If all heroes shared the same story, wouldn’t you want to learn from it?
This isn’t another new age listicle claiming to help you find “health, wealth, and happiness” in the new year. Instead, I’m asking you extract knowledge from the universal patterns of hero mythology and apply this to your own life.
In his studies of mythology most popularized in The Hero With A Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell discovered a narrative pattern that history’s famous heroes shared in common. He called it the monomyth or the hero’s journey. The stories of Christ, Buddha, Odysseus, and many more heroic figures shared the same structure: departure, initiation, and return. Campbell further broke down this structure into twelve distinct units.
Now that you understand the structure of a heroic story, you can create a blueprint to making 2017 your most heroic year yet.
1. Answer the Call to Adventure
There is no journey if you fail to answer the call. Take a moment to reflect on that which you know you must do but haven’t already. Why haven’t you? Are you too comfortable with your current situation?
Everyone loves the comfort zone. It’s a place of order where your actions have predictable outcomes. It’s home.
There’s nothing heroic in comfortable.
The Hobbit would have been a shitty book if Bilbo never left the Shire and Harry Potter would have been just another depressing teen coming-of-age story if he passed on Hogwarts.
Like any adventure, your journey will take your from the ordinary world to the special, from the known to the unknown. If you dare to become a hero, you must overcome the fear lurking in the darkness and cross the threshold into the unknown.
2. Find a Mentor
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles learned from Master Splinter, Luke had Yoda, and even Tom Cruise needed Lord Matsumoto that time he became a samurai. If Tom Cruise needs a mentor, you do too.
Ideally, you would like someone to impart sagely advice when you encounter obstacles on the hero’s journey. As an MMA fighter, I have various coaches that help me develop different parts of my game. My “journey” is the fight, and I’m entrusting them to teach me what I need to know so that when the fight happens, I can dominate my opponent.
It’s easy to see the connection between sports and mentors (coaches), but where do we find mentors for business, skills, and life?
Luckily for us, we have books and this thing called the internet. Just be cautious of who or what you learn from. If I was seeking new techniques for next MMA fight, I wouldn’t want this guy as my mentor:
It’s highly unlikely that you are the only person in the history of the world dealing with the specific problems at hand. The knowledge you seek is out there somewhere. Find it.
3. Slay the Dragon
On your heroic journey, you will encounter a dragon, the ordeal, in the form of a dangerous test or deep inner crisis that you must conquer.
Mulan saves the emperor from the Huns restoring honor to her family and gaining acceptance from her grandfather. Perseus decapitates Medusa and gaining her powers to aid him on his quest home. Christ accepts his suffering and thus is reborn, transcending life itself.
Hero myths play with the idea of death and rebirth. Even if you fail to win the battle, you will lose and be reborn with newfound wisdom. In a sense, it’s a death of the old you and a birth of the new you.
You will encounter a huge obstacle on the journey. Maybe it’s the reason you embarked on it in the first place. Slay the dragon and you will be reborn a hero.
But Aren't These Stories Fake?
There’s truth in fiction. For all the doubters out there, these stories may be “fake” but we all know a hero when we see one. Luckily for us, Joseph Campbell mapped a blueprint worth following.