Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Hero’s Journey

Wikipedia defines the hero’s journey as:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

I’ve read several articles recently expressing the viewpoint that we should view our live and how we live it as a “hero’s journey”. In that view we begin our journey and encounter various obstacles that we must overcome. In overcoming those obstacles we grow and become more competent giving us the resources to overcome even greater obstacles.

While this may be a great metaphor for teaching us to persevere in the face of adversity there is a counter unspoken message that since life is a never ending struggle, why try to overcome those obstacles?

In reading those articles I am reminded of the little boy who went to his first day of school and when ask by his father at the end of the day “How did it go?” Answered, “Not very well, I have to go back tomorrow!”

While amusing, this child’s eye view of their world can be instructive. After some period of time you just get tired of striving and look for a lower level of stress. Even an army is pulled off the line and sent to rest and recuperate after extended periods of combat.

At the same time, just cruising through life without a challenge gets boring. The key is to strike a balance between the obstacle-laden path of the hero’s journey and the clear sailing of an open road. For business the trick is to challenge your employees with difficult work and yet give them some less challenging times to allow that period rest and recovery.

What was the end of Ulysses journey nn the hero’s journey described in The Odyssey by Homer? He went home to Penelope and his son and became a gentleman farmer again.

What the most common explanations of the hero’s journey don’t tell you is that it has an end and that in most cases the end is not 30 or 40 years away. Even Ulysses journey was limited to a few years; remember his son was still a child when he returned.

You can’t view your entire career as a hero’s journey. It must be viewed by both you and by your boss as a series of heroic sprints separated by periods of normal living. 

No comments: