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How to be a superhero

Tom Schenck addresses the crowd
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Motivational speaker Tom Schenck addresses the crowd at the Valley Health Fast Forward Business Luncheon in Winchester on Wednesday. Rich Cooley/Daily







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Former Spider-Man actor provides motivational address at Apple Blossom

By James Heffernan - jheffernan@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- As a soft-spoken, undersized farm boy growing up in Minnesota, Tom Schenck would shine a flashlight under the covers at night and live vicariously through the pages of comic books, whose larger-than-life heroes not only kept him entertained, but also taught him strong values.

"It wasn't just their power, their superhuman strength, their X-ray vision. ... They did what was right when it was important to do it," he said. "They didn't hesitate. They had courage. They had tenacity. And they never gave up."

Those are lessons that Schenck, now an acclaimed motivational speaker known as "Tom Terrific," says can be applied to one's personal and professional life.

"If it's the right thing to do, and it's the right thing to do now, do it, whether it's in relationships, with colleagues or in business," he advised a group of about 300 local business leaders Wednesday at the Valley Health Fast Forward Business Luncheon on the campus of Winchester Medical Center.

Schenck said his first true superhero was his mother, a teacher who set an example for him and his six siblings with her quiet strength, wisdom and unwavering devotion to people. With her as a guide, Schenck would go on to become a straight-A student, champion collegiate wrestler -- just missing the 1980 U.S. Olympic team -- Ivy League graduate, master body builder, wellness expert, national sales champion and headmaster of a private school for autistic children.

As a young actor in New York, Schenck landed his dream job portraying Spider-Man for Marvel Comics. The promotional role would take him around the world and instill in him the importance of being a real-life superhero, not just for himself, but to others.

Just as Spider-Man has a nemesis in the Green Goblin, everyone has villains in life in the form of adversity, Schenck said, but they can be crushed by attacking each day with gratitude, passion and action, he said.

"All of you in this room can be superheroes," he said. "You all have some combination of talent and skills that makes you unique. And the world needs you."

But first you have to train to be a superhero, he cautioned.

The first stage involves finding and reconnecting with the people who believe in you and inspire you, whether they be a family member, a friend or a teacher. The second stage consists of identifying your superpowers and honing them. The final stage, and the most important, according to Schenck, means becoming someone else's superhero -- what he calls "guardianship."

Just being a positive force is "absolutely intoxicating" and will draw people to you, he said.

And in an age when consumers have come to expect less, businesses and organizations can set themselves apart by going out of their way to create a bond with their customers and make them feel appreciated, he said.

After the talk, Schenck signed copies of his new book, "The Superhero Factor."

Randy Collins, president and CEO of the Top of Virginia Regional Chamber, one of the sponsors of the event, said Schenck's message is timely in what for many has been a difficult business climate.

"If they maintain a positive attitude and they look from within, they have all the skills they need to succeed not only in life, but also in running their businesses," he said.

Jacqueline Post, with Valley Health's Occupational Health Services, agreed.

"I think we got some nice tips on how to attack our villains in the workplace and in life," she said.

"And don't wait," added Aimee Price, regional safety manager with Greatwide Dedicated Transport in Front Royal. "It pays to deal with your villains right away."




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