then make a decision from there as to whether one would necessarily be happier in a new context.

    Anyway, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s look at the Batman-Spider-Man dichotomy you’ve established. As I said, I agree with you that there such a dichotomy does likely exist. However, I do not believe Batman or Spider-Man are the best representatives of the positions you’ve assigned them because a stunning amount of context was ignored to make your comparisons work as well as they did. Again, I can understand to some extent why you made the errors you did because it’s likely you’re basing these characters on their cinematic versions rather than their comic book counterparts. I can see why it makes sense to do so because hey, you’ve got a huge audience, and that’s the version of the characters they are most likely to be familiar with. That said, I become less inclined to accept these errors in judgement when taking into consideration how many of the contexts you’ve failed to mention do themselves also appear in some form in the characters’ cinematic incarnations.

    Now, you specifically contextualise this comparison based on the origins of their abilities. That’s all well and good, but when you fail to take into account how their powers play a role in their respective stories, you’re missing out on the bigger picture. Spider-Man’s origin story is essentially a deconstruction of the “Power through Bug-bite” tale. Yes, Spider-Man gains power, but look what it leads to. It inflates his ego so that he attempts to become a wrestler, which further boosts his ego such that he assumes that stopping a hoodlum is beneath him which ultimately leads him to the death of his uncle and father figure. Now, would things have turned out differently had he not gotten the bug-bite? Who knows, but the point is that the bug-bite had lead him to committing the biggest mistake of his life, and well… let’s just say there’s a reason Peter keeps wanting to quit being Spider-Man. Hell, that’s one of the major themes of Spider-Man that is prevalent even in the movies; power does not guarantee happiness and instead only obligates one to sacrifice the things one wants. Peter’s powers are often described as a “curse”, and it shows. Sure he can do any amount of amazing things but they effectively are more trouble than they’re worth. No amount of wall-crawling’s going to help him pay the bills, and incredible agility doesn’t guarantee having a date. To make matters worse, it’s the mundane life where Peter’s heart lies, but his powers always mean that when danger arrives, he has to prioritise what he wishes he could give up over what he truly wants. Spider-Man is the story of the burden of power, and that ultimately, sometimes a blessing isn’t all it’s cut out to be.

    Batman’s a different story. In fact, it’s different enough that I’d say there isn’t even much of a dichotomy between him and Spider-Man because their respective emphasis are on two entirely different spectrums. There’s an idea of predestination to the Batman character, and a much more potent focus on symbolic power as a gift. The moment Thomas and Martha Wayne are gunned down and Bruce swears to avenge them, we know he’s already got a mission in mind. Compare this to Spider-Man, who even after deciding to become a crime-fighter, isn’t so much a general launching a campaign as he is a glorified firefighter. It’s no surprise that at least in the comics, Bruce’s training is almost always glossed over. It simply is of no interest to the reader how Bruce became Batman. It is only important that Bruce is Batman. And why that is important is because Batman is a symbol of power, something incorporeal and incorruptible. Batman is an idea rather than a character, and to actually demonstrate any effort on the way to becoming Batman is to sully the image of the imposable immortal figure that Batman represents. The comics tend to show Bruce breezing through his training, but to the Nolan trilogy’s credit, it does go a long way to humanising Batman by showing how difficult the training was. But all the same, once Bruce becomes Batman, the Bruce Wayne element becomes unimportant. Only the mask matters, and that’s essentially the main theme of Batman’s story.

    As demonstrated, the major themes of both characters have very dubious overlaps and I think it only goes to show how drawing a comparison on the two based on powers works on very flimsy premises. Power is a burden in Spider-Man’s story, while it is a gift in Batman’s story. Power traps Peter in a life he doesn’t want, while it is only true exercising power that Bruce is genuinely himself. The value of power in both stories has such a fundamental contrast to one another that a framework based on that quality simply isn’t very effective.

    Now, while I have ragged on at some length, I hope you don’t take it as meaning that I see absolutely no value in your work. I still do, and I still appreciate the impact you’ve made in my life. Yes, I vehemently disagree with the means you used to reach your conclusions in this podcast, but I understand where you’re coming from. And even you don’t agree with the contextualisations I’ve introduced, it’s not something that’s necessarily going to reduce my respect for you. I’m not going to say I think this particular episode was good, but you obviously worked as hard on it as you do for every other episode, and at the end of the day, I’m still going to look forward to your next podcast.

    • Antonia Dodge

      I hope you don’t think that criticism is some sort of deal breaker in any way. When we say “we love feedback” we mean ALL kinds of feedback. We’re on a mission to continually become better in content, presentation and in who we are as people. The only real way to do that is to thoughtfully accept feedback of all kinds.

      I think your deconstruction of our podcast was a good one, and much, much deeper than we went. You’re right – we did craft it for a western audience and their concepts of superheros as colored by movies. I’m a pretty big geek in a lot of ways – i.e. I’ve been role-playing most of my life, and I’m a reader of graphic novels. I’m more a Sandman kind of girl, but I’m no stranger to either the Spiderman nor the Batman story lines (in their various incarnations).

      That said, most of our audience is not going to be familiar with the comic book versions, and so we were more using the meme of superheros to express an overarching concept.

      I fully appreciate that my understanding of eastern culture(s) is through the lens of western culture(s). The ideas that have primarily influenced my thoughts on this are books like “Language in Thought and Action” by S.I. Hayakawa, as well as things like Malcolm Gladwell’s assertions in “Outliers” about the connection between math scores and rice paddies. That is, in a culture that requires patience and precision to feed themselves, you’re probably going to have a higher likelihood of patience in precision in education.

      I recognize that it may appear that there’s a glamorization of eastern culture in America, primarily on the west coast. When I lived in Portland, OR, there was definitely a big sentiment about much more ‘pure’ Asian religions are compared to Christian hypocrisy. Interestingly enough, I worked for and became friends with a South Korean family who expressed the same was happening in reverse in their country. People were tired of the hypocrisy they saw in their native religion and were converting to the more ‘pure’ Christianity. (Which is basically what you indicated in your comment.)

      There is definitely a ‘grass in greener’ sentiment, and we definitely didn’t intend to perpetuate any misconceptions that one is superior to the other. Cause, really, I don’t think one is.

      That said, using the stories that come from each culture IS telling. I’m definitely not even a casual expert on eastern storytelling, so forgive me if I’m missing a cultural mythos that contradicts my assertions. And I definitively think it’s kind of silly to use the word “eastern” to encapsulate so many different countries cultures. At its root, though, everything I’ve seen etymologically DOES indicate there’s a sense that if you want to be awesome you have to put some elbow grease into it. In a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon / Hero sort of way. You don’t just get to be a bad ass ninja, you discipline yourself to be bad ass.

      Any time one works in dichotomies we’re already entering a world of inaccurate generalizations. But those generalizations can be useful if talking to an audience spoon fed generalizations their entire lives. Which the American audience (and Australian, etc.) is. Your comment is a far more fleshed-out and accurate description of both Spiderman and Batman. That said, Spiderman gained his powers by being bitten. The story line after is him coming to terms with it and the complications of what they might mean, but the powers themselves were providence. Batman DID work for his abilities, glossed over in the graphic novels or not. That is the etymology of it.

      And this is most definitely a distinctively western concept – I’m looking for my radioactive spider. Overnight success. I’ll be discovered and THEN I’ll be able to live my life. Our purpose in the podcast was to point out this western concept of ‘waiting for providence to ordain it’, and ask the question – could you maybe push to make it happen on your own?

      It was also to acknowledge that most success comes from a combination of the two – both elbow grease and providence, so work hard and keep your eyes peeled for opportunity.

      I hope everyone reads your comment so they can benefit from a deeper dive into the concept, and in case they came away with the misconceptions you feared might happen, your feedback can help add clarity to the conversation.

      I hope that wasn’t just me repeating everything we said in the podcast and can help explain why we came at the topic as we did.


      • Jian Wei Gan Lim

        I certainly do appreciate the sentiment of your podcast, and for my part, I do agree that success requires determination and opportunity. I’d go as far as to say that opportunity does consistently happen, but the majority of human beings simply have not achieved a required of skill through determination to take advantage of those opportunities. It’s like discovering the perfect mathematical formulae to solve all of man’s problems. The complexity of such a formulae is so intense that one ultimately wouldn’t know what to do with it, even if it were handed in a silver platter. That said, I believe these everyday opportunities are far more subtle and slip beneath the notice of people distracted by the hustle and bustle of daily life. Perhaps the best way to approach this is to cultivate one’s ability to take advantage of the smaller opportunities so that they know what to expect when a big opportunity manifests, although that is not an approach I hold strongly to.

        That said, I will agree with you on the point you make regarding the contemporary Eastern and Western approach to the idea of ‘hard work’ versus ‘luck’. Having lived in both cultures for some time, I have noticed a very distinct contrast between the East’s regard for government and the West’s regard for government that does seem to exemplify this contrast. For Asians, there is a fundamental understanding that the government is not working in their best interests. The government is not going to supply you with anything to make your life easier, and it’s not going to protect you from the harsh realities of life. That’s the family’s job. The concept of welfare is an entirely foreign concept to Asian societies because it’s assumed that you will have a clan to provide for your needs if you were inconvenienced. If you want the good life, you are going to have to work for it with the understanding that everything you do reflects on the family and vice versa. Westerners on the other hand seem to have a particular amount of dependency on their governments. Not one that is universally disposed to positive feelings towards the governing body mind you, but there certainly is an assumption that the government should act as a safety net for the people. There are inalienable rights that the government is obliged to defend at all costs and even if an individual were to decide to slack off, this ‘higher power’ of sorts will still see that he does not come to any great harm. Certainly, Asians are more likely to assume that a homeless person is in his present condition because he “slacked off and deserves it”, while Westerners are more likely to say “the government failed him”. The concept of diligence is far more pronounced in Asian culture than it is Western culture, and it is there that I can agree with you.

        That said, your comment about the stories that come each culture is interesting as it is an incredibly dynamic area with contrasts and similarities in different aspects. Certainly if we compare Wong Fei Hong to say, the Knights of the Round Table, there is a pronounced dichotomy in diligence and providence. But that is an ineffective comparison because they are ultimately two very different kinds of story that are not entirely analogous with each other. A better comparison for Wong Fei Hong would be Robin Hood who was also a warrior of immense skill who trained himself to be the best. Even the Knights of the Round Table only arguably were only recognised by providence because of their skills. Providence only gave Arthur the right to be king, but then he still had to prove himself in battle to earn those rights.

        If you want to take this to the field of contemporary culture, the dichotomy becomes all the more muddled. Yes, you have your Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragons/ Hero but didn’t Rocky have to bust his ass to become The Italian Stallion? Hell, considering the backdrop of this podcast is based on superheroes, we probably should look at Asian superheroes too. The most popular superheroes are of Japanese origin, and unlike the West, the genre is associated entirely with television rather than comic books. That said there are common tropes such as the use of costumes, and superhuman abilities that make them analogous to each other.

        Now, the most popular superhero franchise in Japan (though not necessarily the most iconic) is the Kamen Rider franchise. It’s been on and off the air sporadically, but ever since 2000, it’s been consistently on air for nearly 16 years with each year creating a new context starring new characters, new protagonists and new concepts. You’d think that given how many variations of the story exists that there would be a healthy mix of characters who gain their abilities through hard work and characters who gain it through luck. But that’s not the case. In fact, out of the 16 shows that have appeared since the 2000s, only one show has the characters explicitly gain the powers through hard work. The source of the powers for the rest of the characters are gained through “radioactive bug bites”. Usually they acquire a device of some sort to access their abilities, but they almost entirely always come across said device by coincidence. It’s not even analogous to someone like say, Iron Man, who built his suit. The protagonists of these shows are never the source of their powers. They literally go from Joe Schmoe one second and become superhuman in the next.

        Going back to the comparison you make between Spider-Man and Batman, the problem with comparing them based on the origins of their powers is that power means very different things for both characters. Taking power as a unique piece of data in and of itself without considering its place in the framework of either character simply doesn’t allow for an effective comparison. In the Chinese and Japanese language, there is a word written as 勉强 (mian qiang in Chinese, benkyo in Japanese). The word is written the same in both languages, but the meaning in both languages is completely different. In Chinese, it means ‘forced’, and in Japanese, it means ‘study’. In broad strokes, one could say there are the same because they are written the same. When you get to the specifics though, these two pieces of data simply mean two different things even while there are superficial similarities.

        Now, if you were dead set on applying this framework using a superhero analogy, the better comparison would be Batman and Green Lantern. Power is treated as a boon in both contexts so that eliminates the difference in meaning behind power between Batman and Spider-Man. As you’ve established, Batman trained to receive his powers, but on the other hand, Hal Jordan is literally handed his powers with no questions asked. Alien crash lands, alien dies, Hal gets spiffy new ring, a legend is born. Done and done.

        If you were to instead want to establish a framework based on Batman’s and Spider-Man’s origins, then the ideal framework would be based on how one processes anxiety, and really, I’d throw Superman into the mix as well. Tying this in with the ways one processes anxiety in the Enneagram, one could argue that Batman externalises anxiety, Spider-Man internalises anxiety, and Superman suppresses anxiety. The death of his parents invokes in Bruce a pronounced hatred of the criminal element. He sees the source of his anxieties as existing externally, and therefore everything he does is to eliminate that source of anxiety. Spider-Man knows he is to blame for his ‘father’s’ death, and so he internalises his anxiety. It’s his fault that he’d lost one of the most important persons in his life, and he is eternally hounded by a debilitating sense of self-hatred. Superman suppresses his anxiety because he knows he cannot afford to show it. He is a symbol for humanity, moreso than Batman, and for him, he HAS to be sure he’s doing the right thing, because he knows that if he falls, humanity loses hope.

        That said, I do appreciate you responding to this and clarifying some of my assumptions. If anything, it certainly has been a rewarding learning experience in shedding further light on the Western approach to various phenomenon, although I maintain that in the contemporary context, the dichotomies are not universally applicable.

        • Antonia Dodge

          That makes a lot of sense. Both cultures are going to have stories that include “ordained by providence” heroes as well as “worked hard for superpowers” heroes. And I’ll bet the more that eastern cultures enter Graves 5 you’ll see more memes about overnight success pop up. Do you think that eastern cultures are shifting memetically as they enter Graves 5? The political rhetoric (from the perspectives of this westerner) seems like it’s relatively the same, but the economics are clearly outpacing that rhetoric. I’d love to hear your take as someone familiar with the climate and that has a sophisticated, zoomed-out perspective.

          I’ll tell you this: I’ll think twice about using casual metaphors based on a subculture that has a rabid fan base. :p


          • Jian Wei Gan Lim

            Hah, well, I’m certainly not going to make excuses for how pedantic us comic book geeks can get. Then again, insofar as things that set comic book geeks off, discussions about superheroes as metaphors don’t tend to rank very high on the list for most. If this had been a battle about who’d win in a fight, I’d urge you an Joel to get into some kind of protection program because that seems to set the majority of fans off like crazy.

            One major problem with discussing Eastern cultures as an entity is that they do not quite share a sense of identity in the same way that Western Europeans and Northern Americans do. There are very clear demarcations between various nations and while they nominally are all ‘Confucian cultures’, there is a very prominent narrative of ‘Us Vs Them’ that seems ubiquitous between all the major East Asian nations, including those which use identical languages. The bonds that tie the Western nations together are much more tightly woven, and while their idiosyncrasies are the source of the majority of their conflicts, the contemporary West seem more interested in uniting against those that are outside the Western sphere of influence.

            In a nutshell, for all their squabbles, the West is comfortable with the idea that in theory, all within their sphere can co-exist on account of their shared values. The East, on the other hand, is very sensitive to the major differences despite their shared values. It’s funny how the Western stereotype of Asians is that they’re all the same when to Asians, the dissimilarities could not be more pronounced. I’ve mistaken Frenchmen for Germans and vice versa before and despite their wartime history, they never seem particularly offended. Not so with Asians. Koreans despise being mistaken for Japanese, just as Hong Kongers are quick to remind the uninformed of the differences between themselves and their cousins from the PRC. The truth of the matter is is that there is no more considerable variation between neighboring nations in the East as there are between neighboring nations in the West. What matters is the perception within Asians that there is a significant difference, and consequently while the progress of the nations in the West have largely taken place in tandem with one another, the development of individual nations in the East have taken place independently from each other (although only within a certain sense as the ebbs and wanes of a nation’s neighbors inevitably effect the nation itself).

            In respect to the Graves Model, I only have some rudimentary familiarity with the Model so my assumptions may be a bit off although I do hope you will correct me if I my understanding of the theory is inaccurate. That said, I believe that the majority of the predominantly Chinese-speaking cultures are already well within Graves 5. PRC’s Deng Xiaoping’s rhetoric regarding how “To be rich is glorious” has certainly had an impact on Chinese society that has only become more dynamic over the years. Certainly, of all the East Asians, the Chinese are the biggest go-getters and from my experience, they seem the most comfortable with flaunting their wealth and material resources. Certainly, Asians of other nationalities do so as well, although interestingly enough, I’d say the second and third most likely nationalities to do so are the Hong Kongers and Taiwanese.

            On that note, I return to my original assertion that the predominantly Chinese-speaking nations are the ones that have already made the transition to fifth stage of the Graves Model and thereby refer to the concept of the Four Asian Tigers, the term used to describe the incredible economic breakthroughs experienced by Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan in between the 60s and the 90s. Notably, three of the four tigers are predominantly Chinese-speaking nations, and certainly the citizens of all three nations place an extreme emphasis on material success. Certainly, mainland China’s Deng Xiaoping looked to Singapore as a model when he introduced economic reforms to the PRC, and while China has taken to the new policies with an extreme vigor, it’s not difficult to notice the similarities between them.

            In contrast, while Japan was for much of post-War history, the most successful nation of the Asian cultural sphere, I’d argue it remains firmly in Graves 4. While the Japanese pursue wealth and success like any other nation, there is the underlying narrative that efforts towards that end are done for the betterment of the nation, not the individual. Indeed, collectivism is extremely pronounced in Japanese culture, and individuals who explicitly announce their desire to be ‘go-getters’ are frowned upon. In contrast, the Chinese-speaking cultures expect such an attitude. To fall back on a silly stereotype, the image of the ‘strict Asian parent’ demanding that their children should be doctors or lawyers is very much a Chinese phenomenon. The Japanese seem less concerned with the trappings of status and there almost seems to be a memetic belief in the Japanese mindset that the high-status positions always belong to ‘someone else’.

            I am not as familiar with Korea, although judging from its place within the Four Asian Tigers, I would not be surprised if they too were firmly in Graves 5 much like their Chinese counterparts. Ultimately, if anything the transition to Graves 5 is not an issue for the East. It is the transition to Graves 6 that is the major problem. I believe Singapore is already moving quite confidently in that direction, as is Hong Kong, but the rest of the Graves 5 nations seem resistant to the transition.

  • Michael

    I really like the idea behind this podcast. It reminds me of Owen Cook’s video:


    Near the end of that video he talks about just putting it out, putting it out – dont wait for your ideas to be perfect, take action and your ideas will be more articulate with time.

    • Joel Mark Witt

      Cool. Thanks for sharing that video Michael. I think it’s a great idea to just start and get in motion to figure it out over time.

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