The Hero's Journey: The Reward

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Author's note: This week is the ninth in a 12-part series on the Hero's Journey, or the monomyth proposed by Joseph Campbell. The ninth stage is The Reward. In it to win it.

At the beginning of the Hero's Journey, in the Call to Adventure, you set out to get something, to have something, or to make a difference in your group, your community, or your world. The journey introduced you to your mentor, taught you about your allies and enemies, and tested and prepared you for your greatest challenges.

In the Innermost Cave, you came face to face with your darkest fears. You seized the potential within, and moved on.

In the Ordeal, you confronted the challenges and threats facing your group, your community, or your world, but also let go of a sense of self that no longer was relevant, transforming into the person you have the power to be. You overcame and triumphed when others may have backed away or fallen to their knees.

To become the person you have the potential and power to be, to demonstrate the depth of your character, and to reveal the strength of your resolve is the greatest victory any person can have.

The best, and most satisfying, things in life, follow our struggles. We appreciate gifts, but we truly treasure those things we earn.

“The highest reward for man's toil is not what he gets for it, but what he becomes by it.” -John Ruskin

After everything you have gone through for the sake of your cause, you may be expecting to hear that the Reward is that moment where your cause is successful.

But, that is not always the case.

For some of us, the Reward is a magnificent outcome we could not have imagined.

In the Innermost Cave and the Ordeal, I introduced an example from my own journey in which I wanted to address hazing in my organization. (You can find my story here.)

When I stepped out of the chapter room at the end of my Ordeal, with those I had called "Brothers" for two years considering a motion to terminate my membership, I was aware that I had sacrificed my chance to be a member of that organization in exchange for the opportunity to demonstrate the importance of addressing hazing for the future of the organization.

Before that night, I had envisioned a time when our organization would become a brilliant example of a group that had changed its ways, and a gold standard for other chapters on campus and across the country.

Before that night, I thought that a growing number of people within the organization-if brought to a critical decision point-would stand up and say "Enough!"

In my own journey, my cause was a complete failure, and my envisioned future a fleeting dream.

In the months that followed, I was afraid of those I had once called "Brothers," I was no longer a member of a fraternal organization, I no longer knew who I could trust, and the plan I had set for myself was in shambles.

“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.” -Joseph Campbell

Joseph Campbell's words rang true in my own journey; where there had been only walls, doors appeared and were opened for me.

As I thought about the juxtaposition of those who I had once called "Brothers" who vowed to hurt me, and the Theta Chi's who demonstrated courage, loyalty, and a Helping Hand in one of my darkest and most terrifying moments, I wanted the opportunity to return to Theta Chi.

I contacted Dave Westol, then-Executive Director, and petitioned the Grand Chapter, offering only that I had experienced the power of fraternity men demonstrating their values, and promising to do my best to live up to that for the rest of my life.

To put my request in perspective: In 1997, I resigned my membership when the chapter closed. In 1998, I joined a second fraternity. In 2000, as a soon-to-be senior, I asked to be accepted back into a fraternity that no longer had a chapter at my institution. Let's just say it was a long shot.

But those men, from my former chapter brothers who wrote the Executive Director and Grand Chapter in support of my request, to the Executive Director and Grand Chapter national officers themselves, opened a door for me where there had been only walls.

Everything else, from my decision to go into Student Affairs, to my involvement in the hazing prevention movement, and now to my passion for Building Heroes is a reflection of my commitment to live up to the high standard that a group of Theta Chi men demonstrated for me.

“Furthermore, we have not even to risk the adventure alone; for the heroes of all time have one before us, the labyrinth is fully known; we have only to follow the thread of the hero-path. And where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.” -Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces