The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung pioneered, a new approach to understanding the human psyche. He talked about the two levels we all live on: the individual one and the "collective" one. The "collective" part of us--a sort of general pool in which we are all swimming psychologically--holds our spiritual, emotional and mental anatomy. And myths and stories describe it.
In the years after world war II, American mythologist Joseph Campbell published a book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, in which he expanded on Jung's ideas, drawing from the vast arena of universal mythology certain common traits of the human psyche. Campbell presented the adventure of the human lifetime as the hero's adventure. He described the three major stages it has: the departure, the initiation and the return.
A hero, according to myths and legends, is someone who leaves the familiar world to embark on an often-dangerous journey that, if successful, will bring back a "boon" that will greatly benefit all who stayed behind. Because of the perils of the journey, not everyone is fit to go on it. Certain things are required. Say... the entrepreneurial, risk-taking spirit.
Campbell says we all undergo "hero's journeys" in our lives: making the transition from leave-me-alone rebels into subdued job holders; when we morph from social butterflies guzzling Coca-Cola or vodka at various gatherings, into settled-in family men and women with more important worries. These are all life transitions most of us experience. In that sense, we are all heroes. But some of us go even further into never experienced realms not only on the small, personal level, but also at the level of an entire society. Either way, the journeys are similar.
First, there is the call to adventure. Sometimes, in business magazines, interviewees refer to it as, "I saw a need in the market that wasn't addressed." Not only do these people notice the need, but also they feel compelled and motivated by something aside from the promise of the pots of gold, to take it upon themselves to resolve the situation in some way. Bring a solution that will benefit many people. Which, incidentally, can get them the gold but that's for later, in the "Promised Land" part. Read on.
Some people "refuse the call". They say, "I really don't want to be doing this. Others will think I'm a loser." or "Why did I spend a hundred grand on a law degree only to throw it away now?" But if they manage to put these doubts aside, they find themselves on the road to the adventure of a lifetime. Some people wake up in the middle of it--as if you inherit the family business or a great opportunity lands in your lap--but the steps are still the same.
Then the trouble starts. Nobody knows exactly, where the adventure is headed. The road winds and changes. It seems as if the hero/ine has entered a parallel universe where nothing is the way it seemed. Sometimes old friends disappear with a sigh: "Dude, you're too weird for me." There are days when you wonder why in the hell you started doing this in the first place, when you could have just landed a nice, cushy, predictable job. But there are also days when a flash of inspiration brings you an idea that could literally transform the world, no matter how big or small the way. There are also days when people appear who lend you the helping hand you needed, or bring you in front of the right loan officer, the right marketing plan, or whatever it is you need. These, my friends, are the trials and tribulations of the "Road of Trials". This second step of the journey is also called, "Initiation". This is where you test your idea, build your prototype, gather the money, take your product to the market, or whatever you need to do to fulfill your dream. And you learn. And learn. And go to the drawing board a thousand times. That's okay. That's what it takes. You learn not only about the world, but you learn about yourself. You learn what you're made of...what your motivations are...what your dreams are...who your real friends are and your real passions.
And at the end of this very arduous journey, that you want to quit a million times, you find yourself on the brink of... "The Return". You must somehow make your way back into the world. You have that winning idea. You know the little computer you built in your garage will revolutionize offices. But you must still make it happen in the real world.
Sometimes the return is problematic. The negative, dangerous forces that tested you before, and wanted you to stop (a.k.a. "The Forces of Evil") follow you this far. They'll do anything to make you stop your journey, from whispering negative, talk into your ear, to putting having that bank employee mention your loan will never go through. But rest assured. There are lessons in that too. And tests. And magic helpers, who will patch your wounds and send you flying across the finish line.
Isn't it great? Panting, tired, bloodied, you now rest on top of a magic mountain. Maybe it's the first money you've made in years. You're lying on your mattress, surrounded by green bills and letters from satisfied customers whose lives you have changed. You now taste the elixir, you have the Holy Grail, and you have found the fountain of life. Your life.
And then...you start all over again! For a life well-lived is, apparently, a series of hero's adventures. One after another. Isn't that exciting?
So, the next time you are in the boardroom or sipping cocoa at your desk, think about the hero's journey. It might help to know which stage you're in. Would it be wise to heed the call to a new adventure, launching a new product? Are you in the middle of a struggle with a powerful dragon, a loan officer, in the midst of the initiatory phase of something you've been working on? Or maybe it is simply time to enjoy what you have, enjoy your Paradise, just the way it is.
CRISTINA LUCAS helps small and medium-sized businesses to produce marketing materials--business plans, brochures, company descriptions, web copy. She helps people start and grow businesses and build financial independence. Reach her at: www.lucasbusinesswriting.com.