Casper Daugaard

Swim with Sharks

Posted by Casper Daugaard | October - 13 - 2011 | 7 Comments

How to Be(come) Bruce Wayne

by Casper Daugaard

Have you ever wished you were Bruce Wayne? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. It is no coincidence that certain superheroes are a lot more popular than others. When Hollywood releases movies about Bruce Wayne’s alter ego, Batman, they generate hysterical obsession and become smash hits that outperform other movies with equally famous superheroes both critically and financially.* The same goes for Tony Stark (a.k.a. Iron Man), another billionaire vigilante. Why are they so much more popular? What Batman and Iron Man have in common and what sets them apart from other superheroes is not just that they are billionaire playboys. Both Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark are 100% human. They were not born on Krypton, genetically reprogrammed by (evil) Army scientists, or bitten by a radioactive spider. They are not gods. They are superheroes with no superpowers! A paradox, but a very marketable one.

Tony Stark/Iron Man uses genius wits, extreme technological leverage and clever misogynistic jokes to become Iron Man. While Stark is incredibly intriguing, I will focus on Bruce Wayne (and his alter ego, Batman) in this article. Batman represents the peak of human physique and mental conditioning. He has used extreme discipline, a burning desire for revenge, years of training, and millions upon millions of dollars to become what many have referred to as “the most dangerous man on earth.”

I live and attend university in New Haven, Connecticut, one of the most depraved cities in America. People get mugged by evil fiends on a weekly basis. In 2011, 32 of New Haven’s population of 100,000 were murdered. I often fantasize how excellent it would be if the city had a crime-fighting vigilante to spread fear and terror amongst the criminals, and make the city a safer place. But what kind of vigilante should that be? Of all the vigilantes of the night, Batman is the most realistic. But how realistic exactly? With the right genetic make-up and training, could you realistically become the Dark Knight? What would it take? Let’s find out.

Before we start here, let me say this: in essence, becoming Batman requires you to be offensively good (master level) at a lot of different things. In his book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell references the 10,000 hour rule: that is takes around 10,000 hours (or 20 hours per week for 10 years!) of practice to become a master of any given skill. By implication, becoming a master at something usually involves an insane amount of commitment for a whole decade, just to learn one skill. And Batman is a master of several skills. Just so you’re warned.

*Alright, the Spiderman franchise did pretty well financially. But they are about the shittiest movies ever.

Our analysis will assume that Bruce Wayne can be ‘reduced’ into constituent parts (mental and physical traits, skills, assets) that, when combined, make up a whole that is more than the sum of its parts – and allow him to be Batman. We will then analyze how realistic such a trait or ability is, and how you can acquire it.

NOTE: This article has a secret, subtle message. Pull out your inner detective and see if you can find it.

Here are the parts that make up Batman:

PSYCHOLOGY OF BATMAN

Little is understood about the power of the mind. But everyone agrees that the mind is immensely powerful. In fact, Batman’s strength, technology and mastery of martial arts would be worthless if were not for his sharp mind and disciplined personality. Let’s see what his personality is made up of:

Wayne Enterprises HQ1.   Be a Billionaire

Forbes Magazine’s list of fictional billionaires states Bruce Wayne’s net worth to be $6.3 billion, falling slightly behind the fortunes of Tony Stark and Scrooge McDuck. Bruce’s assets, controlled by the Wayne Foundation, include Wayne Enterprises, which is the mother company to several successful enterprises (WayneTech, Wayne Biotech, Wayne Foods). The profits from these companies continue to add to Bruce’s wealth. And he needs the money. The costs associated with Bruce’s education and training as well as the development and maintenance of the Batcave beneath Wayne Manor and Batman’s various advanced crime-fighting technologies – all whilst maintaining supreme secrecy – are in the hundreds of millions, if not more. No billions, no Batman.

HOW TO: Given our very short life span as human, amassing $1 billion or more in assets is hard to do through a salaried job – although it has happened to a few tech CEOs and investment bankers. Unless you are heir to a massive fortune, you are probably better off starting your own scalable business venture. Bruce Wayne has done this several times in diversifying Wayne Enterprises. If your business is to be worth $1 billion, it must either generate at least $100 million in annual net income or be a highly attractive acquisition target for a mega corporation like Google, Siemens or Apple.

2.   Be Fuelled by an Obsessive Lust for Revenge

When Bruce Wayne was a little boy aged 8, his parents were brutally slaughtered – right before his eyes – by a ruthless drug fiend. Dr. Thomas Wayne (a brilliant businessman and surgeon) and Martha Wayne (prominent socialite and child abuse activist) were the most important people in young Bruce’s life. He loved them so much, and their deaths devastated him. However, instead of letting himself be destroyed by the trauma, young Bruce used his loss as the ultimate motivator to become (much) more than a man. He decided to do what others won’t (or can’t) do and dedicate his whole life to fighting evil and crime, filled with fierce dedication and discipline.

HOW TO: This is slightly tricky. You can’t just decide to become Batman. You will probably grow tired or run out of energy after a while. And you can’t just have your parents murdered and desire revenge, either. But to become Batman, you need to create a motivation or cause that is as powerful and emotionally charged as Bruce’s desire to avenge his murdered parents. Without this fierce drive, your billion-dollar fortune will probably make you happy and content and dull your mind and prevent you from becoming Batman.

3.   Possess an Indomitable Will and Extreme Discipline

Bruce Wayne is not just the most dangerous man on earth. He is also the most disciplined, a most important prerequisite for his “success”. If he falls, he always gets back up, and never quits. His many years of physical and mental condition, and his ability to face the dangers and drudgery of fighting crime while running a billion dollar empire could not happen without iron will power. Bruce’s extreme discipline comes partly from his inner determination caused by his parents’ murder, and partly from the inhuman Ninjutsu and meditation training he underwent in his early 20s with the League of Shadows ninja clan in the Japanese mountains.

HOW TO: Everything Bruce Wayne has done in his life has required (extreme) self-discipline, and that has, by implication, given him more of it. Personal development guru Steve Pavlina says that the valuable trait of discipline is like a muscle that can be trained – slowly. If you hit the gym for the first time and boldly pick up a set of 110lbs dumbbells, you will fail and possibly injure yourself. But if you start with 10lbs and gradually increase the burden, your strength will grow over time. It’s like forging a habit.

So, to build iron will power, do things that require just that: run marathons or Ironman triathlons, take 7 courses in a college semester or start a business. Or do them all at once. You will need excellent time management skills, like the Getting Things Done (GTD) system and a (heavily encrypted) Google Calendar.

NOTE: with the proper technique, meditating for 15-30 minutes every day has been scientifically proven to lower stress and improve concentration and willpower.

4.   Have a Strong Network

Even though he is the most dangerous (and disciplined) man on earth, Batman would be nothing without the right network of trusted people around him. Bruce Wayne has many political and business connections that help him make Wayne Enterprises one of the most successful companies in America. But more importantly, Bruce has an inner circle of trusted people that help him be successful with his crime-fighting goals, either by offering advice or exerting their influence. They know Bruce’s deepest secrets and fears, and care for him deeply.

For instance, Police Commissioner Joe Gordon offers Batman valuable intelligence and advice from inside Gotham City’s political and law enforcement scene, and helps him keep his identity secret. The scientist Lucius Fox, who is a scientist and CEO of Wayne Enterprises (Bruce himself is Chairman of the Board, which involves fewer work hours), helps Batman with developing and maintaining the advanced technology his crime-fighting requires without raising any eyebrows. And then there’s Alfred, Bruce’s loyal butler and ward who raised him after his parents’ murder. Alfred advices Bruce on all matters and helps him maintain Wayne Manor and the Batcave. He also usually stitches Bruce up after a brutal night of crime-fighting.

NOTE: Information about Batman’s capabilities analyzed here comes from the Silver Age mythology of Batman (the same used by Christopher Nolan in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight). Fortunately, the Silver Age of Batman refuses – just like this author – to recognize the existence of the despicable “Boy Wonder” known as Robin. Actor Christian Bale said he would refuse to play Batman if Robin were included in the newest Batman franchise.

HOW TO: No matter what your goals are, there are people out there who can help you achieve them. According to relationship expert Keith Ferrazzi, your objective must be to identify these people and approach them (if they aren’t in your life already). If you develop an authentic and trusted relationship with someone, they will likely start caring about to the same extent that Gordon, Fox or Alfred cares about Bruce – and they will go considerable lengths in trying to help you. But you must be willing to be vulnerable and authentic around these people, which can be hard at first. There is considerable, awesome power in social relationships and cooperation. Trust us: If Batman can’t “go it alone,” neither can you.

5.   Have Nerves of Steel

In fighting armed criminals (who are often sadistic sociopaths), Batman is faced with the risk of severe injury, death, torture or worse – on a daily basis. Fear can be a paralyzing force for all animals, including humans, and Batman is not in a position to let fear interfere with his important work. Through his mastery of mental and physical disciplines, Batman has made himself utterly fearless. Like a surgeon, he approaches complicated challenges and crises with calm, controlled rationality. He knows he can escape from a falling elevator (while on fire) or take down 10 armed opponents because he has done so in the past, over and over again. At the same time, he believes so strongly in his own cause that he sees it as something larger than himself. Consequently, he has also lost his fear of death. Not being afraid of death leaves very little of which to be afraid.

As much as Batman needs to avoid fear in his work, he recognizes the value of fear in fighting crime. He has adopted the image of a bat (dark, fast, overwhelming, dangerous, mysterious create of the night) to accomplish one goal: use intimidation tactics and instill fear and terror in his enemies. This also makes Batman an excellent interrogator; he can often extract information from suspects whom police can’t even get to talk. Batman never kills his enemies on purpose, but he usually makes them believe they are going to die a terrifying death, then spares their life last minute. Most people give up their criminal activities after they have encountered Batman.

HOW TO: Realizing that life is short and you will die soon can help eliminate your instinctual fear of death. This has tremendous power, and can enable you to do amazing things that other people can’t. You must know your fears in detail and think about them deeply. Then you must confront them as often as possible. Bruce Wayne is unafraid of harm and death, and he confronts extreme danger on a daily basis.

If you want to move in the same fearless direction, make sure to study my articles on Swimming with Sharks and Conquering your Fear of Death (coming late Feb 2012).

6.   Be a Master of Deception

To the world, Bruce Wayne is reputed to be a narcissistic and irresponsible billionaire playboy with a thirst for women and hard liquor. Of course, this is merely a deceptive act carefully crafted to protect Bruce’s real identity. Bruce is actually a complete teetotaler, and the booze is ginger ale disguised as champagne. Bruce’s true personality is very consistent with Batman’s image: stoic, disciplined and driven by a hard-core moral code.

Deception is key to Batman’s success, but not just to protect his identity. He must also deceive his many enemies in order to out-strategize them and lure them into traps.

HOW TO: To become adept at manipulation and deception, it might be good for you to work with the CIA or in some capacity of undercover law enforcement. A less extreme method includes studying drama and acquiring acting skills, generally being able to know how others perceive you, and then controlling that image to fit your requirements. Use the world as your mirror. This is much more difficult than it sounds, but absolutely key if you wish to maintain a secret identity and out-strategize rivals and enemies.

7.   Possess Genius Intellect

You probably wouldn’t want to play chess or Words with Friends against Bruce Wayne. His IQ is estimated to be a staggering 192 (!). This genius level of intelligence allows Bruce to be a master strategist. Given his lack of superpowers, Batman often uses cunning and planning to outwit his foes: usually multiple super-villains who operate independently or in ever-changing alliances or rivalries. Batman uses lateral thinking to solve problems quickly and effectively. He is not just dangerous and disciplined, as we have established. He is also a master detective, gifted with one of the keenest analytical minds in the world. Thanks to his intellect and deductive reasoning skills, Batman can analyze evidence and solve complicated puzzles and mysteries very fast as part of his war on crime. His vast experience has equipped his subconscious with a powerful “sixth sense” intuition.

HOW TO: IQ (intelligence quotient) is, to a high extent, genetically determined. The average person on earth has an IQ of 100, and an IQ beyond 148 is considered genius level. There is not that much you can do to increase your IQ (you can lower it, though.) However, research shows that the right diet (rich on creatine and protein) and keeping your mind engaged by reading, studying and solving puzzles can help stimulate your mind and maximize your intellectual potential, and even score up to 10% better on IQ tests.

I should also note that even with an IQ several points lower, it is likely Batman would be equally successful.

8.   Hold Ivy League Degree(s)

The secret nature of Batman’s work makes it difficult for him to outsource any of it. He has to do most of it himself: compile psychological profiles on his enemies, engineer new crime-fighting technology, conduct chemical analyses of evidence or perform life-serving surgery on others (or, sometimes, himself!). To acquire all this knowledge and skill, Bruce Wayne has pursued numerous degrees from several universities, usually at the same time. Thanks to his genius level IQ and strict work ethic, he has been able to do so.

Research conducted on Silver Age sources by the Yale Alumni Magazine in 2010 shows that Bruce Wayne attended Yale College and Yale Law School, and was a member of the prestigious senior society Skull and Bones (which was founded by Bruce’s grandfather!) as well as the academic honors society Phi Beta Kappa. He also attended Princeton University. It is hardly surprising that Bruce attended two schools. After all, he holds (advanced) degrees in computer science, medicine, psychology, molecular biology, criminology, chemistry, physics and various types of engineering and botany.

HOW TO: It is quite challenging to gain admission to Ivy League schools, even if you are very talented. Even if you do get in, pursuing so many degrees is a Herculean task and requires several excellently time-managed years, strict discipline and endless piles of cash.

Fortunately, these days, most of the information needed to obtain any degree can be accessed on the internet for free, on Wikipedia or at a place like Khan Academy.

BATMAN’S BODY

All of Batman’s mental resources would mean very little if it were not for his Olympian physique, which he has spent decades perfecting and optimizing for crime-fighting. His strength, speed, stamina, agility, reflexes, and coordination are at the peak of human potential. Dr. Paul E. Zehr, a professor of neuroscience and human physiology at Johns Hopkins University (and dedicated Batman fan), helps us break-down the physical attributes required to be Batman.

1.   Possess Extreme Strength

Bruce Wayne is took up strength training when he was 15. He trains his whole body several times a week, with focus on back and core abdominal muscles (for balance), legs (for speed, kicking and jumping force) as well as chest and arms (for acrobatic moves and fist fighting). In addition to providing strengths and power, Bruce’s musculature also serves as an extra layer of armor to protect him from the daily battering he receives when fighting his enemies. For measure, Bruce can easily climb up a pole, is able to do 1,000 perfect form crunches and can bench upward of 800lbs.

HOW TO: Even though Bruce Wayne is immensely strong, strength training, according to Dr. Zehr, is actually the least of Batman’s concerns. If your genetic make-up and metabolism are correct and you maintain a perfect, low-fat diet rich on protein and creatine (Bruce Wayne consumes about 4,000 calories a day, mostly carbs), it “only” takes between 3-5 years of 6 intense, weekly work-outs to develop the strength level required for Batman to perform his feats and be a lethal martial artist.

NOTE on steroids: Even though his physical appearance could seem to suggest so, Dr. Zehr states that Batman most likely does not use steroids. They are not necessary, would damage his health and interfere with other capacities on which he depends.

2.   Be in Excellent Cardiovascular Health

Bruce Wayne is a master sprinter, long-distance runner, thrower, swimmer and climber and would probably be able to compete in each of these disciplines at the Olympic Games – and win medals! He requires extreme endurance for his work as Batman, which means that his heart and lungs (and blood-oxygen count) must be in peak condition.

Dr. Zehr estimates that Bruce Wayne stood 6’2” and weighed 185lbs with a body fat percentage (BFP) of 20% before he started his training regime. The regime increased his weight by about 40lbs of muscle and lowered his BFP to 10%.

HOW TO: Some of the best-conditioned people in the world are Ironman triathletes, although these people tend to be significantly leaner than Bruce Wayne – and not as strong. People who train to join Special Forces in the US Army (Rangers or Delta Force) or Navy (SEALs) usually develop almost superhuman endurance and stamina required by their dangerous work. Enrolling in one of those might be a good start on your journey to become Batman. Needless to say, you must also abstain completely from consumption of alcohol, cigarettes and other narcotics.

Just like with the strength conditioning, it “only” takes 3-5 years of endurance training to reach the peak levels at which Batman operates. If you find it strange that we consider 3-5 years a short period of time, it’s because you haven’t yet heard what it takes for Batman to…

3.   Be a Master Martial Artist

The main thing that makes Batman the most dangerous man on earth is his mastery of various martial arts and capacity for extreme violence. He is so good at fighting that he can take on multiple opponents ranging from simple goons to highly trained ninja assassins and defeat them. And not only that. Even though they try to kill him, Batman never kills his opponents, an extremely difficult skill for a martial artist to master.

Batman taking on ninja assassins

In his youth, Bruce Wayne studied countless martial arts across the globe, but his main focus has been on the following three:

a. Ninjutsu. A martial art focused on stealth, deception and weaponry, developed and used by the mythical spies and assassins known as Ninja in the snow-filled mountains of feudal Japan. Ninjutsu incorporates rapid successions of violent attacks to overwhelm and quickly incapacitate the opponent. Ninjutsu is a perfect fit for Batman’s need to operate in the shadows of night and defeat his opponents before they know what hit them. In his Book of Five Rings, Ninjutsu master Miyamoto Musashi (who fought and killed more than 2,000 (!) men in life) describes the art as follows: “When you decide to attack, keep calm and dash in quickly, forestalling the enemy…attack with a feeling of constantly crushing the enemy, from first to last.”

b. Krav Maga. Developed by Israeli Special Forces, Krav Maga is one the most effective and lethal combat system in the world, practiced by the likes of James Bond, Jason Bourne, and (of course) Bruce Wayne.

Its principles include turning defense into offense as quickly as possible, and inflicting maximum damage in minimum time. This allows a lone practitioner like Batman to take on and defeat multiple opponents simultaneously with success. Krav Maga techniques are absorbed through ‘muscle memory’ to forge new neural reflexes that operate independently of the conscious mind. This is achieved by thousand and thousand repetitions of the same move, which enables Batman to fight on instinct. This means that factors such as darkness, a state of fear or other challenging conditions do not affect a Krav Maga expert like Batman, making him the most deadly foe.

c. Kickboxing. Batman uses kickboxing to expand his sphere of damage and dispose of opponents before they can get anywhere near him. His core abdominal balance is perfect, and his legs are extremely strong and padded with armor, making his kicks and knee strikes devastating to even the toughest opponent. Practitioners of kickboxing also break down bone tissue over time by deliberately kicking brick walls or thick bamboo sticks. It seems insane and hurts like hell, but over time, this practice kills nerve endings and hardens the bone density to such an extent that a shin can collide with a baseball bat – and break the baseball bat!

 Mastery of these martial arts and others requires Batman to possess significant acrobatic skill. He has studied Parkour in France and acrobatics in China in order to attain the agility and flexibility his brutal fights need.

HOW TO: Dr. Zehr estimates that mastering the level of fighting prowess Batman possesses and learning to fight multiple opponents without killing them requires 15-20 years of intense martial arts study. If you don’t care much about murdering your adversaries, only about 10-15 years is required. Killing is easy.

Serious martial arts training creates a strong connection between mind and body and is known to build intense discipline, as well as an almost meditative state of calm and self-confidence.

To become as good at fighting as Batman is, there are no clever shortcuts. None. You need to follow the same grueling training path as Bruce Wayne did. Decades of pain and hardship await. Have fun!

4.   Resist All Injuries

Daily lethal skirmishes with dangerous villains make Batman very prone to injury. Fortunately, his training, Batsuit and bone density are all optimized to minimize the risk of injury so Batman can fight crime night after night without having to take time off.

HOW TO: It had to come sooner or later. The inevitability of injuries that come with Batman’s work – particularly brain concussions – is the thing that makes it most difficult to become Batman. No matter how trained, muscled or armored, it is simply not possible for anyone to fight crime every night without sustaining serious injuries that lead to body degeneration over time, or – in the case of concussions – clinical depression (as experienced by many professional football players).

If you want to become Batman, you need to find a way to repair bodily injuries quickly and completely, or avoid them altogether – which is impossible. Injuries seem to be the deal-breaker for becoming Batman. Damn. What I mean to say is that, in theory, Batman could exist. But not for long.

…………….

Being a perceptive detective, you have noticed the frequent use of the word “extreme” in this article. In essence, the “secret” of Batman’s success is not as complicated as we might have feared. The crux of it all is to be extremely, offensively good at many different things, and let the whole be more (so much more) than the sum of its parts.

As we mentioned when discussing Batman’s IQ, genetics plays a large role in both mind and body matters. You are born with your genes and cannot change them; although scientific advances in molecular biology are starting to make DNA modification possible through gene therapy, this will not be possible in the near future.

Regardless, no matter who you are, trying to achieve the insane ideal that is Bruce Wayne can create many extremely positive results and change your life – even though you never quite become Batman. It seems well worth the effort.

Now go make the world a better place!

Bittersweet conclusion: Batman could exist. But probably not for long.

Casper Daugaard, 2013

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