A Lesson from Stan Lee: It's Never Too Late to Become a Superhero
In this story, I reflect on a lesson from Stan Lee and the importance of taking action sooner rather than later. I share my own experience of being in a situation where I lacked the energy to act properly and the regret that followed. I urge readers to muster the courage and to take inspiration from Stan Lee, that it's never too late to become a superhero.
My 52-Year-Old Self Learned a Valuable Lesson from Stan Lee: It's Never Too Late to Become a Superhero
By Michael Levin
Wednesday, May 17, 2023
Okay, I have submitted my first 15Five report, haha! When I started out in this biz, the lack-of accountability systems was like the biggest problem, because the offenses could be as egregious as blowing off 10 perfectly reasonable web-leads per-day coming in over the website and nobody would know. No matter the emails or reports or personal pleas to the higher-ups, the problem was incorrigible. I always got smiles and nods, but no action. So I turned the mechanism that captured the sales leads into a message board system that checked in with them to discuss how follow-up has been going.
Of course all the prospective customers started answering back that they had received no follow-up. I made a lead-assignment system so that the leads would be assigned to the salespeople who could assign them out to dealers, value added resellers, custom solution providers or whatever they were being called. Every time a lead came in, it notified the company salesperson in that region asking them to turn it into a direct sales opportunity or to assign it to a reseller. Again, crickets. So you know what? I started assigning them to the VARs myself. Boy was that a heady moment. I was wondering if I was going to get fired.
But guess what? I didn’t get fired, and I started receiving all kinds of thanks from all over the world. I mean the names still just roll off my tongue the friendships I made through this process. People like Ahmed Balfaqih and Ahmed ElRidi who were just so appreciative and responsive, and whom I would have never otherwise known.
Ahmed told me I should turn it into a business because it’s so useful and they’ve never seen anything like it. I mean, Salesforce was a thing by then, but this was a scrappy little version you could just throw onto a site. If you took the whole thing, it was also the site’s CMS, message board system, tech support system, order management system and factory bill-of-materials system. I could have been a contender (in the voice of Marlon Brando).
I was like, no it’s an internal system here at Scala and I’m happy here. But alas, alas, I am such a dumbass. But I did make a lot of new friends.
This was maybe like 2002, a few years before I came to New York, realized I wasn’t just fixing a problem everyone wanted fixing but was actually running afoul of the company’s… I don’t exactly know what to call it, but I was starting to think it was criminal and started to raise concerns. That’s when I was told the company didn’t really “have” to make sales. I was like “then why did you bring me in for a percentage of company gross revenue?”
I did not waste my great twenty-eights. I did not waste my great twenty-eights. This was all worth it for the experience… for the experience… the journey is the reward… the journey is the reward… if you haven’t made it by now you’re never going to make it… if you haven’t made it by now you’re never going to make it… reverberation… Resonance? Dissonance? Resonance? Dissonance? Sour grapes or turn the other cheek?
This game has not played out.
Stan Lee! That is who this situation invokes in my head. Stan Lee was 49 years old when he become the head of Marvel Comics. Now adjusting for the fact that I am considerably less ambitious than Stan Lee and have little to no desire to start my own company, my 52 years old is not too late at all to have some big impact on the world.
I was knocked off the horse I came riding into New York on. It takes as many years coming out of a situation to recover as it took going in. It’s a shitty rule of life, but I’m fairly convinced that’s how the brain works. So the sooner you act on something, the better. One of my biggest regrets in life is that I lacked the energy to properly act on a certain situation sooner, but now I think I shall.
Muster the courage. Take that lesson from Stan Lee. It’ never too late to become a superhero.