How to be a Real-Life Action Hero

Action heroes: All men have secretly fantasized about being one and all women have fantasized about being with one. The hot and passionate action hero is the star of many blockbusters and best-selling novels. But what separates normal men from those like Jack Reacher, Gage Hartline, and James Bond? Besides a few gadgets and an odd supply of cash, not too much else.

Yes, ordinary men can be the action heroes that women fall head-over-heels for, and it doesn’t take getting shot at. Why do we love them? What’s the allure? What are the specific characteristics that draw us to these characters? When I created Gage Hartline, the Green Beret-turned mercenary, I wanted him to be realistic, to be human. But, make no mistake; I wanted him to be different. The action hero I created despises injustice. In fact, other than the special tattoo on his shoulder, his primary characteristic is his passion to see justice done, especially when the victim happens to be less than fortunate. He’s not afraid to leap right in and quickly, and sometimes violently, to right a wrong.

The violence is for fiction, it’s obviously created for the reader’s entertainment because there is definitely no need to add any more violence to this world. But what this world could use is a few more heroes. Want to be one? Here’s how you can pave your way to becoming the guy that saves the girl, and the world.


Let’s start there, with your calling card—with whatever it is about you, about your character, about your person, that sets you apart. Be consistent. Be unique. This could be the way you carry yourself, an activity you love, or a skill you have. Action heroes are highly-proficient in at least one unique skill and use this skill to help make the world a better place.

When someone references you, what do they say about you? Do they say “You talking about John? Yeah, I know him. He’s the guy who always has the really bad breath.”

Ugh. Don’t let that be you.

If you don’t already have a calling card, hone in on something that you’re good at or get better at something you try and stick with it. People won’t know you for this after only a few weeks. Being known for something will take months, sometimes years. Then, after you’ve cultivated what your distinction is, someone might say, “You talking about John? Of course, I know him! He’s the guy that’s won the CrossFit Games three years in a row.” Or “He’s a volunteer at that really awesome dog rescue group.” Or, maybe you’ll be known for your hobby. “He’s the guy that restores British motorcycles. I’m dying to ride his ’67 Triumph Bonneville.”

Find your calling card and develop it to the max. And, just in case, always carry strong mints for the bad breath.


Take care of your body, it’s the only one you’ll ever have. But you don’t have to look like a bodybuilder to command respect.

Try to develop your body equally, seeking power, endurance and flexibility. In fiction, an action hero might find himself in a long foot chase followed by brutal bout of hand-to-hand combat. While you probably will never find yourself in this type of situation, it’s better to be prepared for all contingencies. One never knows when athletic prowess might be necessary.

When exercising, switch up your cardio often, giving you a better variety of exercises to prepare yourself. When working your muscles, use compound exercises with excellent form. And surprise your muscles, don’t go for the same old routine each time. Keep them guessing. For flexibility, don’t be afraid to enlist in Pilates or yoga. Both are good for developing flexibility, core-strength and focus. And always remember, action heroes don’t care if they look hot (although it seems to help with the ladies), they care that their body is at its peak performance level for their way of life. You don’t have to look like Rambo, but if you feel good about yourself and feel healthy then you are on the right path.


Have you ever seen Jack Reacher stare at the menu and ask how the chicken salad is prepared? Or how about a chase scene where the hero merges onto a busy highway and stops on the ramp, frozen, afraid to make his way into the heavy traffic. No, you haven’t seen such a thing, because a hero is decisive. He’s bold. There is no time to be indecisive when in a car chase or bullets are flying at you.

Whether on a date, with a buddy or all alone, a true action hero sits down at the bar and orders like this: “I’ll have a Heineken, in the bottle. I’ll also have the bone-in rib-eye, rare, with asparagus and a plain sweet potato.” This is said quickly, confidently and with a full measure of baritone in the voice. The Heineken shows us that the action hero enjoys a nice beer, but isn’t compelled to order something trendy. He’s no hipster. He also drinks his beer from the bottle, displaying a lack of pretension. His penchant for a rare rib-eye tells us he enjoys his beef with enough fat to give it full flavor, and the asparagus and plain sweet potato clue us in that he likes a tad more flavor than the average man.

The same man roars down the entrance ramp, confidently merging into traffic. He uses his signal, but it’s not to ask permission to merge. He’s telling the other drivers, “Move over. I’m coming in.” And none of the drivers dare question him.

Make all decisions with confidence. And have no regrets.


Ever go along with something for fear of saying no to a group of people? Sure, it’s no fun being the buzz kill . . . being the one to throw cold water all over an idea. But having the guts to stand up for something or someone is not only admirable, it’s intrepid.

This could be an “in the moment” decision, such as standing up for someone less fortunate. It could also include a cause you’re involved in, such as delivering meals to the homebound or being a big brother through your local Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter.

Having a moral compass isn’t about appearing cool and certainly isn’t something to brag about. It’s about character and doing the right thing when no one else is watching.


Action heroes don’t panic. Ever. When everyone around you is freaking out, that’s when you should exude maximum calm. You don’t have to have a signature phrase like, “Go ahead, punk, make my day.” But you do need to have that certain “it” factor about you that shows you’re unshakable, cool under fire and a person to be counted on in a time of need.

Being cool isn’t a skill—it’s a mindset.

We’re drawn to action heroes because of their ability to do so many of the things we wish we could do, but the reality is that many of these action heroes are rooted in real-life people who took the time out of their day to be less ordinary, have a cause and do what’s right.

Stop wishing and start doing.

Chuck Driskell is a veteran U.S. Army paratrooper which fueled his passion for success. His post-military life has been spent in the advertising business and as a writer where he finds time to create stories that are a blend of crime, suspense, and spy genres. He lives in South Carolina with his wife and two children. You can find more about Chuck Driskell and his books by visiting his website or find him on Facebook.


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