Join Fred Kofman for an in-depth discussion in this video The moral fiber of heroes, part of Powerless to Powerful: Taking Control.
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- A hero is not the person that accomplishes incredible physical things. It may be we admire those people because they have the discipline to do it, but it's the discipline, it's not just the physical accomplishment, but it's the moral fiber that enables these athletes to go wherever they need to go to reach beyond what has happened in the past. You don't need to be a world-class athlete to be a hero. In fact, some of the most incredible act of heroism are made by just simple people like you and me.
One story that really rocked me when I read it-- it's the second part of an experiment, you may know the first part-- Paul Milgrom, is a famous researcher from Stanford, and he had an experiment where he brought people in, normal people, from the Palo Alto area, and he wanted these people--he wanted to test how these people would respond to authority. So he had this experiment with one-- this was a confederate, this was a person that, unbeknownst to the real participants in the experiment, was part of the experiment team.
So, let's say there were 10 people from the outside, but mixed with them, there was one person that was this confederate, was an artist, an actor. So they put the 11, and appeared to randomly choose the actor to be, quote, the learner. So the actor was gonna be the learner, they put the actor inside the lab and hooked him to some electric wires. The experiment was for the people outside, which had to give feedback to the learner when he made a mistake with an electric jolt.
There was a dial that went from zero to 400 volt. At 200 said, "Danger." There was skull and bones, and 400 said, "Dead" or something, I mean, just horrible signs that said, "don't do this." The experiment was with a man in a white lab coat that the only thing he was allowed to say, this was one of the experimenters, "Please continue with the experiment." He wasn't yelling at people, he wasn't punishing them, he wasn't threatening them, he only said, "Please continue with the experiment." What happened is, the first person would go there, the others were watching.
The experimenter would say, "Here's the experiment, if he makes a mistake, "you give him a jolt with the button, "and then we raise the dial every time." People started getting uncomfortable, they didn't know that was the case, that's what they were asked to do, but they started doing it, and then, after 100 volts, the jolts became painful and the actor started screaming. There was no real electricity, it was the guy screaming. But they didn't know, they actually felt they were giving the jolts. Well, the question was, how far would these people get? When after 300 the person would go unconscious, and the experimenter keeps saying, "Please continue with the experiment." They thought that-- There's a 3% of psychopaths in any population, so maybe one out of the 10, or, they did this many times, maybe three, 5% of people would get to a dangerous level.
Well, it turns out that fully 2/3rds of the people got all the way to a deadly discharge. It's shocking. Amazing. They couldn't believe how people would obey authority and do horrible things and have no sense of morality to stop that and say, "I'm not doing it." That's the bad part of the experiment. But they did it again, with a change. They have two confederates, one was the actor, but the other was another actor which was chosen to be the first one.
This first actor, in front of everybody else, rebelled. So when the experimenter said, "Please continue with the experiment," said--"No! "The hell with you! I'm leaving!" And stood up and walked. After that, 90% of the people walked. Only one person would continue. That's heroism. That's what a hero does, it says, "I will stand for the truth, I will stand for what's right, "I will walk away." And the example of that can change the world. But that's not a great thing, it's not like an athlete saying-- - -or go conquer Asia, like, I need to be Alexander to be a hero.
No, no, no. To be a hero, you do the right thing. You choose to express your values in the face of difficult circumstances. You give an example to other people that that is the way to live.