Why I Love the Phantom

It's important to have sources of inspiration to give you a fresh perspective and a boost of energy when you need it. Of course different things work for different people. If you have met me you may be aware one of my sources of inspiration is a stash of a certain type of comic. Yes, I am a dedicated fan of the Phantom, also known as The Ghost Who Walks, especially the early stories by his creator Lee Falk. Here's why I love the Phantom and read one of his adventures most nights before sleep.

What I love most is his simplicity. He lives and works from a cave in the jungle, has no super powers, uses no fancy gadgets and writes his adventures up by hand in a scrap book. While he has many valued mentors and colleagues, in the jungle and the cities, his most loved and loyal friends are his horse and his dog (actually a wolf). It reminds me how important it is to have strong supporters and a few good friends you can depend on.

While the Phantom loves nature and lives in the jungle, he is a cultured man. Deep in his cave is a sophisticated museum of fascinating, carefully displayed artefacts such as the golden laurel of Julius Caesar and the wig from the original staging of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. After all, what would life be without an appreciation of beauty? And while he has access to unlimited funds from his treasure cave, the Phantom spends only what he needs to continue his important work of ridding the world of exploitation, greed and cruelty.

This brings us to the importance of having a purpose. There is a lot of talk these days about mission, passion and values. But in our striving to be "passionate" we often miss the point because passion is not about being hyped up or having fun. The word is derived from the Latin, "pati", meaning "suffer for what we believe". The Phantom is certainly always ready to put up with discomfort and to put himself on the line for what he believes, which leads him into all sorts of adventures.

Many of the earlier stories involve him in nail biting situations where you'd be thinking "how's he going to get out of this one?" Of course he does, but not using external props or super powers. It is always through the application of clear thinking, creativity and strength - physical and mental - often using psychology to turn the fear or overconfidence of his competitors to his own advantage. It reminds me, we always have the resources within us to cope with what life throws up as long as we focus on what's important and maintain a little faith that things will work out.

In 1936, which was the year the first Phantom story went to print, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." He is referring to dealing with paradoxes - situations which seem to be self-contradictory. The Phantom strikes a balance in dealing with these complex situations by being pragmatic and staying focused on the bigger issues. He can be compassionate with people but firm, gentle but tough (Phantom rough with rough-necks - Old jungle saying), unyielding on important things but flexible, fun-loving but serious-minded; and cautious while also at times being bold and daring.

There are certainly many paradoxes in franchising, as well as the need to face up to conflict. Just as franchisor executives often have to resolve disputes, the Phantom is often required to play the role of mediator, helping the local indigenous tribes settle their disputes. He does this by patiently and tactfully listening to the views of the parties and then using astute negotiation tactics to find a way to give them what they need.

We all have lots to do these days in balancing our responsibilities. Life is also busy for the Phantom. In his spare time he commands the Jungle Patrol, an elite, highly trained law enforcement organisation founded by one of his ancestors to maintain peace and protect the jungle folk from being exploited. And of course he always finds quality time to spend with his family and support his wife, Diana, who is also busy balancing her city job at the UN with her family responsibilities in the jungle. His kids (and readers) especially love hearing about his adventures from his scrap books.

Finally, the Phantom has developed the ultimate succession plan, a seamless handover strategy of his identity for 21 generations (which is why he is also known as The Man Who Cannot Die). While each successive Phantom has their own unique strengths and personality style, they have all been educated by learned teachers to develop their mental, physical, cultural and moral sensibilities, and they are all guided by the same mission and values of simplicity, courage and honour.


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