The Hero’s Journey and Your Work

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Everyone loves a good story.
We gather around tables with friends and tell stories.
We listen to podcasts that tell stories.
We watch movies, plays, and read books that all tell stories.
And we do this for a reason— we want to be moved. We want to be caught up in something.
But more than just entertainment, the greatest stories— the ones that you keep coming back to, and the ones that resonate with you deeply— those stories tell you something about the world and yourself.

In this episode, host Dan Cumberland reflects on the qualities of a good story and what they can teach us about ourselves and our search for purpose and meaning in our work.

Listen here:

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Notes:

Joseph Campbell’s book, Hero with a Thousand Faces

 

Transcription:

They reveal parts of ourselves we may not have known. They affirm or challenge the ways we see the world.

Have you ever thought about what your favorite stories are… and why?
We may have conversation about our favorite stories, but seldom do we think about WHY we love them.
Tell me your three favorite movies, and I’ll tell you something about who you are.

Stories speak to us by inviting us on a journey where we allow our heartstrings to get caught up with someone else.

And that movement inside these stories make, needs to be tended to.

In 1949 Joseph Campbell introduced the world to the Hero’s Journey. Campbell studied mythology across many cultures and found that all great stories share common threads.

In the Hero’s Journey, the story often begins with a call to adventure. A call to leave life as usual to pursue some greater cause or adventure.

The hero usually responds to this call by refusing it. She or he makes excuses about all their responsibilities and explain it away, or just avoids it.

In the original Star Wars movie, Luke gets a message from Princess Lea pleading for help. His first response, which we usually don’t even remember. It’s to help his family with the harvest.

A very practical excuse.

This is Luke Skywalker before leavening his home planet making the excuse that he needs to stay and help his family with the farm.

And Frodo in the Lord of the Rings, not wanting to leave home.

And Harry Potter not believing that he could do magic.

When adventure calls, we often resist.

What has been the call to adventure in your life? What has been speaking to you and asking you to depart, asking you to risk something.

Too often the call is dismissed as crazy.

But remember the dreams you once had? Maybe it was when you were younger. Maybe before the realities of life set in. Remember?

Just for a moment, remember them. Remember when the world had more possibility. Remember before life was just about being responsible. I’m not saying that you throw caution to the wind. What I’m saying is that there might be something calling to you that you’ve neglected.

Sometimes the call to what we were made to do is silenced by what we feel we’re supposed to do.

The next major movement in a great story is when the hero decides that she will say yes to the call. This is when the hero makes the choice to take action, to leave the comfort of the familiar, and pursue whatever it is that the story is calling her to. It often requires the help of a guide or some outside force to push the hero across that threshold.

This is a poignant moment.
This is one of my favorites.

If you are at a place where you have a sense of the work that is calling to you, what would it look like to dedicate yourself in a new way to the work that is calling to you? What would it look like for you to say, “Yes. This is what my work in the world is.”

If you’re already doing that work, what would it look like to rededicate yourself to that work?
For many of us, our true calling and our true vocations call out to us for years, even a lifetime, before we chase and grab hold of it.

The path ahead won’t be easy, but it will be good.

It’s not about shirking responsibility, but about commitment to the pursuit of something deep. Something rich. Something worth doing.

The hero’s journey shows us a pattern: adventure calls, and eventually the hero takes action.
What adventure is calling you? What will it take for you to say yes to it? To take the next step?

Dan Cumberland is on a mission to push you into the places meaning, life, & work intersect. He is the author of The Meaning Manifesto. Read more about him here, and connect with him on facebook and twitter.

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