The Dark Knight, Michael Uslan, and Achieving Your Goals

“They started so young,” thwarted competitors lament, when a young phenom bursts on the scene and quickly claims the highest rewards. We’ve all been awe-inspired by at least one, maybe a fresh-faced 17-year-old swimmer from Colorado earning a gold medal at the Olympiad, or a university student building a the world’s most popular social networking platform, perhaps.

Unsurprisingly, there is a nervous, hopeful energy among parents on the sidelines. Where I live in Southern California, there is, quite literally, no limit of opportunity. Should my child whisper a curiosity about culinary arts, ballet, soccer, rock climbing or outrigger canoeing, there are several programs in each discipline vying for my registeration form and tuition payment. Will animation become my child’s lifelong passion? Acting? Software design? Will he become a great gymnast, baseball player, taekwondo expert? Do we have the best coach for the job?

My boys are ages five and seven. They have run the gamut of activities–dabblers in much, experts in little. My husband and I are, paradoxically, on a frantic search to help them find their bliss–because we love them, and because we would deny them little outside our resources. As it happens, this week my older boy was invited to join seasoned. pre-teen fencing competitors under the tutelage of a visiting Italian champion. I’m actively hiding how much pride this brings me, while the ongoing spectacle of the 2012 Summer Games only spurs my secret satisfaction.

Who knows if he will continue his path in the sport of fencing? In the meantime, I am pondering the mysterious; I wonder whether high achievers are simply inevitable, merely realizing what they are “born” to become by inherent character, predisposition and good genes, regardless of the odds or obstacles. Or do we really have a hand in our child’s future?

Sometimes inspiration comes where we least expect it. When Michael Uslan (Originator and Executive Producer of the Batman franchise of motion pictures) was a boy during the 1950s and ‘60s, he was so obsessed with comic books that he collected thousands and didn’t hesitate to send corrections to editors when he spotted a mistake in a story line.

Michael Uslan, the Batman franchise

“My origin story – what formed my character – is entrenched in comic books,” he shares in The Boy Who Loved Batman: A Memoir (www.theboywholovedbatman.com). “When I was 8 years old, I wanted to see if I could get my name in print, next to Bruce Wayne and the rest of Gotham’s characters.”

It wasn’t luck, fortune or an accident that Uslan grew up to produce the most successful comic book-based movie franchise of all time, he says. Now, his goal, like many parents, is to inspire kids and young adults to pursue their own dreams with focus and dedication, “because you can make them come true.”

Here’s how:
• Know your passion: Uslan wasn’t the only kid on his block who loved comics – but most of the others probably never dared to dream that they could have a hand in influencing their favorite character, he says. It’s important to ask yourself, “What do I really, really care about?” The answer to this question will be the seed from which dreams sprout. 
• Don’t be a passive bystander – participate: His passion for comics blossomed through several steps, including a general interest in reading and writing and active participation with the world’s first ComicCon in New York City in 1964, when he befriended comic writing legend Otto Binder. These days, there are plenty of opportunities for kids to be proactive, he says, citing blogs, websites and social networking. “A teen raised with today’s technology can create a video, for example, that rivals those created by professionals,” he says.
• Identify objectives that will take you to your goal: In high school, Uslan became essential to the yearbook staff, developing media skills that would benefit him later. In 1972, as a junior at Indiana University, he created and taught the first college level course on comic books. After graduating law school, he had the legal knowledge and Hollywood credentials necessary to purchase the film rights to Batman and start repairing the super hero’s image. He wanted to get away from the campy sitcom version of the crusader and reintroduce the Dark Knight to his roots for a movie-going audience.

“You don’t have to bend to the expectations of everyone else,” Michael Uslan says. “If you love something enough and are willing to create favorable circumstances, others will bend to you.”

• Learn from problems instead of allowing them to distract: Most people never realize their dreams because life gets in the way. Problems and new priorities arise and detract you from your course. The trick is to figure out how to respond to these in ways that help you reach your goal. For instance, learning how to negotiate, how to efficiently manage your time or how to become very self-disciplined are skills you can apply in pursuing your dream.

In his 36 years in the film and television industry, Michael Uslan (www.theuslancompany.com) has been involved with such projects as “National Treasure,” “Constantine,” and countless animated projects. His projects have won Oscars, Golden Globes and Emmy Awards. He is the author of his autobiography, The Boy Who Loved Batman: A Memoir.

What was YOUR childhood dream?

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