The Hero's Journey: The Refusal of the Call


Author's note: This week is the third in a 12-part series on the Hero's Journey, or the monomyth proposed by Joseph Campbell. The third stage is the Refusal of the Call. It sounds too easy, doesn't it?

In each of our lives, we are content doing what always has been done, living ordinary lives, and altogether stagnating in the status quo. All of a sudden, we are awakened to the incredible opportunities and potential out there for our organizations, our communities, our world, and most of all, ourselves.

Our thoughts begin to live in the powerful and wonderful world of What If...

But, then a hard truth smacks us in the face, and we stumble backward. The truth is, by accepting the challenge, by answering the call to adventure, and by embarking on the hero's journey, we are risking, well, everything.

By embarking on the hero's journey, we are choosing to let go of the comfort, reliability, and stability of the Ordinary World.

It means fasten your seat belt Dorothy, 'cause Kansas is going bye-bye. (The Matrix, 1999)

If you encourage your organization to "sunset" a popular and productive program in order to do something innovative, but uncertain, will they call you daring or foolish?

If you see people talking about others in a hurtful way, will you be a stand-up person or a stick-in-the-mud for saying something?

If you stand up and voice your concerns about the way new members are brought into your organization, what will others think of you?

If you want to help and serve others, will you have the leadership, the patience, the skills, and the time to make a meaningful difference?

If you drop out of law school to coach little league baseball, will your family, friends, and neighbors say you're out of your mind?

If you try to change the world-your world, no matter how big or how small that may be, what happens if you fail? What if you let others down? What if you let yourself down?

You are out there on a ledge. You are on your own.

All of us have been reluctant, or outright refused, to take on the Hero's Journey. We have doubts about the outcome, the process, and most of all, ourselves. It can be easy to refuse, to say no, and to walk away.

We have fears that we may fail. We may fail to do enough. We may fail to do the right thing. We may fail to make a meaningful difference.

We wouldn't be human without these fears, and we certainly couldn't be heroes. Without doubts and fears, we are exercising only our physical capacity. But, when we acknowledge our fears, we possess the power of our physical, psychological, and spiritual selves.

“The hero & the coward both feel exactly the same fear, only the hero confronts his fear & converts it to fire.” -Cus D’Amato

“Courage isn’t the absence of fear. Courage is believing and trusting that something is more powerful than what you are afraid of.” -David Hellstrom

Will you cross the threshold and embark on the hero's journey, or will you refuse the call?