Name Your Arch Nemesis: A Quick Tip for Finding Your Work

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Sometimes it’s easier to name what you’re against than it is to state what you’re for.

Think about Super Heroes for a moment. On one hand, you have what makes them special:

  • Particular powers: Superman has strength and X-ray vision; Spiderman has spider senses and abilities; Professor Xavier has telepathic powers.
  • Particular resources: Batman and Iron Man have lots of money to build machines to help them.

On the other hand you have what and who they are trying to stop:

  • Batman, driven by the unjust murder of his parents, seeks revenge by bringing criminals to justice. His arch nemesis is the Joker— a psychopathic criminal mastermind.
  • Xavier is trying to create a society in which mutants and non-mutants can live together peacefully. He is fighting against violence toward non-mutants by mutants and violence toward mutants by non-mutants. His arch nemesis is Magneto who is trying to establish a mutant-controlled world through violence and oppression of non-mutants.

To understand a superhero’s story, we have to know what they’re fighting against. An arch nemesis is a personification of that mission. If they’re not fighting something, there’s no story. If there’s no arch nemesis, there wouldn’t be a purpose to their powers and resources. They wouldn’t have a mission.

Similar to these heroes, your life’s work is about fighting something. It’s about preventing and healing some kind of difficulty.

A hero isn’t a hero unless she stands up against something. What are you against?[tweet that]

Who/what is your arch nemesis or rival? What are you trying to change?

It’s ok if you don’t know yet. But spend a few moments thinking about it. Try to draft some words for it.

What is it that you have a desire to stop, break, change, heal, destroy?

What are the things that break your heart and make you angry? What is it that you want to stop?

Some might answer loneliness, self-doubt, sexism, racism, lostness, hopelessness, poverty, apathy, homelessness, etc. The list would be as varied as each of you.

An essential part of knowing your life’s work is knowing what you’re against.

Let’s play with this in the comments: who’s your favorite arch nemesis and why? And/or what words to you have for what you’re against? Click here to comment.

Photo by Brian Dewey/CC

Dan Cumberland is on a mission to push you into the places meaning, life, & work intersect. He is the author of The Meaning Manifesto. Read more about him here, and connect with him on facebook and twitter.

There Are 4 Comments On This Post.

  1. Very cool. Never thought about it like that.

    For me, what I’d love to change is our society’s obsession with things and the sensory experience of the physical world. I believe in our current day and age, this obsession has been taken to unhealthy levels, to the point that our definition of reality has become that which is experienced through the senses. This has made everything else (love, relationships, respect, friendships, family, honesty, integrity) unimportant, and is causing problems like families breaking up, pollution, corruption, the several wars that are going on right now across the world, etc. I would love to work towards reconnecting human beings with their spiritual, emotional, and mental aspects and make people realize how important these aspects are as well.

    • I love this, Sarvesh! Way to go. There’s definitely a need for more of this kind of connection.

  2. I love this idea. I think for me it’s mostly apathy that I’d like to fight. I also love what Sarvesh said about connection. I think using all of the avenues we have available now to create something that will connect people instead of creating things to distract people is something I’d like to incorporate into my goals and work. It’s so easy to just go through the motions everyday and not really learn something new or meet new people, or even see other people outside of work. However, it’s also really not that difficult to learn something new and meet new people and create something you can be proud to have made. That temptation to do nothing or just the bare minimum is something I fight within myself every day, so I’d love to be able to help other people with it as well.

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