You Have a Story. And You’re The Hero

The Flight of The Soul Millionaire, Chapter 2. Now you discover the ageless model, which underpins almost every story of ordinary folk who embark upon extraordinary journeys … And you come to see why such a life-changing story could be Your story … And that You can be the Hero.

Listen to The Awakening of a Hero

“Would you like some bread, Sir?”
A simple enough question. But the answer nearly cost Matthew his life. And transformed that life. Forever.

It was Matt and Katherine’s Las Vegas honeymoon. They’d upgraded to their hotel’s penthouse suite. Life was very good.

But that innocent piece of bread would spell the end of their honeymoon. It plunged Matt into a three-week fight for survival. You see, he is allergic to nuts. The bread had become contaminated.

From somewhere in the fog of life-threatening anaphylactic pain he heard a medic ask an insane question: “Are you sure you want to be treated?”

(Of course, the real question was: “Can you afford the $1,100 for this ambulance?”)

Katherine had to beg and plead with doctors and nurses for an hour, as Matt writhed on the bed. Eventually, doctors took the trouble to discover that their medication had created deadly pancreatitis.

Three weeks later, Matt was out of hospital. They were back home. Sobered. Wiser. Over long hours, they reflected upon their experience. And on medical bills of £210,000.

Even if they’d sold their home and the shirt off Matt’s back, they would still have been bankrupt. All hail good travel insurance (particularly when it pays out, as Matt’s did!).

Take Note of His Transformation

I doubt whether it’s possible to go through such an experience without changing perspective. The Critical Few matters of life tend to stand out more clearly from The Trivial Many.

Matt is certainly a changed man.

Meeting him is like engaging with a 49-year-old in a 29-year-old body.

He is painfully aware that Life has given him a second chance.

He has trodden a path, a Journey, that few at his age have experienced.

He sees, with crystal clarity, how easy it is to be consumed in the pursuit of things that, ultimately, don’t matter.

Chasing, and grasping for, possessions, property, popularity, prestige and the illusion of power. None of this matters to him any longer.

How he can create deeper relationships to serve those around him is now Matt’s overriding concern.

Matt’s work changes lives. To me, he is a Hero on an exciting Journey.

(What’s interesting is that his two businesses have taken off like a rocket! Revenue has grown tenfold. Behind that growth is a team just as passionate as he is about its work and the impact its members have on clients.)

Heroes Are Made, Not Born

Babies don’t arrive as ready-made Heroes.

The Heroes they become are formed and shaped. Often by hard, heart-wrenching experiences.

But we don’t have to look far to see the impact that such Heroes have on the world around them. Each of us can name our favourites: men and women whose character-stretching Journey has given them the Power to reshape their world.

There are some life Journeys that do that:

  • To you.
  • To your business.
  • To those who support you.
  • To those you serve.

This Chapter starts to explain the why, what and how of such transformative Journeys.

Are You Sitting Comfortably?

Whatever your age … whatever your taste … whatever your philosophy, culture or religion, one thing that weaves us together is the power of Story-telling.

This pattern of communication is how Principles and Truths have been passed down from parent to child, from teacher to student, from mentor to apprentice.

It would seem that Story-telling has been at the heart of how we share the essence of our thoughts and beliefs – probably from the dawn of mankind.

So, let’s look at some of these stories. You’ll easily recognise them. It’s likely that they and their characters have influenced billions of lives over the centuries:

The Lord of the Rings. Harry Potter. Star Wars. Moses, Prince of Egypt. The Hunger Games. The Last Samurai. Avatar. Jesus Christ. Jane Eyre. The Pilgrim’s Progress. Great Expectations. Beauty and the Beast. The Lion King. Aladdin. The Greatest Showman. Titanic. Cinderella. Hacksaw Ridge. Spider-Man …

These parables, these allegories, fairy stories, legends – they’re powerful. They pierce through our intellect. They cut right through to our very souls. They are indelibly emblazoned into our memories, typically from childhood.

Look Again. Right Under Your Nose

Did you spot it?
Did you spot the thread running through every story I mentioned above?

It took me decades, and a little book called The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson, to recognise that there is a common pattern to much of the Story-telling we know and love.

The evidence suggests that this common pattern has been present since the emergence of Story-telling itself.

As Disney would sing, from Beauty and the Beast, it’s a “tale as old as time”.

The story titles I mentioned weren’t selected at random. The fact is, they all follow a pattern, an astonishing structure. And that’s what makes each of them so spell-binding, so moving and so memorable.

So, what is this astonishing structure?

Why does it appear so consistently and recognisably in drama, religious writings and ritual, music, dance and myths?

More importantly … why, oh why, does it matter to your business?

Well, I’ll tell you.
The pattern is called The Hero’s Journey.

It’s a pattern first recognised and articulated by 20th-century American author Joseph Campbell, in his book of the same name.

I’ve shown a very brief, graphical summary of The Hero’s Journey in Figure 1 (p.35).

“In a sense, life is about our forceful – often overpowering – need to take journeys.
The problem is… our tendency is to grip our ‘swings in the playground’ tightly, even
though – if we’d just let go – there’s an amazing ‘trampoline’ just around the corner, which
we’d love so much better.”

Adapted from Robert E Quinn

Do Something That Matters

The reason that The Hero’s Journey is so powerful is because it’s all about transformation.

Transformation of the individual – The Very Ordinary Hero – as they go out to achieve great deeds on behalf of the group, the community or the civilisation.

Transformation of their skills, their courage, their strengths, their character.

Transformation – because of their heroic Journey – of the lives of the people around them.

Isn’t that what heroes do?
Isn’t that why they strike a chord with every generation?

Wouldn’t you and I like to be just such a Hero … if only for a small moment?

Just once in our lives, wouldn’t each of us like to do something that is deeply meaningful, memorable, lastingly influential and transformative?

The fact that all these questions are largely rhetorical is why discovering The Hero’s Journey was such a pivotal moment in my business life.

In one of those flashes of breathless I-can’t-believe-what-I’m-seeing! moments, I recognised that The Hero’s Journey was not merely interesting; it could be a foundational path in taking businesses to that elusive Next Level.

“Supposing,” as we used to say as children. “Just supposing …
a business, a leader, a team could be so transformed. What then?”

What if The Hero’s Journey could become the foundation for any business? Your business?

Take My Hand, Journey With Me

So, come with me step-by-step through the structure of The Hero’s Journey.

See for yourself why it’s so enduring, illuminating … and understandable.

Just once in our lives, wouldn’t each of us like to do something that is deeply meaningful, memorable, lastingly influential and transformative?

Once you see it for yourself, I believe you’ll begin to understand what I saw.

You’ll begin to see why the businesses that have walked (even part of) the Journey have emerged with their own stories of life-
changing outcomes, for them, their clients and their communities.

To make the Journey easy to visualise, I’d like you to imagine just one of the stories, films or characters mentioned above – just one.

Hold that story and character firmly in your mind at each step of the Journey.

For example, you might choose:

  • Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games.
  • Perhaps Frodo in The Lord of the Rings.
  • Or Jake Sully from Avatar.
  • Maybe Aladdin, since you might have seen the Disney film (or joined me in watching the Disney musical, with my daughter in the cast!).

Picture your Hero and hold their image at the front of your mind, throughout this chapter.

Write down the name of your Hero …

Now let’s follow your Hero on their Journey.
Take them with you throughout every paragraph in this chapter.

You’ll see how the pattern holds true, whatever the story you’ve chosen.

Start where you are.

The Eight Stages of The Hero’s Journey

There are eight simple stages to this Hero’s Journey and the new world beyond.

Stage 1: The awakening, the call, the refusal

In this first stage, our Hero is minding their own business in a comfortable world.

But there’s something not right. Something irritating. Maybe they’re bored. Restless.

Suddenly, a force rocks their comfortable life. It’s like a sound slap across the back of the head. It’s either an external force or event. Or something rises from deep within them. It’s a Call – a Call to change.

At first, our Hero refuses to heed the Call, fearing the unknown. In some stories, people in the Hero’s life – particularly those close to them – also try to dissuade the Hero from changing the status quo. The friends, family or community are unsettled. “If it works, don’t fix it!” they cry.

Stage 2: The teacher appears

Perhaps someone appears in the Hero’s life – a wise, experienced traveller of foreign worlds – who gives the Hero advice, training, equipment … whatever is needed.

At other times the Teacher is a newly discovered source of insight, courage or wisdom bubbling up from deep inside the Hero.

Either way, the Teacher ensures that the Hero learns a new set of truths. These truths help him to see things, and the future, as he could never have imagined before.

Do Something You’ve Never Done

Stage 3: The Mission preparation

Our Hero starts to appreciate the size and nature of his awesome Mission. At times he is overwhelmed with doubt.

But the Teacher, and others, rally to support him. They encourage him through difficult Preparation and learning, before he is ready to cross the threshold into a new, unknown world.

Stage 4: The Mission is accepted. The Hero steps into the new world

It’s now that the Hero gets it, as my children would say.
Not only does he get it. But he commits to leaving his comfortable world and entering a world that feels frightening.

This reminds me of that wonderful poem by Minnie Louise Haskins, quoted in King George VI’s Christmas Message in the dark days of 1939:

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”

And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

So, I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

Keep Your Friends Close, Keep Your Enemies Closer

Stage 5: The opposition and friendships

Almost from his first steps into The New World, the Hero meets intense opposition.

What balances this are the allegiances that arise. They tend to arise when our Hero makes it clear that he’s committed to change. It’s this Courageous Clarity that is the ‘tipping point’ that magnetises new, supportive relationships.

These new allies join the Teacher in helping our Hero to better understand the Mission. Meanwhile, they surround him in battling against foes – seen or unseen – who would have paralysed his intentions with fear.

Stage 6: The Wilderness Test

‘Wilderness’ is the term I use for “The Unknown World”.

This is the alien world into which the Hero must step or stay forever frozen by yesterday’s habits.

Every hero – even accompanied by allies – must endure this period of Wilderness Testing. Otherwise, an adventure can hardly be called an adventure, can it?

No oasis appears to ease their weariness. The daunting trek feels relentless. And our band of heroes are constantly hampered and harried by attacks along the way. Faith and courage are their greatest weapons now.

It would be much easier to give up.
Not doing so is what begins the development of a Hero!

“And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’
And he replied:
‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.

That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.’”

Minnie Louise Haskins

You Sure You’re Ready For This…?

Stage 7: The final test; the road home

In the midst of the Wilderness Test, our Hero faces Death. If it’s not Death, then it’s the Hero’s greatest fear, come to haunt him.

From this pivotal moment comes the transformation of our Hero.

In some stories our Hero must actually die, before being brought forth to life as a wiser, more powerful, awe-inspiring being. Someone who commands respect, even reverence, as a result of this test.

Often, as a result of this Final Test, our Hero returns with a treasure
– perhaps a sword, an elixir, or some other symbol of power. Our Hero then heads home, sometimes losing allies on the way.

Stage 8: The new Mission

Our Hero arrives at the place he longed for. Perhaps it’s the home
that he left, and which he has saved from dark forces.

But something has changed. Typically, it’s neither the place, nor its people. It’s the Hero. He can no longer go back to being who he was.

Although he energetically works to improve the world he’s returned to/ arrived at, our Hero is restless once more. Something feels unfinished.

Then, one day, he spots a young person heading his way, clearly wishing to speak with him.

“I’ve had the weirdest feeling for some time,” says our young person.

“It’s a feeling that something is about to happen. In fact, it’s more than a feeling. I’ve had this recurring dream. And it’s terrifyingly real!

It’s about me going on an adventure. You know, a slaying-the-bad- giants-and-dragons sort of adventure. I start travelling to a place, just over the horizon, where somebody keeps calling my name. Frightening things start happening. I can hardly face night time.

Can I talk to you about it?”

Now our Hero knows what he has been prepared for. Now he has become the Teacher!

“So, tell me,” our Hero asks, “what does this adventure look like?”

“It’s crazy. You’ll never believe me when I tell you,” says the young person.

“Try me!” responds our Hero, smiling.

Figure 1: The Hero’s Journey
A simple summary of the Eight Stages of The Hero’s Journey

  1. The Awakening, Call & Refusal Shaken from Comfort
  2. The Teacher Appears Taught the Truth
  3. The Mission Preparation Training for The Unknown World
  4. Crosses Threshold to New World Owns the Mission, Steps into The Unknown World
  5. The Friendships & Opposition Builds Allies, Faces Foes & Tests
  6. The Wilderness Test Battles, Learns to Lead, Endures
  7. Final Test, Reward, Travel Home Faces Death, Returns With Prize
  8. The New Mission Ignites Others to See Their Mission

Go On, Ask The Question!

Are you asking the question yet? You know. The Question.

Because, if you’re not, then I’ve probably lost you altogether.

It’s that old Field of Dreams kind of question: “What’s [this] got to do with baseball?”

The question has to be:

“That’s all very interesting. But… what’s this got to do with me and my business?”

I’m glad you asked.
Because that’s where we’re going next.

Come with me to …

The Thinking Bench

Our eldest daughter had gained her degree. But wasn’t sure in which direction she was pointing in life.

Until she went to Africa.

Mum, trustee of a children’s charity, had organised anothert 10-day expedition. And Lauren fancied another adventure: building school extensions, creating water towers, and a safari to round off the trip.

Except she wasn’t ready for the children.

The children who constantly, constantly smiled … whilst dancing in a playground of questionable puddles.

The children who were excited that they would get more than one bowl of fufu that day.
The children who sang to her. Haunting, harmonising songs. The children who stroked her silky hair, and golden arms.
The children who laughed and screamed with delight at her shimmying to the music.

Eventually, her heart broke.
And she disappeared for hours, to sit quietly. Staring.
Lauren woke up to the person she could become.

First, she completed a Master’s degree.

Then, whilst her friends entered high-paying, glamorous- sounding careers in and around London… Lauren chose to enter the charity sector.

Since then, she has travelled across the world… ultimately bringing hope, saving lives.

There are moments in our business lives when Destiny tries to get our attention.
Sometimes it’s a constant tap on the shoulder. Sometimes it’s a good thwack across the back of the head. The message? “Wake up!”

I wonder.
Is there a “Wake up!” message you might be ignoring today?

What Have You Learned?

  • Can you pinpoint a moment in life – particularly in business – that shook you up and made you change for the better?
  • What call to change could you be ignoring right now – because it frightens you?
  • Who is the next Teacher in your life? Who could show you the way, and help you turn your Good work to Great work? Are you walking where the herd grazes, fat and content?
  • Or have you stepped onto ‘The Road Less Traveled’, where the future starts?
  • Are you complaining about the Wilderness you’re trekking through? Or do you see that there’s a reason for you being tested: something that life wants you to learn?

What Will You Do Now?

  • What need-to-improve is staring you in the face today, which you’re going to have to face up to in 12 months?
  • What’s the one step you could take to test out your crazy but magnificent idea?
  • What conversation do you need to have today… that might create the ally you need to lift you to higher accomplishment?

If you would like a copy of the book please email David Scarlett