Setting up and running a successful business or enterprise is a herculean task reminiscent of the Hero’s journey.
This four part self-development programme looks at how you can succeed in business. In Part 1 of this series, we looked at Archetypes and how to leverage their power for success. In part 2, we will look at:
The Hero’s journey to identify where you are, where you have been and to prepare for where you’re going
Background – The Hero’s journey is a concept and framework developed by the American scholar Joseph Campbell – mythologist, writer and lecturer. The framework known to writers, film makers, personal development specialists and students of religion, philosophy, myth and many other people around the world came out of Campbell’s curiosity about why so many cultures share hero stories with similar structures. The answer he came up with is that the Hero’s journey is a very special structure that resonates with every person’s journey of self-discovery whatever it’s size.
The Hero’s Journey describes the typical adventure of an archetype known as the Hero, the person who goes out and achieves great deeds (quest) on behalf of the group. This is key as Heros act for others similarly to effective leaders. The journey is broken up into 12 stages:
The 12 stages of the Hero’s Journey
1. Ordinary world: the world the hero inhabits where life’s circumstances begin to present dilemmas, stresses or where the hero is pulled in different directions.
2. Call to adventure: a stage where either external or internal voice or force makes the Hero face the prospect of change.
3. Refusal: stage where the Hero’s fear wins momentarily or where another character alerts us to the danger of the journey the Hero may undertake.
4. Meeting with the mentor: the Hero meets someone with experience or resources that will help on the journey.
5. Threshold crossing: the Hero committing to something new (start of the adventure).
6. Tests, Allies and Enemies: stage where the Hero is continuously tested and forms relationships.
7. Approach: Hero along with his/her allies prepare for a specific challenge or task.
8. Ordeal: stage where the Hero is severely tested and must face and overcome fear and death to transcend the present condition.
9. The Reward: where Hero begins to enjoy the riches that come with conquering fear and going forth.
10. The Road back: the stage in which the Hero is driven to come home again and bring the treasure back.
11. Resurrection: the last and most difficult test the Hero must face and overcome.
12. Return with the elixir: return of the Hero who is now fully transformed by the journey cycle and will continue onwards with new experience and power.
The Hero’s Journey in Business
I have been fascinated by the relevance of the Hero’s journey framework in my work with leaders, innovators, creatives and entrepreneurs, as well as my own experience and development . All makers face the same quest: to bring forward a product, service, discovery, art or an idea. In all cases, what is most needed for the Hero is bravery to face the world created by the pursuit of their specific Quest and conquer fear so that they can succeed. Some coaches call it leaping into the dark or taking a bold step. The truth is that all of us lack courage sometimes and many people are risk averse and may appreciate the safety of knowing the next steps so they can plan.
What I love about the framework is that it helps raise our awareness of where we are on the journey and points to both internal and external sources of ideas where the Hero can get support on her Quest. So I invite you to consider the journey in relation to you and your business undertaking. You may wish to pull out your notes from Part 1 of this series to see your Quest and motivation for it which we explored. Armed with that, let’s now look at where you are on the journey and how you can strengthen your success chances.
Hero’s Journey Exercise
For this exercise we will travel a simplified version of the journey that consists of 6 steps. Below is a table that invites you to explore two journeys: one that you have completed and one that you are currently experiencing. Examining a completed journey is good for learning the process as well as acknowledging and building resilience and trust that the journey, however difficult or easy, does help the Hero transcend to a higher place of being. The journey helps the Hero grow and become wiser and more capable.
This is often why many entrepreneurs experience false starts or even failures before they end up with successes. With each time, the Hero learns new things that she can use next time. Analysing the journey stages helps you learn things at the right time and gather extra resources so that you can become stronger and more resilient now.
Below is a table with 6 key stages based on the Hero’s journey. In each column or on a separate piece of paper, note down your own experience using a completed journey first. Then note your experience and completed stages from the business / enterprise journey you are on at the moment.
Completed Journey from your past. A journey you’re on right now – fill in the trajectory as far as you think you are and examine the questions below.
1. Call to adventure
2. First threshold
3. Allies and enemies
4. Second threshold/ deeper test of your commitment
5. Third threshold that is a real ordeal
6. Reward and return from the adventure into your world with new insights, skills and experience
Further questions to aid your thinking:
1. In what way has your previous story benefited you and how does this impact your current business journey?
2. How do you generally approach tests/thresholds in your journeys and how does your approach serve you or hinder you?
3. Whose journey are you a part of at the moment and what is your role there? How can you help others on their journey?
Your journey has a story that either helps you or hinders you. As a Hero in your business journey, you are an author of your story as well as the key character. Stories we tell ourselves about our health, our career and our relationships. This exert a powerful affect on how we perform according to Jim Loehr. In fact stories have lots of power. This makes sense in terms of how our brains work. Brains are natural story makers. Your brain takes facts and events and can’t help but build a narrative from them so that it can create meaning. Unfortunately, the brain cares more about making meaning than whether the story is positive and self-building or negative and undermining. As Hero of your story though, you need a story that ends well and has ideally many high points along the way. So, it is up to you to be watchful and be conscious of the sort of stories you are telling about yourself and your business to you and others.
Creating a positive story: Exercise
1. Write down your story at the moment as you tell it.
2. Take two markers (green and pink highlighters work really well for this) and highlight specific sentences and sections that serve you well in green and those that bring doom and gloom or bring a pessimism to your story.
3. Now it’s time to re-edit your story.
Below are a few questions that will help you create a starting point story about your business which pick up on the quest questions from part 1 of this article series.
• How did I get to this point? What recourses, skills and learning to do I bring along?
• How will my business benefit others?
• Which people in my life support me or can support me and how can I enlist them?
• What actions could I take that would make me feel strong and good; which would be just bloody good ideas to take me forward?
4. When you finish your story, take a moment to note down the tone of your new story. Your story should make you feel great!
In his book The Power of Story, Loehr says that high performing people often have a story that doesn’t help them perform at their best. Loehr invites people to rewrite their story so that it supports the person and their purpose.
Go back to your answers in part 1, your real quest goal and what you wanted from it and keeping this in mind, write a story about where you are on that journey, document what you have achieved to help you get where you are and what is needed from your Hero now most. Remember Hero’s are ordinary people like you and I who make a difference for someone else.
What difference are you making with your business? Focus on that, do it to your best ability and you will succeed. And remember to tell people about it. It’s always interesting how many business owners forget to tell their customers what their company is here to do, what the product is and why it’s good. Instead they tell a story about themselves. Most of us are here to buy a service or a product so what we want to know is whether that’s any good, how can we get it, for how much and why it’s the one we should choose. I often ask clients to do a simple exercise called ‘What’s my message’ so that they really pin down those key statements whether it’s their leadership purpose, their business service or who they are as a person and how they want to be in the world with others.
Considering specific Archetypes within your Hero’s journey
Irrespective of whether you’re at a stage where you’re just answering the call of this great business idea, or whether you’ve invested your life’s savings into a business and are busy making it work out, you are somewhere on a journey and part of your quest is to succeed! In coaching work with my clients, one of the questions that is really effective in this regard is: What does my inner wisdom tell me about this?
You can self-coach a great deal by examining your journey and using the voices of some of the more popular archetypes that make appearances in your journey to good effect. In my book Get Productive, I have a whole exercise devoted to examining what your critics may say about you called Grains of truth. What I have found in my own life and in coaching others is that all things said have a grain of truth in them, whether that’s your inner voice or an external comment. Sometimes, just considering what was/is said or an idea ends up being informative and productive. This means that pretty much all comments whether positive or critical, obvious truths or important insights, are really gifts to welcome and make work for you. They are there to help you acknowledge how much you already know, address potential showstoppers, gaps, challenges and generally help you on your journey. So use your senses and attention, your resourcefulness and problem solving skills to make yourself stronger.
Here are some useful questions to think about:
• What is the core issue/product advantage my customer is not seeing and how can I make them aware?
• There are many people selling the same sort of service out there – what sets me apart from them and to whom would I most appeal?
• How do people get to hear of me?
Here are a few Archetypes and questions I often consider in my own life as a Hero and with my clients that I’d like to share with you. Whatever you find, the key is to action what you discover so that it moves you forward and helps you succeed.
Exercise – Below are a few Archetypes taken from Caroline’s Myss cards that may show up on your Hero’s journey. Arcehtypes are neutral but they have light and shadow side. Looking and recognizing which Archetype is present in your life and which side you can recognize at the moment, will give you clues about what the Archetype is trying to tell you to help you do better.
In the table below for each Archetype listed, highlight whether what you see at the moment is the light or shadow side and note down what actions you need to take to ensure the Archetype helps you do your best. If you can’t identify with either side of some Archetypes, skip them.
Archetype Light Shadow
Addict: Recognizes and takes corrective action when external forces overpower your inner spirit or will. Absence of self control and balance in work/life that causes damage
Athlete: Expression of strength of mind and body, willpower to continue with quest. Misuse of strength, dirty play, and other acts that compels cheating
Companion: Loyal and kind support for others who focus on their quests. Suppression of one’s own needs and quest
Gambler: Risk taker that follows intuition even in face of uncertainty Looks for lucky breaks instead of applying hard steady work
Networker: Helps develop connections with others to create valuable allies and friends. Uses connections for personal gains or in a selfish way
Pioneer: Discovers new territories and builds, incorporates, grows through them. Compulsively abandons one idea for another to run with yet another idea
For more information on Archetypes you may wish to look up Caroline Myss 80 Archetype cards which I use in my coaching work.
The Present Moment
Ekhard Toll, a spiritual author best known for The Power of Now and New Earth says there is nothing more that the present moment. The Hero’s biggest strength is to focus on what is needed right now and away from the fear that looking only at the uncertainty of the future can bring. I am often reminded of this when I experience fear myself. Many of the things we fear are mental projections. The thing we fear is not actually here right now. So there is nothing to be done about it. Toll says that when fear materializes it becomes present and that’s when we (the Hero) deal with it.
So whatever fear you are experiencing right now, consider whether it’s a real fear that you can do something about right now or not. If it’s real, bring all your wisdom and allies to it handle the situation so you can address it head on. The current action has to support the quest and has to support the Hero.
Summary – Being an entrepreneur you are both courageous and industrious. You clearly believe many good things about yourself already, as otherwise you would not have embarked on your business journey. So I hope that as you work through this article, you are reminded about all those strengths, wisdom and experience that rest inside you and use them to be the best Hero you can be right now.
Analyze what sort of story you are telling about yourself to others and also to yourself, and that if needed you identify and change any aspects of that story that no longer serve you. You are capable, you work smartly and while the world will surely test you with thresholds, there really is no reason for you to fail. Hold true to your quest and allow your passion and hard work to come to your aid. Call on your allies and learn from your enemies and obstacles. Use Archetypes to help keep your integrity and wellbeing. In the end, they are there to strengthen you. Face your fears head on and really step into the Hero you already are. Be her one hundred percent.
I hope this article empowers you with greater self-knowledge, awareness and that it strengthens your resolve and focus to keep going and succeeding. In part three of this article series, we will focus on tips and techniques to increase your productivity and cut down time wasting. Heros take actions and actions generate results, learning and success.
I invite you to get involved by sharing your experiences through the comments section, tweets etc so that together we build up a rich social exchange of support and valuable information.
Further reading and resources
The Hero with a Thousand Faces (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell)
The Power of Story: Change Your Story, Change Your Destiny in Business and in Life by Jim Loehr
Get Productive: Boosting your productivity and getting things done by Magdalena Bak-Maier
The power of Now: guide to spiritual enlightment by Ekhart Toll
New Earth: Awakening your Life’s purpose by Ekhart Toll