My name is Jim Kwik, and I love the X-Men. (In the above photo, I’m next to Hugh Jackman wearing the Wolverine shirt.)
The newest film, X-Men: Days of Future Past, is my favorite.
I love this amazing cast and the heroic characters they portray.
Just imagine having their mutant powers in the real world… What if you had laser focus like Cyclops? Could control your emotional weather like Storm? Had the vitality and healing strength of Wolverine? Could read people like Professor X?
What is your superpower?
You have one. We all do.
My superpower is teaching people how to learn. As the creator of Kwik Learning’s brain training programs, I’m known for my memory and ability to read quickly. But I wasn’t born with these abilities. Like many superheroes, mine started with an accident – not a bite from a radioactive bookworm – but a head injury at five years old.
This didn’t give me super-powered reading abilities, but the exact opposite. I struggled to keep up with my classmates and never felt like I fit in. In fact, I learned to read by studying the words and pictures of my favorite comic books: Spider-Man, Batman, Avengers and Fantastic Four.
But my favorite was always the X-Men. Not because they were the strongest, but because, like me, they struggled because they were different. I happened to grow up in Westchester, New York, the renowned location of the X-Men school. At 7 years old, I spent hours on my bike every weekend trying to find it.
I never did – at least, not for a few more decades.
My academic struggles only got worse as the years went on. Upon arriving at college, I vowed to start fresh, really focus, do better and make my family proud. But instead of improving, I did worse….a lot worse.
Just as I was ready to give up, a friend invited me to clear my mind and spend the weekend with him and his family.
When I arrived at their house, his father took me for a walk on their property.
“How is school?” he asked.
Instead of smiling and saying it was fine, I broke down and told him the truth. I wasn’t smart enough, and I couldn’t work any harder. I was considering quitting.
“Why are you going to school? What would you like to eventually be, do and have?”
I had no response. But I started listing some of my dreams, writing them down at his insistence.
It was my very first bucket list.
When I finished, this man read my goals one by one. It felt like an eternity. But finally he looked directly at me, placed his two index fingers just 10 inches apart, and said…
“Jim, you are this close to everything on this list.”
Before I could tell him he was crazy, he moved his fingers to each side of my head, and whispered again, “this close.”
“Your brain controls everything in your life. It’s the key.”
He then took me back into his home, into a room unlike I’d ever seen before. It was covered in books, and he started handing me titles from every wall. My arms were filled with biographies of history’s leaders, as well as some early personal growth classics.
Panicked, I responded, “I can’t read these books. I just told you I’m overloaded with schoolwork.”
To which this man, my own Professor X, replied with a smile: “Don’t let school get in the way of your education.”
(I later learned this was a Mark Twain quote).
So after he reread my goals list to me, and I agreed to read one book a week.
I returned to school newly motivated, with desperation as my motivation, because I knew:
This was my last chance.
I returned to school with a renewed vigor and energy. But with my new pile of reading, I now had twice the workload, and midterms were coming up. I became so focused on studying that I hardly ate or slept.
One morning, I passed out and fell down a flight of stairs at the library.
I thought I died.
I woke up two days later in a hospital bed – weak, dehydrated, 30 pounds underweight and hooked up to wires and tubes.
But a different part of me woke up too.
The message that changed my life didn’t come from a wise kung-fu master. It came from a mug of tea a nurse brought to my hospital bed.
On the mug was a picture of Albert Einstein, along with his famous quote:
“Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.”
These words hit me like the Hulk. My problem was that I was a slow learner… but no class in school teaches you how to learn, only what to learn. Once I recovered, I spent a month reading everything I could on brain science, adult learning theory, multiple intelligence and memory. It was like a light-switch flipped. Suddenly, I could focus and remember so well I started tutoring other students.
One of my first students was a young woman determined to read 30 books in 30 days. Her mother was dying of cancer and had been given 60 days to live. This woman was desperately reading health books to save her mother’s life.
Six months later, that same woman called me. Her mother had beat the cancer, and she credited it to the knowledge she received from her daughter in those 30 days.
I realized then – if knowledge is power, learning is a superpower. In that moment, I knew I had to help people learn.
Two decades later, that’s exactly what I do. I travel the world teaching companies, governments and institutions how to learn. Last July, my journey took me to the offices of 20th Century Fox.
As I walked through the halls to the boardroom, I was surrounded by amazing movie posters: Star Wars, Alien, Titanic, Avatar. I felt like I was 7 years old again, and I took that childlike energy into my training. It was one of the best I’ve ever done.
Afterwards, the chairman of Fox Studios took me around the sets, and I saw a movie poster for the upcoming film The Wolverine. I mentioned that I couldn’t wait to see it. 10 minutes later, I was sitting in Fox’s movie theater with a pair of 3D glasses.
When I finished, the chairman asked me what I thought. I told him it was fantastic and told him I was a huge X-Men fan and how I used to ride my bike as a child looking for their school.
“I didn’t know you liked superheroes,” he replied. “Do you want to go to Comic-Con?”
The next morning, he picked me up at the hotel. When I boarded the plane, I was stunned to find myself surrounded by the cast of X-Men: Days of Future Past.
I spent an incredible day with them at Comic-Con, and spent the next week on their movie set. I shared brain tips to the cast and crew on how to speed-read scripts and memorize lines, and I got to watch these real-life superheroes bring my childhood dreams to life.
When I arrived home, the above photo was waiting for me. Attached was a note saying, “Thank you for sharing your superpowers with us. Here’s your class photo.”
I’d finally found the X-Men school.
My childhood dream was to live in a world of superheroes, and that dream came true. I’m not surrounded by invincible mutants who can teleport, run at the speed of sound, or shoot lasers from their eyes. But I see superheroes everyday, and you can be one too.
10 Superhero Keys to Success:
1. Know Your Superpowers.
Superheroes know their strengths and ability. They’re always discovering and developing their talents and knowledge because their next villain or challenge is never too far away. They are committed to lifelong learning.
2. Create a Superhero Team. Superheroes build strong networks of people they can trust and who compensate for their weaknesses. Successful people are rarely ‘self-made.’ Every achiever has help along the way – from friends, family, peers, customers, mentors and other superheroes.
3. Maintain a Super Attitude. Superheroes are known for their determination and positive leadership. They guard against negative thoughts and people. No matter how bad things get, successful people always have hope. They remain optimistic and work towards a better future.
4. Have an Aspiring Vision. Superheroes have a clear and compelling idea of what the future will look like. They know what they want and why they want it. Even if they don’t know exactly how to get there, they let their goals and values guide their actions and behaviors – not the other way around.
5. Take Action. Superheroes don’t wait for stuff to happen; they make stuff happen. Procrastination is the Kryptonite to progress. Pablo Picasso once said, “Action is the foundational key to all success.” Successful people act consistently and intelligently. They also act more than others, creating an almost unstoppable momentum towards their goals.
6. Get Feedback. Feedback is the breakfast of superheroes, so successful people use their senses and smarts to learn what action is working and not working. Only by measuring your results can you manage and change them in the future.
7. Be Accountable. Spiderman’s Uncle Ben once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Superheroes rarely blame others for their circumstances. They accept responsibility for their actions and situation. When successful people screw up, they admit their mistakes and fix them.
8. Be Mindful. Superheroes live in the present because if they’re not at the top of their game, they put lives at stake. Successful people don’t ruin a good today by thinking about a bad yesterday. This also means they’re not distracted by useless pursuits – they know what’s important and prioritize accordingly.
9. Have High Standards. Have you ever considered the difference between thermometers and thermostats? Thermometers react to and are influenced by the environment, while thermostats set standards that the environment adapts to. Superheroes are thermostats. They have high standards for what’s most important to them – their bodies, careers and relationships, and refuse to settle for anything less.
10. Make a Difference. Just as superheroes use their powers for good in both small and large ways, successful people contribute beyond themselves. Successful people think “we,” not “me.” They know to give more value than they receive in everyday situations. They do well by doing good.
The world loves superheroes.
We seek them out, they give us hope, while inspiring us to step into a greater version of ourselves.
And they show us, in no uncertain terms, that one person CAN make a difference, no matter the odds.
In the best case, superheroes are role models for standing tall, dealing with adversity, finding meaning in loss, developing abilities to serve others and turning struggles into our strength.
That’s why I want to help you find the superhero in you.
And you can start by mastering your brain.