How To Be A Hero
Why do we love Heroes so much? Why do we watch movies and read books and listen to stories of people who overcome difficult situations? Who step into the battlefield and fight valiantly? Who face their fears and display courage, even when the odds are against them?
Because that’s who we all aspire to be.
Joseph Campbell outlined a common story that is followed by heroes from ancient mythological stories through modern day movies. He called it “The Hero’s Journey.” He believed that, not only are humans drawn to this story, but that we all have the capacity to live it.
Have you heard of Joseph Campbell?
Allow me to introduce you.
Joseph Campbell was a 20th Century mythologist, teacher, and philosopher. He was an influential thought leader and author who wrote many books. As a college student, I had a part-time job working for the Joseph Campbell Foundation, where I was introduced to his ideas.
There is a movie, Finding Joe, that explores Campbell’s ideas about the Hero’s Journey. I highly recommend it! It features modern day philosophers, spiritual leaders and authors like Deepak Chopra and Ken Robinson as well as musicians, professional athletes, and even my old boss from the Foundation.
The Hero’s Journey
In the movie, author Alen Cohen says “We’re not separate from the characters we see in our stories and in our novels. They are us. It’s one journey.”
The hero’s journey is defined by a few key elements. First, there is a separation and a call to adventure. The hero embarks on a journey to an unknown or unfamiliar place (physically or emotionally/spiritually). Along the way, he encounters challenges and temptations, and eventually he must face death (either physically or metaphorically). It is by overcoming that experience that they are reborn and transformed. Then they have earned the title of “Hero.”
There are whole books written about this, so I am summarizing here. But the point is that the story line is the same, even though the details can be dramatically different.
The Creative And Entrepreneurial Call
There are many different “calls to adventure” that can jump start a hero’s journey. And we can experience it repeatedly in a lifetime. In the movie, some of the instigators were physical challenges like a crazy skateboarding trick. Sometimes they are thrust upon you, like a serious medical condition or tragic experience. There can be geographical separation, like moving to a new location, country or culture. Or a different kind of separation, like losing a job or a relationship.
As a Content Creation Coach, I believe that both entrepreneurship and creativity are heroic calls to adventure. They involve taking a risk, entering the unknown.
“The forest represents the darkness, the unknown, the edge of your world. And it takes the courage of a hero to go into that forest. The people in your community don’t understand why you want to go into that forest. In fact they’re pulling you back, they’re asking you ‘Why can’t you be happy with what you have here?’ But there is this urge within the hero to go and explore.”
That is how philosopher Brian Johnson describes it in the movie. Sound familiar? I think it sounds a lot like the entrepreneurial calling, or the creative calling. You have a drive within you that you can’t ignore. That is what Joseph Campbell would call “Your Bliss.”
One of his most famous quotes is “Follow your bliss.” I used to mail t-shirts with that quote on it from the Foundation offices.
But following your bliss doesn’t mean trying to be happy all the time. Following your bliss means doing the thing that you can’t not do. That’s where your own journey starts.
The Discouragement Of Heroes
“If this path of the hero’s journey is fairly simple in design, why then is it that everybody isn’t living it? The answer is that most people on the planet live under a kind of mass hypnosis.” – Alen Cohen, Finding Joe
Everywhere we turn, we are seeing messages that actually discourage us from following the hero’s journey. In our consumer society, we are led to believe that we should seek comfort, make money so we can enjoy the easy life.
But that’s not who we are. In fact, that doesn’t really exist. We are called to be more.
Deepak Chopra described it so beautifully in the film by saying, “It’s very difficult for someone who’s brought up in this environment of instant gratification, with the media, with advertising, with all the promises of instant gratification…. You lose contact with this mythical domain that is actually part of your soul. It’s part of everyone. It’s their passion, their bliss, their unique skills, unique ways of expressing themselves, it’s their song, which if they sing, they could do anything.”
What is your bliss? What is the next step on your own journey? Have you seen the movie? What did you think? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
And I’ll leave you with one final quote from Joseph Campbell himself…
“I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.”