Unsung qualities of superheroes

As most of you know, summer movie season is when I revert to my inner child and jump up and down in my seat in theaters.  This year is no exception.  I waited for months and, finally, the Marvel installment I had been waiting for was here.  And it was worth the wait.

In every Marvel movie, I try to connect with the story beneath the story.  In this case, I fell in love with one character immediately.  The first viewing was pure joy and laughter.  I had to watch it a second time to savor it.

That’s right…twice.  And I’m considering a third.  It is that good and now ranks #1 on my Marvel list.

If you have not seen the movie and intend to, you may want to wait to read on.  Though I do not intend to provide spoilers, I do reference specific scenes you may want to experience for yourself.


If you’re still with me, I’ll share that the reason why this movie is at the top of my list can be described in three words: “We are Groot.”  For someone that has said “I am Iron Man,” I will now tack on “but I aspire to be like Groot.”

Groot is not a traditional superhero.  He may have strength, but his power is in his soft skills.  Here are three characteristics that make him a true, if unconventional, leader and superhero to me.


1.  The heart is a muscle too

At the beginning of the story, Groot is introduced as Rocket’s muscle.  They are both bounty hunters, with Rocket as the brains and Groot the brawn.

It does not take long to realize that Groot is more than muscle.  He is a reminder to Rocket, and then the rest of the Guardians, that heart matters.

When they encounter a small group of children in Knowhere, Peter tells them to watch for pickpockets.  Groot has nothing to take.  Instead, he gives what he can to a little girl – he grows a daisy in his hand and shares it with her.

As leaders, we have a lot of power, or muscle, at our disposal.  What could we accomplish if we exercised our heart as much as the rest of our muscles?


2.  Our limitations do not define us

Groot can speak three words.  I, am, and Groot – in that order.  Imagine if you only had three words in your entire vocabulary.  In spite of – or maybe because of – this limitation, he must find other ways to share what he’s thinking and feeling.  As a result, his actions take on even more power than his words.

Groot refuses to let his limitations limit him.  He may not always have the words to describe how he feels, but he demonstrates love, friendship, and loyalty without having to utter a single one.

How much more could we do if we were not so worried about what we don’t have?


3.  Sometimes it’s enough to be the light that brightens someone else’s way

When the Guardians break into the Black Aster, everyone has a role but Groot.  When they land, it is pitch dark and no one can see.  Groot opens his hand and small points of incandescent flowers float into the ship.

This is a moment of stunning beauty in the middle of a war.  What he brought was not strength or cunning.  He brought light to the darkness.

As friends, mentors and leaders, our job is not always to fix.  It is not always to defend.  Sometimes, those we care for just need a light when they feel lost in the darkness.

How many more could find their way if we were willing to stand back and be their light?


Bonus:  We can be reborn

When the Black Aster is downed, Groot uses his limbs to create a protective shell for his friends.  Rocket tells him he will die, and asks him why he is protecting them.  Groot expands his vocabulary and states “We are Groot.”  To him, friendship is worth sacrifice.

Out of the ashes of the destroyed ship, there are sticks everywhere…remnants of Groot.  Rocket takes one and plants it, carrying it with him as a reminder of his lost friend.

Later, we see a sapling open his eyes and yawn, maybe even do a little dance to the Jackson 5.  He has been reborn and we are shown a promise of the future with him present.

We all have the ability to be reborn.  It is not easy.  It will feel like we are splintered, in small parts that no longer make up a whole.  We have to unlearn bad habits and embrace the growing pains ahead.

How much could we grow, if we were not so focused on the cost of change?


Did I mention in any of this that Groot is a walking, talking tree?  No.  Because by the end of the movie, he is as relatable as any human.  He may be covered in bark and able to take out a small army single-handedly, but he can also create beauty wherever he goes.

Have you seen the movie?  What did you think of Groot as a leader vs Peter Quill, who technically leads the pack?  I’d love if you could share your thoughts in the comments and keep the conversation going because…

We are Groot.