Do you find yourself frustrated with the current state of your life? Or maybe a specific part of your life? At the end of the day, maybe you don’t know whether what you’re doing now is what you want to do with your life.
Maybe you’re afraid. Maybe you think you’re the only one who thinks that way. Or maybe you look at yourself and think you’re not the kind of person who does something like that. You wonder, or even worry, what your family, friends, classmates, neighbors, and even complete strangers will think of you.
Despite all of that, there is a nagging feeling inside of you. It feels like there is something you cannot not do.
How do I know? I’ve been there, too. In fact, even now, I find myself in that place.
I have not posted on this site very much for a while, but with a very good reason. For the last several months, I have been writing a book, Building Up without Tearing Down. The book distills my learning over the last 20 years about the ways in which organizations either build us up or tear us down.
It all began when I was hazed as a college student. It wasn’t what the organization did to me that hurt the most, but the impact on the organization itself that always stayed with me. Many of our organizations are inhibiting, rather than igniting, the growth and potential of their members. The book’s purpose is to empower people to transform their own lives, their organizations, and their communities.
The book is based on the work of many heroes, leaders, and scholars, but none more than the work of Joseph Campbell.
In 1949, Joseph Campbell, at that time a professor at Sarah Lawrence College, published The Hero with a Thousand Faces. As a professor of comparative mythology, Campbell argued that most of the world’s great myths, across geography and time, possess a shared single thread, which he referred to as the hero’s journey.
The power of the hero’s journey is that it reverberates deep into who we are and whom we become. It is a seed of potential that exists in each and every one of us, and it is a part of each and every experience we have where we grow and develop.
You can find a short video about the hero’s journey here: http://capedcoaching.com/blog/2012/12/04/what-makes-a-hero-matthew-winkler
Even as I have been encouraging you to go on the hero’s journey through the pages of this soon-to-be-released book, I have been on my own hero’s journey, complete with my own Call to adventure, Assistance, Departure, Trials, and so on. It has not been an easy path, and it certainly was not without delays, failures, and setbacks.
Status Quo: Before 2008, I had not given any serious thought to writing a book, despite the fact that many of my teachers-from grade school through college and graduate school-recognized my strong writing skills.
Call to adventure: In 2008, Hank Nuwer-an accomplished author, journalist, and professor-encouraged me to write a book after learning about my personal story and reading my master’s thesis. Although I received this call to adventure ten years ago, I did not take any significant steps on that journey until a year ago. It can be hard to accept a call to adventure, and in fact, many of us refuse, turn down, or ignore our own calls the first, second, or even the eleventh time we receive them. But the truest, most urgent calls are persistent and relentless.
Assistance: I have been fortunate to have many people-including Nuwer-who have encouraged me throughout this journey, but Patrick Snow provided the framework, guidance, and ongoing support I needed to plan, write, and publish my book. When I finally accepted my call to adventure, I had no idea whatsoever where to begin. I was clueless. I was lost. The insight that Snow provided me was nothing short of transformational for me in my journey.
Departure: On September 8, 2017, I hired Snow as my writing and publishing coach, and I made a full commitment to completing this journey.
Trials: In addition to writing my book, I am also a father, a husband, a career coach, a cubmaster, and a volunteer, among other responsibilities. I did not always have the motivation or energy to write, let along the time to do so, but I made progress my priority. Even on those nights when I was absolutely exhausted, I oftentimes discovered the energy and inspiration I needed just by sitting down at my desk and starting to write.
Approach: As I got closer and closer to completing all 22 chapters of my manuscript, I found doubts and fears casting their shadows over those months of work. Who am I to write a book? What if nobody reads it? Or what if people do read it and they think it is awful? I overcame some of these insecurities by sharing small selections of my draft with people I trusted.
Crisis: Once I completed the document, I sent it to my editor, who would become the first person other than Snow and me to read the whole manuscript. When he finished, he gave me some very hard, very honest feedback. It was hard to hear, and it made me question whether I could ever get my work to print. After feeling defeated for a period of time and following a handful of attempts at revisions, I found a way to overcome my editor’s concerns, and I was able to make the draft stronger than before.
Treasure, Result, Return, New Life, and Resolution: To come.
There is a hero in all of us, and every one of us has many of our own hero’s journeys awaiting us. Our tasks, our timelines, and our trials are our own, but the paths we travel are the same.
Will you say “yes” to your own call to adventure?
Author's note: Parts of this post originally appeared in Building up without tearing down: How to cultivate heroic leadership in you and your organization, which was released Summer 2018.