This post is part of a series outlining the 11 principles detailed in David’s book, Heed Your Call, which helps modern-day heroes (entrepreneurs) integrate their business and spiritual lives.
One night around 4 a.m. in the midst of my liberal arts education, I had a profound realization. I had been reading an awesome yet somewhat esoteric book on mythology by Joseph Campbell, in many ways the foremost expert in the field, called “The Hero With a Thousand Faces.” I realized that the concepts from this book could easily relate to business.
Most of us spend our lives playing it safe, not fully stepping into our purpose.
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Throughout the book, Campbell synthesizes a notion that across every religious, spiritual and geographical context, a similar metaphor emerges—the “hero’s journey.” Campbell argues that this is a core mono-myth to the human experience; it’s the guide and roadmap to our lives.
The hero’s journey begins with an individual, it could be any of us, starting out in the “known world.” As an example, let’s take Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz starting out in Kansas—her known world. There, it’s safe, secure, boring and limiting. Most of us spend our lives in our “Kansas.” We don’t venture out into the unknown world Campbell describes. Instead, we play it safe and don’t fully step into our purpose.
The crucial first step is to summon up the fortitude to leave the known world. This is the only way you are going to be the hero of your own life. In the Wizard of Oz, we see this play out when Dorothy leaves black-and-white Kansas and ends up in technicolor Oz. When she does this, she crosses the threshold. Initially, it’s euphoric; it’s all in color, there are people singing songs, and there’s candy and celebration because she’s free of formerly limiting bonds.
Leaving behind what’s comfortable is the only way we can be the hero of our own lives. Tweet This Quote
Then, suddenly the Wicked Witch appears and tells her she’s out to get her. At this point, Dorothy is just a young girl with a dog in a basket. She’s not equipped to fight a witch. Right off of the bat, we see indications of what Campbell refers to as the abyss—where the hero is stripped of ego and is at a place of surrender. This is the next phase in the journey.
This type of surrender is important because it allows the hero to open up and receive the tools that he or she will need for the journey. It allows them to be aware of their guides and mentors who don’t show up until the hero has gone through this moment.
In this case, the guides and mentors are represented by the lion, the scarecrow, and the tin man. They are there to walk the path (literally the yellow brick road) with Dorothy, helping her acquire some of these tools. Along the way, the hero starts to gain confidence.
Understanding the myth of the hero’s journey is crucial because it outlines the life of an entrepreneur. Tweet This Quote
Finally comes the defining moment. For Dorothy, it’s realizing that while she thought her whole journey was about finding some wizard who was going to deliver her from an awaiting peril, she finds that in fact there never was a wizard. She possessed the power to save herself and achieve anything she desired all along. Typically in this moment, the hero comes to terms with their innate power to create their own reality. Dorothy returns to Kansas, and her world has changed—the hero has changed for the better.
This myth is crucial because it outlines the life of an entrepreneur. The person who is stuck at their job, toiling away—that is their Kansas. Then, once they summon the courage, they leave the 401k, the health insurance and the reliable paycheck to go on their journey, a call they must heed. They will encounter the abyss, meet mentors and guides, learn tools and hopefully arrive at their defining moment.
Even massive companies go through times of being stuck in a secure place, having to embrace a difficult but exciting path of change and growth. Tweet This Quote
But beyond the beginning of an entrepreneurial journey, this journey can happen at any stage of your company. Even massive organizations go through times of being stuck in a secure place, having to acquire the werewithal to come across the threshold and embrace a difficult but exciting path of change and growth.
In many ways, all of our lives follow a similar journey. What steps are you taking to make sure you aren’t getting stuck in the known world? I encourage everyone who reads this to analyze their lives, identify their “Oz,” and then have the courage to cross the threshold. Only then can we cultivate lives truly worth living.