Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
An outlook regularly trafficked among those with “personal development” ostensibly on their minds — and a bedrock principle of “hustle culture” — holds that watching TV and movies as pure entertainment is a waste of the time that could otherwise be productively used. I think this counsel can be ill-founded, and actually counterproductive. Life, after all, is meant to be more than work. Always being “on” is a surefire way to burn out and lose focus on what matters, which is creating freedom in every sense of the word. Taking time to enjoy entertainment and watch movies, along with working, is one way of achieving success in a balanced way.
The gathered storytelling of The Marvel Cinematic Universe is one of this author’s preferred ways to relax and be entertained, not least in its riveting characters, moments of thrills and suspense and no shortage of life lessons. Because, for those paying attention, the MCU offers true inspiration — moments that foster motivation and, yes, personal development.
Here are three uniquely powerful examples from Marvel’s Avengers.
1. Captain Marvel and the power of recovered memory
If one follows the plotline of the recent film, it’s clear that Captain Marvel had been duking it out with evildoers many years before the Avengers ever assembled. In the movie, we also see Carol Danvers not remembering much of that past, as the Kree and Supreme Intelligence suppress it. She toughs through most of the movie not realizing how powerful she truly is until a coming-into-awareness moment with the Supreme Intelligence. In that scene, Danvers is tied up by the Kree and told that, “What was given can be taken away”, and fights to break loose from a governor that’s holding back her powers. When the Supreme Intelligence knocks her down, she starts to remember all the times she’s been knocked down in life, often in circumstances where other people tried to hold her back.
Related: 4 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Be Relentless Like Michael Jordan
Danvers transitions into Captain Marvel as she realizes this — that every time she was knocked down, she got back up and kept going. She starts to understand that each moment of adversity made her stronger, and uses that awareness to break free of her captors and claim who she is: a powerful being who has come a long way.
Each of us needs such a moment in our journey to become the best version of ourselves. We need to break the governor, so to speak… to claim our power. We have overcome a lot as entrepreneurs, and those experiences make us stronger and more resilient.
2. Thor earning the responsibility of the hammer
In the MCU, Thor, the god of thunder and lightning, is the son of Odin and the future King of Asgard. In the first Thor movie, we see an arrogant young man who has a lot of learning to do. Always quick to fight, he decides to start a conflict with Asgard’s enemy, the Frost Giants, behind Odin’s back, ultimately forcing Odin to save Thor and his band of companions. Odin knows that the young god needs a powerful life lesson, so he takes away his powers and banishes him to live among humans in Midgard (Earth). What has been a signature weapon, his hammer, is also sent to Earth, but before doing so, Odin instructs the hammer that, “Whoever be so worthy shall possess the power of Thor”, meaning such a being can pick up and use the hammer.
While on Earth, many try to release this weapon from the ground, but can’t, including Thor himself — a heartbreaking moment of regret and humility. He proceeds to adjust to life on Earth and begins to learn where it all went wrong. His brother Loki, however, has no such revelations, and in fact may never see right from wrong.
In charge of Asgard after allowing the Frost Giants into that home of the Asgardians — who ultimately kill his adopted father (Odin), Loki sends an Asgardian superweapon to Earth to take control. In response, Thor stands up for humanity and what he believes is right, and begs his brother to alter this plan, but the superweapon slaps Thor to almost death. At that moment, however, he earns his power and responsibility back, goes on to be reunited with the hammer, and reclaims the power of Thor. The moment when the hammer comes back is, of course, inspirational; Thor took the long road to redemption and understanding, but walked away in a stronger position in his mind and life.
Sometimes we need to learn humility to accomplish ambitious goals… need to step back and discover what pride keeps us from seeing. Feeling as if we’ve “made it” is a surefire way of not putting in enough work to accomplish broader goals. Thor was humbled, and that made him more resilient, and created a path for him to become a king and a great leader. Becoming the best version of yourself means realizing that success is not an end destination, but constant work and a commitment to growth.
Related: The Emotional Roller Coaster of Entrepreneurship
3. Sam Wilson taking up the mantle of Captain America
In the Disney+ and Marvel series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, we see the aftermath of Captain America being gone. Sam Wilson (Falcon) and James “Bucky” Barnes (Winter Soldier), Steve Rodger’s (Captain America) close friends, struggle with their identity outside of this friendship.
Barnes is offended that Wilson won’t take up the responsibility and become Captain America, as Rodgers had wished. Instead, the wrong person, John Walker, is given the official Captain America title until his true nature is revealed. Wilson has to work through the mindset struggles that keep him from claiming who he truly is.
Sometimes entrepreneurship requires you to let go of who you’ve always been and embrace who you want to become, and that is what happened for Wilson. After seeing the struggles of those who are underrepresented, he embraces responsibility and becomes the new Captain America. And, not only does he save the day in the final episode, but also calls out those in power for the systematic oppression they were inflicting on the underprivileged. He makes it clear that Captain America is back, and represents the regular people, not those bathed in privilege.
Related: Deal With Your Past and Step Into Your Entrepreneurial Power
Wilson also struggled with his identity as an African American. He felt the plight of underrepresented people, including having to constantly explain the realities of oppression. He came to understand, ultimately, that this struggle made him the right person to take up the superhero mantel.
Your struggles can be part of your most significant moments of strength when you commit to learn from each experience. So, give yourself credit for how far you’ve come; you’re here and still breathing. Realize how strong you are and keep putting in the work to accomplish goals. You have everything you need within to build a life of accomplishment and true freedom.