Author's note: This week is the twelfth in a 12-part series on the Hero's Journey, or the monomyth proposed by Joseph Campbell. The final stage is the Return with the Elixir.
The end is the beginning is the end." -The Smashing Pumpkins
At the end of the Hero's Journey, we find contentment and peacefulness, rest assured that we have changed, remade, or otherwise saved the world. Every tree-bound feline has been rescued, every thoroughfare safety traversed by both young and old, and every threat referred to the nearest asylum, hospital, or prison.
But there is no retirement home for heroes.
In the Road Back, we returned to transform our organizations, our communities, and our worlds. In the Resurrection, we accepted our identities and committed to living lives matching our potential and our power to make a difference. In the Return with the Elixir, heroes lead change within their organizations, their communities, or their worlds, while also concluding one journey and launching a new one.
After an arduous and perilous journey, fairy tales, legends, and Hollywood tells us that the hero rides into the town square and delivers the elixir. The townspeople spill out into the streets and unite in celebration, as the hero quietly slips away and rides off into the sunset.
And yet, what would happen if you returned from an impactful institute, or powerful, life-altering program, presented the definitive solution for all of the world's problems, and then slipped out of the room to watch your favorite reality TV series? You probably could find your magic solution precisely where you left it: unconsidered, unnoticed, and untouched. (If not, you ought to investigate the nearest trash receptacle.)
Countless blogs, books, seminars, etc. have been devoted to the challenge of leading change (such as the groundbreaking book and online resource by that name), but the most important and relevant part for the Hero's Journey is that the Return with the Elixir is not just a destination or outcome, but an ongoing process. It is a process of changing, of healing, and above all, of leading.
"The hero is the champion of things becoming, not of things become." -Joseph Campbell, the Hero with a Thousand Faces
In this process, you also have the opportunity to become the mentor, to lead others to discover their own potential, and to traverse and triumph through their own heroic journey.
The Next Journey
At the moment you think you have achieved everything you can achieve, you choose to either stop living or to start venturing. For those who have chosen the hero's journey, there is no cruise control, no pause button, and no vacation.
Look again at the image of the hero's journey. The Return with the Elixir brings you back to the Ordinary World, albeit a world with a "new normal".
"Standing still is the fastest way of moving backwards in a rapidly changing world." -Lauren Bacall
I oftentimes marvel at the Chicago Bulls of the 1990's, my favorite basketball team growing up, which won six championships that decade. Many professionals in the sports world have said that it is much more difficult to win a second consecutive championship than to win the first. The reason is that, if you put forth the exact same level of performance the second time, chances are that everybody else already is prepared to match, or to surpass, that level of performance.
Imagine the amount of focus, motivation, and strength it must have taken for one team to win six championships in eight years.
Now imagine the commitment, focus, motivation, and strength for those people who have given their whole lives to a cause, to an issue, or to an organization.
What are the causes, issues, or organizations that matter for you? Who are those people who inspire you to step up, to take a stand, and to make a difference?
Is that commitment a single journey, or a series of journeys?
Whatever your response, the most pressing question is: Are you ready to be more than ordinary, to be extraordinary?