The Hero’s Journey – be your own hero


In my last article, I wrote about “Emotional Equations – What Makes a Story ?” where someone from the movie industry created an equation that captures the essence of all stories.

This led my thinking to reflection on the Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell. Campbell refers to this as the monomyth (a term from James Joyce), referencing that this single myth tells the story of thousands of heroes and many of the movies you’ve watched.

Star Wars? George Lucas was absolutely inspired by the hero’s journey…

The 17 steps of the journey are  :

  1. The Call to Adventure – Hero receives calling to the unknown
  2. Refusal of the Call – Obligations or fear prevent the hero from starting the journey
  3. Supernatural Aid – Magical helper appears or becomes known
  4. Crossing the First Threshold – Hero leaves their known world and ventures into the unknown
  5. Belly of the Whale – Final stage of the separation from the known world
  6. The Road of Trials – Hero must pass a series of tests to begin the transformation
  7. Meeting with the Goddess/Love – Hero experiences unconditional love
  8. Temptation – Hero face temptation that will distract from ultimate quest
  9. Atonement with the Hero’s Father – Hero must confront the person that holds ultimate power in their life
  10. Peace and Fulfillment Before the Hero’s Return – Hero moves to a state of divine knowledge (usually through some form of death)
  11. The Ultimate Boon – Achievement of goal
  12. Refusal of the Return – Having found bliss and enlightenment in the other world, the hero may be reluctant to return
  13. Magic Flight – Sometimes the hero has to escape with the boon
  14. Rescue from Without – Sometimes the hero needs a rescuer
  15. Return – Retain wisdom gained on a quest and the hero integrates wisdom in human society by sharing wisdom with the world
  16. Master of Two Worlds – Hero achieves a balance between the material and spiritual (inner and outer world)
  17. Freedom to Live – Freedom from fear of death, causing the hero to live in the moment and no concern for the future or regrets of the past

So, what about each of us? Can we be our own Luke Skywalker or Katniss Everdeen in our own story?

The Hero’s journey applies to any change in our lives, If we have the bravery to not only embark on but complete the journey, we return changed by the experience.

One question for each of us is “what journeys are we willing to go through?

Many years ago, Bill Moyers sat in discussion with Joseph Campbell around the Hero’s Journey. An excerpt  (bold highlights my own):

BILL MOYERS: In this culture of easy religion cheaply achieved, it seems to me we’ve forgotten that all three of the great religions teach that the trials of the hero journey are a significant part of it, that there’s no reward without renunciation and without a price, The Koran speaks, “Do you think that you shall enter the garden of bliss without such trials as come to those who passed before you?

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Well, if you realize what the real problem is, and that is of losing primarily thinking about yourself and your own self-protection. Losing yourself, that’s a trial in itself, is it not? There’s a big transformation of consciousness that’s concerned. And what all the myths have to deal with is the transformation of consciousness. That you’re thinking in this way, and you have now to think in that way.

BILL MOYERS: Well, how is the consciousness transformed?

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: By the trials.

BILL MOYERS: The tests that the hero undergoes.

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: The tests or certain illuminating revelations. Trials and revelations are what it’s all about.

So, whether we are looking as leaders at transformative change in our business or personal change of any kind that feels brave, I recommend reading up on Joseph Campbell.

One tip is to google “Joseph Campbell hero’s journey” along with a few additional words that describe the area of life or business you are focussed upon. So many people have referenced Campbell in excellent articles :

Some examples :

The Hero’s Journey: How To Tell Your Company’s Story And Make It Interesting

From Mythology to Masculinity

Embracing Your Inner Hero’s Journey

and, timed for the start of the year :


Also published on Medium.