FREEDOM FRIDAY: Why the "hero's journey" is bullsh*t
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"Struggle is not required. Following the 'Hero's Journey' is not required." — Curt Mercadante
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Mythology expert and author Joseph Campbell was right-on in outlining the "Hero's Journey" as vital to mythology and storytelling through the ages — but why can the hero's journey be dangerous in terms of your life journey?
In today's episode, Curt discusses the twelve stages of the "hero's journey" and why it's a great storytelling device -- but why it can be dangerous to your personal journey.
"When we start to incorporate the Hero's Journey as part of our programming, to believe that we have to have the struggle, that we have to fight the dragon, that we have to go through some ordeal in order to be successful, we can self-sabotage," said Curt."
"If you take anything from this, it's just an awareness, an awareness of the Hero's Journey, and it's a great storytelling advice, but it does not have to be your story," said Curt. "If you don't follow the Hero's Journey and you still find success, that is wonderful. You earned it anyways, you earned it through your creativity. You earned it through your risk taking, you earned it by creating something, whether it's in your career or a business or relationships, if you are where you want to be, you created that because are a creator, believe it or not."
FULL, UNEDITED TRANSCRIPT OF THIS EPISODE:
CURT MERCADANTE (SOLO EPISODE):
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So today on the Freedom Friday episode, we're going to talk about the Hero's Journey. Now, some of you may look at the title and you're fans of Joseph Campbell and you're coming ready to fight. Now, Joseph Campbell was right, Joseph Campbell is wonderful. The Hero's Journey is right on. I will agree with you. Let's first talk about the Hero's Journey and who Joseph Campbell is. Now Joseph Campbell was a professor and author. One of his books was called The Hero With a Thousand Faces. Now Joseph Campbell is long considered, the late Joseph Campbell, one of the world's leading experts on mythology. He looked at storytelling devices in mythology and civilizations throughout time, all the way up through modern times. Hollywood, your favorite books, your favorite movies. And he talked about the Hero's Journey and laid out 12 steps of the Hero's Journey. I'm going to go through them here in a little bit. And as I go through them, you'll start recognizing the Hero's Journey as a storytelling advice and you'll recognize some of your favorite movies, some of your favorite books. Again, it's a wonderful storytelling advice and explains mythology going back throughout the ages.
Now, what I'd like to say is it is a wonderful storytelling device. Joseph Campbell was absolutely right on, I am a Joseph Campbell fan. He was right. However, the Hero's Journey is bullshit when it comes to you wanting to apply it to your life. We'll talk about that in a minute, but let's first talk about what the Hero's Journey is. Now there's 12 steps of the Hero's Journey. Number one is the status quo, the ordinary world. Perhaps think of Luke Skywalker. He's there on Tatooine with his aunt and uncle, doesn't know any better, right? He's happy the way he is. He's in a comfort zone. And perhaps think of the movie, the Patriot with Mel Gibson, he's a farmer with his family growing his crops. That's what he wants to do. But in the second step, there's a call to action. We have to go fight the empire. Join in the American Revolution.
The third step is there's a refusal, right? Mel Gibson's character in the Patriot says, "No, I just am a simple farmer, I want to be happy." Luke says, "No, I want to stay here." But then there's gathering aid, meeting the mentor, meeting Yoda, meeting someone else who tries to educate you about the ways of world and the importance of engaging in that world. Then there's the crossing the threshold, where the hero goes from the initial reluctance into engaging, right? Perhaps the mentor convinced that person to engage, perhaps something happened where someone was killed, in the Patriot, Mel Gibson's son, one of his sons is killed. The other one is taken a prisoner by the British and so he's like, "All right, that's it. I'm putting aside my farming and my family and I'm going to go fight."
So the hero is call to action and there are tests and there are trials. And throughout it all, the hero begins to grow. The hero becomes to reveal hisself or himself or herself as the hero. Then there's the final approach, you can feel the danger building, you're moving toward that climax. And then when the max happens, there is a supreme ordeal. There is the big fight, right? The hero meets the big bad. There is this massive battle and in that battle, perhaps there comes a point where the villain, the big bad appears to have won. The hero is down, the dragon has its foot or its paw, whatever the hell you call it on the hero, we think the hero's about to lose. And then all of a sudden, the hero wins. The hero gets the reward. That's the ninth step and returns home the victor, but it ain't done yet, because then there's the resurrection.
Think at the end of Die Hard, they've won. They're out in the parking lot outside Nakatomi Plaza and all of a sudden that Swedish looking villain with the long hair, we thought he was dead. He comes out of the stretcher with a big gun and they vanquish him easily, that's the resurrection. Then there's the integration. The hero returns home, perhaps with an elixir, perhaps with the antidote, perhaps with whatever device it is to save the world and it's a happy ending. Now this is the Hero's Journey. As I went through it, I used some examples of some popular movies. Maybe some other books, some other movies came into your head. It is a wonderful storytelling advice. Joseph Campbell was right on. The problem with this is, the Hero's Journey because of this mythology, because of the storytelling advice becomes part of our subconscious programming. It's been part of our subconscious programming for ages as part of the mythology.
And the problem with that is we start to incorporate it, that we have to be the hero, that we have to follow the journey. Now Curt, what's the matter with that, don't we all want to be heroes? We're told not to be zeroes, we're told to be heroes. We're told not to be victims, we're told to be victors and the hero wins in the end. That's true. However, when you incorporate the Hero's Journey into your programming when you don't have to, you may think that you have to become the victim in order to be the victor. You may think that you have to almost be crushed by the dragon or Darth Vader in order to be the victor. And it can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. You can self sabotage because of this.
Bring it to the modern day and think of social media, there is so much what I call struggle porn on social media. Your struggle is your story. No, it's not. Your story is your story. Listen, this doesn't take away from anyone who has struggled, for anyone who has vanquished the villain, the villain in their life, perhaps being a self-imposed villain, someone else doubt whatever it is. I'm not taking away from that. But when we start to incorporate the Hero's Journey, as part of our programming, to believe that we have to have the struggle, that we have to fight the dragon, that we have to go through some ordeal in order to be successful, we can self-sabotage. In fact, it is a cause of imposter syndrome. I had imposter syndrome for years. I built a seven figure agency like that, I started at my 20s, made six figures in the first six months, I was at mid six figures in four or five years and then I doubled it, million and a half dollars.
It came easily to me and because of that, I felt like an imposter. I felt like I wasn't living the Hero's Journey and so I was less than. I wasn't worthy, I achieved success without vanquishing the villain, without vanquishing the big bad. And because of it, I always thought right around the corner, oh, I had a bad idea of what karma was that I'm successful today, but right around the corner, because according to the Hero's Journey, I have to fight the villain. I have to almost die in order to rise like to phoenix. And what I have since realized is that's utter bullshit. You don't have to struggle, you don't have to fight the dragon.
If you're walking along in the field and you're flowing along and come upon a pit and the dragons in the pit, the Hero's Journey makes us believe. And again, this is our subconscious programming that's responsible for 95% of our cognition. So we don't even know that we're doing it. This is in our conscious thinking, that we have to jump into the pit and fight the dragon instead of just going along our merry way along the path. "Oh, in order her to be the hero, I can't just keep walking, I have to go fight the dragon." No you don't. No, you don't. We confuse effort with struggle because the struggle porn, society would have us believe if you don't, then you are too privileged and you haven't earned your success. That is utter bullshit. So when we try to incorporate the Hero's Journey, we can self-sabotage. Listen, I don't care if you're privileged or not. I do a lot of live streams and podcasts and people come in and say, "Well, you're just privileged." Who cares?
You're watching this on your phone or your computer. If you're watching this on a phone or computer, how privileged are you? Certainly more privileged than the majority of the world. So you're privileged, I'm privileged. How does that move us forward? You don't have to struggle to be successful. That doesn't mean you can't overcome struggle to be successful, but don't think you have to, don't think you have to follow the Hero's Journey. Because guess what? There are some of us who achieve success without doing that. Since then, I've had some struggle and that's fine, but I don't become addicted to it, I don't marinate in it. I'm not one of those people who post on LinkedIn. So proud that I'm sleeping under my desk, yet we work because we have to work all through the night.
And a lot of those people aren't actually achieving the outcomes they want to achieve. They're struggling and they're stuck in quick sand because they think they have to follow the Hero's Journey and they think they're getting bozo bucket points. For those of you, I'm aging myself. They think they're getting special points or building their brand through their struggle porn. Instead, you actually look like you just haven't set your key outcomes. I don't care if you're sleeping under your desk. Is it part of the path that is getting at you in the shortest simplest straightest line to where you want to go? If not, then why? Why are you fighting the dragon when you don't have to? So the Hero's Journey is a wonderful storytelling advice. Yes, it explains mythology. It is excellent. Joseph Campbell was right on, but you don't have to follow that path. Do not believe that you have to fight the dragon, that you have to fight the villain, that you have to fight the big bad.
If you have a clear path, take it. Stewart Wilde has a wonderful book called Life Wasn't Meant to be a Struggle. And in there he says, listen, "You don't have to struggle." Effort and struggle are not the same thing. I talk about flow, building your business in a state of flow. And I have some people who just vehemently disagree and say, "No, you got to grind. You got to wake up, rise and grind. It's all about motivation, it's about getting your adrenaline up." And a lot of those people burnout. I was one of those people. Four and a half years ago, I burnt myself out. Now I'm not going to marinate in that. I shut down my company and I started over from zero and I built it up. Now, I don't want to marinate in that because I don't want to think with this current company, which is successful, that I have to fight the dragon.
I learned the hard way that I didn't have to do that. I was successful and I should have been grateful for that instead of feeling guilty for that. Guilt and shame can be a byproduct of thinking you have to follow the Hero's Journey and it is part of our subconscious programming. So if you take anything from this, it's just an awareness, an awareness of the Hero's Journey and it's a great storytelling advice, but it does not have to be your story. If you don't follow the Hero's Journey and you still find success, that is wonderful. You earned it anyways, you earned it through your creativity. You earned it through your risk taking, you earned it by creating something, whether it's in your career or a business or relationships, if you are where you want to be, you created that because are a creator, believe it or not.
But to be a creator, doesn't mean that there comes a point at which you have to almost die. It doesn't mean that there comes a point at which you have to be a victim in order to be the victor. You can actually skip that process, it's not a shortcut. You don't have to feel guilty for that. Life wasn't meant to be a struggle, Stewart Wilde was exactly right. And to find freedom and fulfillment, focus on your long term goals, reverse engineer to find the simplest, shortest, straightest line to get there. And as I like to say, "Do it in a state of flow." Imagine yourself, water in a mountain. Sorry. Yeah, the water in a mountain stream. You're flowing down that stream. Now life's challenges may come in the form of boulders. See the Hero's Journey, the hustle and grind pornographers would have you believe that in order to be worthy, you have to swim up to those boulders and fight those boulders, punch them until you're bloody.
And if you give up, you're weak. "Just pay me some more, I'll teach you to be more motivated, to be less weak." You see, you don't have to do that. What I teach my clients to do, what I've learned to do in my life is just flow to the right or flow to the [draft 00:15:52] around those boulders and keep going where you want to go. But it requires you to have that long term vision, reverse engineers so you know your outcomes. So you know whether to flow to the right, whether to flow to the left. Doesn't mean at some point in your life, you may have to punch those boulders, but you don't have to, struggle is not required. Following the Hero's Journey is not required. Listen, I want to thank all of you for joining. Thanks to those who have engaged.
If you join the replay later today or tomorrow or a minute from now, five minutes from now, an hour from now, jump in, share your name, your city, your state, your town, your country, your continent, wherever in the world you're joining us from. Everyone, this has been the Freedom Friday episode here we have gone live. My name is Curt Mercadante. This is the Freedom Media Network. Thank you so much for joining us.