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Since writing my origin story, I’ve been asked about the details of what happened at my job.

  • “How did you get bullied?”
  • “Who betrayed you?”
  • “What was the worst thing that happened?”

These can be important questions… even if the answers are not.

The questions indicate an effort to find common ground. The more someone understands your story, the better they can relate to the emotions you were feeling.

I won’t share the details here because I still care about many of the amazing people that work with that company.

Besides, to some, I may be the villain rather than the victim.

I can’t tell you how many times my brother and I stood before our mom with a broken toy or  bruised cheeks swearing up and down that it was the other person’s fault.

And to each of us we were right, or at least in the right.

As an adult I can still do this.


When a conflict arises I desire, on some level, to have my peers view me as correct, justified, or in the right. I say I don’t care what others think, but I do.

I also care about what I think of myself. And while I’m willing to admit when I’m wrong… I don’t like being wrong.

The problem is my perspective is based on years of my life experiences. And your perspective is based on your experiences. Trying to convince someone that they are wrong is like trying to rewrite decades worth of experience in a single conversation.

Good Luck.


Then I learned of Brene Brown. She taught me about empathy.

It meant feeling with someone else. Putting myself in someone else’s shoes and experiencing something through their eyes.

At first empathy can be disgusting like a thick sludge of negative emotion trying to drown you with it’s slimy tentacles.

But I was determined to better understand others. I was determined to be a better friend, husband, coworker, dad. I wanted to connect with others on their terms – to see the world through their eyes.


It took a lot of practice.

Sometimes I would get angry, “Just do this to fix it and then you’ll be fine!”

Sometimes I would make it about me, “That reminds me of when xyz happened… man I just realized I never got over that…”

But empathy, which was once difficult, became my superpower.


Now I understand. 

I understand that when you ask for details about something bad that happened in my life, it’s because you want to relate, you want to connect with something similar that happened in your life.

And that’s good.


Learning empathy helps me in business, especially in writing sales copy. It helps me stand in the shoes of a customer and experience the problem from their eyes… and understand the value of the solution in their life.

And that’s really good.


More than that. Empathy has brought healing. I started with the headline about being the hero AND the villain.

The reality is those in my origin story… we each probably consider ourselves the hero and the other side the villain.

But I want you to understand something very important…. Whether you are the hero of your story or its villain… depends on how you respond to the challenge.

If I blame. If I hold onto anger. If I focus on what could have been… then I am my own villain. I can’t change the past.

What I can do is change my future by how I act in the present. What I can do is let go of blame and anger so those things stop holding power over me.

I have an amazing future to live. And so do you.

You can be a true hero by using empathy to connect with those around you on their terms.


Focus Forward

Practice empathy. Feel with people. 

Check out this video (with nearly 12 million views) by Brene Brown for additional clarity on the topic. 

Then share in the comments how you can apply empathy to be the hero of your story. Or post on social media with #forwardwithjoe