Iron Man. Captain America. Batman. Wolverine. Spider-Man. Superman. All are household names, more today than ever. I’ll admit, I enjoy these guys and I go see their movies. They can be entertaining, inspiring, and dare I say aspirational all at once. Entertaining – absolutely – they always save the day just in the nick of time. Inspiring – you better believe it – they fight for good in spectacular fashion. Aspirational – unfortunately yes – at 10 years old I became a superhero named “Shadow Man.” I fought imaginary villains in my parents’ backyard. (Shadow Man could have been great had he not tried to climb out the 2nd floor window while his mom was home. Needless to say, Adam West from the old Batman TV series made it look a lot easier than it really is.)

The problem with superheroes is that they aren’t real. I don’t know anyone with incredible superpowers. I don’t know anyone with dual identities. I don’t know anyone who has saved the world. So, some time after the Shadow Man experiment, I shifted my focus away from superheroes. And I started looking at real people. I do know people with incredible strengths and unique gifts. I do know people with secure identities, who emanate humility, confidence, and love. I do know people who have changed the world…at least for those around them in significant ways. So, when it came to aspiration, I decided to look no further than the people around me — those in my home, church, summer camp, and school.

I looked to my sister Julie, six years older than me, who actively sought to serve others through leadership positions at her schools, succeeded as both a student and an athlete, and made a significant impact wherever she went. I remember wanting to somehow do the same. I looked to Chuck, who could start conversations with and befriend absolutely anyone…even total strangers. I remember wanting to be able to do that despite feeling shy and insecure. I looked to Joe, whose passion for the gospel and for the scriptures made him one of the most loving, compassionate, and impactful people I’d ever known. I remember thinking I could never be like that, but I sure wanted to try. There were many more.

Who do you think of from your childhood? Who did you want to be like?

As a kid, I knew those people weren’t superheroes, but they sure seemed larger than life. To me, they were giants. And I wanted to stand on their shoulders. I observed. I took mental notes. I asked some of them to serve as mentors. I knew I couldn’t be them, but I sure wanted to learn from them. And here I am, more than two decades later, and I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be who I am today or do the things I’m doing if it hadn’t been for these people. I like how Isaac Newton put it when he wrote:

If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

One of my great passions is that kids would recognize that they were made to shine. They were created with unique gifts and personalities and can greatly impact the world around them. Because I want kids to catch a realistic vision for this, when designing Lightgliders, I chose to use giants rather than superheroes.

The Lightgliders team shown above introduce kids to the Lightgliders game and serve as role models. Each was developed with a different personality, country of origin, and passion for service. With distinctive strengths, weaknesses, and gifts, these leaders of Lightglider Academy are there to help kids catch a vision for how they were uniquely created to shine even in the midst of life’s challenges.

Yes, there are fantastical elements to Lightgliders (like those cute creatures you see in the picture called the Gliddles), but at the heart of it are seven kids looking to change the world around them. They are ordinary, but they are also extraordinary. And, hopefully, for some kids out there, these characters will spark a desire to identify some real-world giants and begin climbing their shoulders.

Again, I love superheroes, but giants changed my life.