Welcome to the Sunday Email for January 15th. I'm changing the format of this email up for a bit, so please bear with me. I'd like to introduce a series I've wanted to write about for a long time. It's called The Hero's Journey. If this series resonates with you, shoot me a note and let me know! If you are just joining us, click here to start at the beginning.
What is the Hero's Journey?
The phrase “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” brings to mind the story of a Jedi, lightsabers, and Wookiees. But as with most things in the world, there is a story to the story. And, as with most stories, there’s probably a lesson or two to learn as well.
In the early 1970s, director George Lucas was working on a movie project about the Vietnam War, while at the same time feeling an internal call to make a movie about a modern-day fairytale for children. He realized he couldn’t do both, so to his friends’ surprise (they thought he was crazy) he abandoned the film titled Apocalypse Now, giving it to his buddy Francis Ford Coppola.
With his cognitive load lightened, Lucas wrote draft after draft of a script for A New Hope, but it wasn't any good – yet. At some point he stumbled upon Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, which was Campbell’s opus explaining his theory of the Hero’s Journey, and all the pieces for the Star Wars trilogy began to fall into place. In a speech he gave a decade later, Lucas said, “It was The Hero with a Thousand Faces that just took what was about 500 pages and said, here is the story. Here’s the end; here’s the focus; here’s the way it’s all laid out. It was all there and had been for thousands of years…”
And the rest, so to speak, is history.
The Hero’s Journey generally follows the following pattern:
The hero begins not realizing they are a hero in the first place – they are “stuck” and unconscious.
The hero receives “the call” – which they often resist (at first).
The hero leaves their home and heads out into a special and unfamiliar world.
The hero encounters a series of tests, allies, and enemies as they make their way deeper into the world (each test, ally, and enemy provides the hero with what they will need to face the final ordeal).
The hero faces their final and toughest crucible (a dragon, an evil emperor, a monster).
If the hero is successful, they recover the prized possession that was the reason they set off in the first place.
The hero crosses back over the threshold and has been changed from the person who originally answered the call.
The hero brings back an elixir or gift to help the community they originally left.
When Lucas used the Hero’s Journey as the road map for Star Wars, it struck a chord with audiences around the world and across generations because the external story of the hero connects to something deep inside of us, at a level that falls below conscious awareness.
The Hero’s Journey is about finding our own path in this world. It’s a metaphor for one of the toughest challenges we each face, to “Know Thyself” and then to bring that authentic self in our daily lives.
In a lecture Campbell gave in the early 1980s, he told the audience, “The whole idea is that you’ve got to bring out again that which you want to recover, the unrealized, unutilized potential in yourself. The whole point of this journey is the reintroduction of this potential into the world…You are to bring this treasure of understanding back and integrate it in a rational life. It goes without saying, this is very difficult.”
I first learned about the Hero’s Journey in 2012 when I came across a blog post by Steven Pressfield that explained the Hero’s Journey – and immediately I was hooked. I began to look at my life through the lens of the Journey. Similar to Lucas’ reaction, it showed me the story, the focus, the way, and it’s all there. It’s all there and has been for thousands of years.
What about you? Do you see the pattern in your life? Where are you on your journey? Have you heard the call?
Next week, we will look at the prize that comes from taking the Hero’s Journey.
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One more thing! Copies of My Green Notebook: "Know Thyself" Before Changing Jobs are currently on sale for a limited time on Amazon for $9.02! If you are looking for a way to get into journaling, check it out!
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